Feds to clean up Nutrition North

Northern-based committee to review program audits

On August 21, the Government of Canada announced new items have been added to Nutrition North’s subsidy list, beyond perishable food items. (File photo)

By Elaine Anselmi

Updated on Thursday, Aug. 22, at 10:45 a.m.

The Government of Canada is working to clean up and shape up the Nutrition North Program with additional subsidies, more accountability and the roll-out of a harvesters support program, first promised last November, but beginning this winter.

Mere hours before cutting the rope on the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the minister of intergovernmental and northern affairs and internal trade, was at the Luke Novoligak Community Hall on Wednesday, Aug. 21, to announce changes to the food subsidy program that has been steeped in controversy.

Most recently, research published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that food insecurity had actually worsened in Nunavut under Nutrition North, according to data from the Canadian Community Health Survey. A reason for this given by the researchers was that it targeted perishable store-bought foods only accessible to more affluent northerners—with or without a subsidy.

In Cambridge Bay, Jones announced an additional subsidy of $1 per kilogram will be added to certain non-perishable products transported by sealift, barge or winter road. By targeting these cheapest methods for transporting goods, the hope is that subsidy will benefit the most vulnerable people, rather than those who can afford a costlier purchase.

The list of eligible items includes macaroni, cooking oil, lard, baking powder, yeast, dry beans, lentils, beans and flour.

As well, in an effort to address the health and well-being of women and girls in the North, feminine hygiene products will be subsidized at the program’s highest rate, year-round. Currently, a box of tampons can cost between $15 and $20 in Iqaluit, compared to less than $10 in southern cities.

The Harvester Support Program, which will put money in the hands of harvesters, will bring Nutrition North more in line with the needs of northerners in allowing better access to country food rather than encouraging reliance on store-bought food.

“Throughout the public engagement process, Northerners most often expressed the need for further support for traditional harvesting,” said former NWT premier and Nutrition North Canada Advisory Board Chair Nellie Cournoyea in a release on the December announcement.

“That is why we particularly welcome the Government’s commitment to introduce a Harvesters Support Grant to help lower the high costs associated with traditional hunting and harvesting activities.”

Much of the controversy around Nutrition North, which in 2011 replaced the Food Mail Program, has centred around a lack of transparency and accountability for who exactly the subsidy was benefiting: the supplier and retailer, or the customer.

One move to address this was requiring receipts from the point of sale to display the subsidy applied through Nutrition North.

The announcement introduced a northern-based Compliance and Review Committee who will be appointed on the advice of the Inuit-Crown Working Group and the Indigenous Working Group, which include representatives of the four Inuit land claim organizations, as well as Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

The terms and conditions of the committee are still being worked on by the partners, but the committee will look over audits of the Nutrition North Program, have a hand in the review and help the government shape the program to better fit its mandate, that is, to play a part in addressing food insecurity in Canada’s remote and Indigenous communities.

The additional subsidies are estimated to cost about $3 million over the program’s $14-million budget.

This story was updated with additional details about the Compliance and Review Committee.

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(10) Comments:

  1. Posted by Last Air on

    Please don’t ship from Ontario to Nunavut via First Air with the cargo or luggage tag labeled as “Nunavut” this may cause it to end up in Nantucket.

  2. Posted by Colin on

    The picture of the sign says 200 grams but the picture of the cheese on the shelf looks like the standard 450 gram pack of cheese.

    In Ottawa the standard price for 450 grams (the ones picture the shelf) is about $6 and the price on sale, which happens quite, often is about $4.

    So $5.39 would be a good price for 450 grams of cheese but extremely not great for less than half that weight.

    Which is it?

  3. Posted by Consistency on

    Where is the actual information on how the harvesting subsidy will occur? or are they just going to keep saying they will give money but never lay out the plan so it can be used?

  4. Posted by Carver/Seamstress on

    Southerners often negotiate prices for any Arts and Crafts items when a local person is selling their goods.
    These items are sold for food/clothing for them to purchase for their family, just pay for what the locals are asking for, they work hard to make sellable items -respect them and know that the price you paid them will make it much easier for them to shop at our sky high priced stores,, please and thank you.

    • Posted by Nevada Bob on

      Good point. However I have been approached by a carver wanting to sell who says to me, “80, maybe 60?” Ultimately it is up to the craft person to sell their product for what they feel is the right price. Do you buys goods on sale at your local store? Same thing.

      • Posted by Steve L on

        Back in the mid 70’s my friend and I were in a craft store in the Yorkville District in Toronto. I spotted a walrus like one I had and made the comment that it was from Lake Harbour. I was told I couldn’t have one because it was one of a kind, It was one zero more than I paid and I know the artist never saw the markup.
        The next shop was offering parkas with the shells separate. My friend said they weren’t allowed to do that. They blew her off and one phone call and Yellowknife black listed them. My most inexpensive piece cost me $7 in 1970 at the airport Coop. All that work and he probably didn’t get enough for plate of fries at the Continental Inn.

      • Posted by Carver/Seamstress on

        Our homemade clothing’s are much better than the Store-bought ones! If you purchase it, I hope you did the right thing by giving this person $80.00.

  5. Posted by No win situation on

    The stores are winning big time with this subsidy. Customers are not getting any real benefit, plus tax payers are losing their money to the merchant. As soon as it’s known that subsidies are forthcoming, the stores jack the price. This is what needs monitoring. Watch the merchant, and stop this abuse of the subsidy. It’s a game between the government and the merchant. Consumers are pawns, never getting a break. If the feds want to do something, then go after the merchant. Or get a government run store to make prices real to the people.

    • Posted by Okay on

      Or give the credit directly to the people so they can decide where, when and how to shop.

  6. Posted by Joe Blo on

    Why not base your voting in the upcoming election to which candidate is willing to bring back the original food mail program. Most issues Nunavut faces are due to food insecurity. Nothing other than bringing back the original food mail program will solve this. Put the savings back in the hand of the consumer rather than in the pockets of Northwest Company shareholders,

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