Nunavut MP Lori Idlout calls for Nutrition North reform

Idlout joined NDP colleague to call for the federal Liberals to ‘overhaul’ the programs

Nunavut MP Lori Idlout holds up a picture of grocery store items while talking during a Wednesdasy press conference in Ottawa about the high prices Nunavummiut face. NDP MP Niki Ashton, who took pat in the joint press conference, looks on. (Screenshot courtesy of Parliamentary Press Gallery)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Nutrition North Canada needs to support Nunavut hunters instead of subsidizing grocery companies, said Nunavut MP Lori Idlout in Ottawa Wednesday.

Idlout teamed up with fellow NDP MP Niki Ashton, from Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, to call on the federal Liberal government to reform the government-funded program, which Idlout says doesn’t serve Nunavummiut and is a subsidy for companies instead.

“I completely and wholeheartedly agree that the Nutrition North program needs to have an overhaul,” Idlout said during a joint press conference the two MPs held on Parliament Hill.

Nutrition North Canada operates a collection of programs that are meant to improve northern residents’ food security — meaning having better and sustainable access to food.

Idlout said that one of the issues with Nutrition North is that it subsidizes fresh produce that’s flown in from the south, which, during the fall and winter months cannot be relied upon due to poor weather conditions.

Idlout held up various pictures of common grocery store items — apples, bottled water, chips — and noted the price differences between Nunavut and Ottawa.

For example, in Ottawa, four tomatoes cost $1.77, whereas in Nunavut that would cost $8.19, she said.

The main change Idlout would like to see is for the program to better support hunters in the territory because “one bullet could provide for 200 to 300 pounds of meat.”

Nutrition North currently has the Harvesters Support Grant which gives money to communities so they can buy harvesting equipment, gas, meals for elders, community feasts and more. The money is sent to Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for each community.

Idlout said the hunters she has spoken to said they didn’t know that the program existed and that “there’s definitely a disparity between what the federal government is saying and what the communities are hearing.”

NTI did not respond Wednesday to Nunatsiaq News’ questions about where that money goes. The organization has application forms for the program for each region on its website.

Asked how Idlout would like to see the program benefit Nunavummiut who rely on grocery stores for food, she said that if hunters are better supported, they can provide food for community members who aren’t hunters themselves, or have hunters in their family.

Kyle Allen, spokesperson for Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, the department that administers Nutrition North, said the federal government has increased its funding for the various programs under its wing.

He said the harvesters support grant was developed in partnership with northern communities and supported more than 5,500 harvesters.

The federal government also has programs outside of Nutrition North to help northerners with the increasing cost of living, such as reducing child-care fees and increasing the Canadian Workers Benefit.

“Many Canadians face real challenges with the increased cost of living,” he said.

“That is why we have a fiscally responsible and compassionate plan that is targeted to low-income families and individuals and support for the most vulnerable.”

Allen did not answer if the Liberals would commit to reviewing the program.

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(41) Comments:

  1. Posted by 867 on

    So, scrap nutrition north and go back to paying $100 for a watermelon? Newsflash, food is expensive everywhere in Canada right now. A pound of butter is averaging almost $7 in Canada right now; a liter of milk almost $4; a loaf of bread over $5. Hunting will put food on the table for the 40,000 nunavummiut? Thats a lotta tuktu

    • Posted by Concerned on

      It’s one thing to supply more funding to hunt but there has to be something to hunt. I don’t see any discussion about allocating funds to support wildlife monitoring management in the north; something that is very under funded at present. There also has to a general acceptance amongst people in the north that wildlife is not an unlimited resource. At times, it is and will be very necessary to place limits on harvesting of species like caribou or else there will be no caribou.

      • Posted by *L* is for Lori on

        Points like this seem to be lost on Lori, every issue she addresses appears exist mostly in the realm of the symbolic. Why is she emphasizing a subsidy on bullets, for example, when there is a Harvesters Support Grant in place? What is she asking for?

        Also funny to see the money funneled through NTI who unsurprisingly have little interest in transparency. Is anyone Surprised?

        Of course, Lori blames the Feds for the fact that no one knows a damn thing about the program, because why would anyone in Nunavut take that on, obviously Ottawa should be doing that, right?

        • Posted by Unaccountable Organization on

          Exactly why we should not want the Federal government to fund and deliver programs through NTI; no accountability, no transparency, no initiative.

  2. Posted by Japanese Postcard on

    If Lori wants to support hunters why did she vote, “Yes” on Bill C-21?

  3. Posted by Send me Grapes. on

    When you consider in the cost and distances of shipping Nutrition North is doing amazing. Milk is the same flipping price as Saskatchewan for example.

    But please, Lori. Go to South Africa and ship me some grapes to the north for the same $40 that Northern charges. I bet you can’t.

  4. Posted by I live in the Arctic on

    I support this, bring back to food mail program, inform the public that they can get refunded air freight for buying their own healthy food from the southern stores.

    • Posted by Northern Guy on

      Food Mail worked great IF you had a credit card and IF you had the means to regularly order and pick up food boxes at cargo. For the rest of Nunavut … not so much …. NNC is an massively equitable improvement over Food Mail.

      • Posted by I live in the Arctic on

        Excellent points, I recant my original comment keep the NNC as is.

      • Posted by Umm on

        Except now everyone gets to pay exorbitant prices for everything. This is not equitable access to fair pricing. It supports gauging and profiteering by the twp largest grocers in the territory. I agree the food mail program was inaccessible to most people, but the current system favours only retailers.

  5. Posted by Niqqiit on

    yes to reform. YES! Thank you, the savings are not being passed on and rarely any sales.
    Perhaps compare the profit from before the changes when stores benefit more than what the initial reason was for the program, to assist the shoppers.

  6. Posted by Food for thought on

    I don’t know about hunters but it was great to be able to order frozen food from Marché Turenne before Leona’s Conservative Reform Alliance Party scrapped it and created Nutrition North to give taxpayers money to Nortwest Company. I’d say if Nutrition North is going to be reformed, bring back food orders and reduce freight so we can afford to order them.

    • Posted by sure on

      No matter who gets the Nutrition north money it is not you? with the old system really it was the airlines that got the money. even if it was you being reimbursed, they still made the money.

      What needs to happen is the GN needs to get a stake in Canadian North (they already do 80% of their business) and then the GN could (theoretically) ensure the cargo rates stay reasonable and take the NN subsidy.

      • Posted by Cargo on

        The airlines would get the cash in either the old system or the new. The current program is on the honor system where we have to trust the retailers that they are passing on the savings to the customer. At least with the old system, we can track the cost and see where the subsidy is actually going.

      • Posted by Bert Rose on

        Ah did you forget that Canadian North is a privately owned company?

  7. Posted by Inuk guy on

    This person has no idea what there doing scrap nutrition north and pay hunters with moratorium here in the Baffin not much to catch here but seals,people need this subsidy to stay on the stores,we would be hungry only relying on land food,food prices way up and we need this subsidy for store food ,Thank you

  8. Posted by Taxpayer on

    In 2017, the University of Ottawa conducted the first ever systematic effort to estimate Inuit harvest and dietary requirements of country food across Nunavut. This collection of studies clearly showed that if the choice is made to be more heavily reliant on country food in Nunavut, the amount of wildlife needed to do this would be immense.

    Even then in 2017, harvest restrictions on caribou in Nunavut (as one key species) put in place for conservation purposes were shown to have a measurable dietary impact on Inuit. In the case of ringed seals, we would need a 10 fold increase in hunting for it to become a significant source of food as in the past, when far fewer Inuit lived. In other words, there is not enough wildlife in Nunavut to feed everybody.

    Several years ago, the Legislative Assembly asked the wildlife department to do a study to say where there could be growth in country food harvesting. That study corroborated the UofO study in saying almost all muskox and caribou populations were already maxed out.

    Yes, country food should be eaten as much as possible. Yes, people should be supported in harvesting as much as possible within legal limits. However, we are not going to solve hunger in Nunavut using country food unless we wish to turn our beautiful territory into an empty wasteland.

    So, when people use the word “sustainable” when it comes to taking more country food, diverting funds and effort from importing food that is critical in keeping people alive, they clearly do not really know what they are talking about.

    It is time for our leaders to get real. Public policy decisions need to be made on the facts of the matter, not on culturally biased wishful thinking.

  9. Posted by peter on

    In Kuujjuaq, Nuviqvi applies the food subsidies it receives to its products, they have a better, fresher, cheaper selection than Northern and COOP.

  10. Posted by Northern Guy on

    OK so first off bottled water and chips are NOT eligible for the NNC subsidy … apparently it is now appropriate for our MP to pontificate without first doing her homework. Secondly has she even bothered to compare the price of perishable items like eggs and milk etc.? I have and on many days the price is not only competitive with southern Canada on occasion it has actually been cheaper. NNC is not perfect but ditching the program for a make-work/hunter-subsidy program would be disastrous.

    • Posted by S on

      Thanks Northern Guy. Lori is quick to pontificate and politicize because that is her only schtick. At no level is she motivated or qualified to provide assistance to our society or any other

      I have shopped at Northern and Co-ops in Nunavut for over a decade. Food prices and quality have been remarkable during that time; excellent for the past five years or so

      The Nutrition North program subsidizes food; as you say, chips and bottled water aren’t food. In any case, water is the responsibility of the municipalities.

      Protein (meat, dairy, eggs, legumes) and fresh produce (fruits and vegetables) are heavily subsidized. The great quailty and low prices of those are a direct result of the Nutrition North program and the Northern/Co-op businesses an staff

      Lori Idlout must apologize and resign BEFORE this week is done

  11. Posted by Up Here on

    Let me get this right.

    Politician wants to subsidize bullets for hunting in a region where all governments agree there has been over-hunting leading to severe restrictions on country food harvesting.

    The problem of over-hunting has nothing to do with Nutrition North. It has everything to do with too many hunters and too few prey based on Inuit birth rates exceeding the land’s carrying capacity, combined with mechanized, motorized hunting methods.

    Nutrition North’s failure is it subsidizes the company based on weight of good shipped. So the high-priced tomato gets a ride with the diabetes-causing Pepsi, the latter getting the subsidy on the aircraft. What is needed is reference pricing whereby the subsidy has to hit targets for maximum price of staples, like flour, eggs, hamburger, and dairy. Stop subsidizing by weight of combined goods.

    • Posted by 867 on

      Well it’s the diabetes-causing goods that seem to be the cause of most sticker-shock outrage, which seems to be the trend shes riding.

      NNC has done nothing but good, so tearing it down would cause nothing but harm. Nobody is complaining about the $6 4-L jug of milk, but rather the $40 12-pk of ginger ale.

      • Posted by Maybe this on

        You mean Bepsi, chips and kukuk.

      • Posted by Revenue Stream on

        “Nobody is complaining about the $6 4-L jug of milk”.
        That milk price is a cross-subsidization of the $20 box of sugar, also called “breakfast cereal”.
        The stores get more revenue from NN for shipping bananas than it costs the stores to purchase the bananas. So they make money on bananas, even when they throw them away.
        Those expiry date chips and other stuff is “bought” by the stores for almost nothing. Sometimes they are paid by their southern suppliers to take the old stock off their hands. Again, revenue from whatever it sells for up here, plus shipping revenue from the feds through NN. What a deal (for the stores).

  12. Posted by At this rate… on

    The new MP will become the old MP and ask people with cancer to both their Inukness… while being intoxicated and bellingerent. Hmm

  13. Posted by Huh? on

    embarrassing that lori has obviously not researched the program (hunters support program already exists), doesn’t know what kinds of items are subsidized, and doesn’t even know that NTI is already empowered to do what she is asking for. The bar for leadership is so low in nunavut.

  14. Posted by Northern Guy on

    NNC already has a hunter support subsidy that is being delivered through NTI. Did our MP even bother to look into this? And the bigger question is what is NTI doing with the NNC money it is currently receiving?

  15. Posted by articrick on

    We won’t be allowed to buy bullets after the gun ban, must go back to traditional way of hunting but how the coalition govt thinks, woundt be surprised to see our rights extinguished. I will however never give up my hunting guns. Vote CONS

  16. Posted by Ian on

    867 if the NDP (liberal) MP read the nutrition north program, she may understand it the federal gov.pours 80-100 million taxpayer dollars a year into the program, as a northerner I appreciate the program. It’s not perfect but helps.most people in Nunavut depend on store food, and country food when it’s available, and too many people chasing and harvesting,
    More bullets, less animals,but sound bites are what she has learned, mines cause the animals to disappear, if she understood, she would not say this, and she was elected as our MP, till 2025, and should not resign, call her,text her, and make her accountable, that’s the role of a MP,servant of the people.

  17. Posted by Visiting in Pond Inlet on

    I am visiting in Pond Inlet where 2 litres of milk sells for $1.79. The receipt indicates NNC subsidy of $25.09!

  18. Posted by Full time hunter/fisherman/harvester on

    No harvester in their right mind would go shoot and overkill red gold . Any red meat from the lands harvested humanely is red gold. Harvester support program here doesn’t cover much , especially on a one time hunt for country food ! Go figure gas prices , oil prices and even overkilling price of ammunition ! It may cost more to even try go and “hunt “ for the elusive “red meat” our hunters and trappers organizations need the funding to continue to keep our hunters on the land and support the community that northwest company rip off so much with the highest cost of everyday goods in the whole world ! Nowhere does it cost $ 7.45 for a single Sunkist orange in the whole of Earth Except in Nunavut

    No wonder the territory’s people call it firsthand as …..None Of It . True to its counterpart. Government doesn’t have anything on northwest company! A colonial fur trading company turned food store .

    • Posted by Stan on

      Just curious. If the grocery business is so lucrative and profitable for Northern, as you say, why is there no Wal Mart, no Metro or Loblaws up here? You would think they’d be all over it. It’s easier to blame, to spread hyperbole, then it is to accept that maybe the costs of doing business in the North isn’t worth it.

  19. Posted by Confused on

    yeah ammunition needs to be subsidized too, It took me 18 shots to get one caribou 🙁

    • Posted by Igunaaqi on

      Gimme Gimme Gimme! Maybe you should learn how to shoot and stop depending on tax payers!

  20. Posted by Igunaaqi on

    These socialists needs their heads given a good shake and wake them up!

    • Posted by Up Here on

      Nutrition North is as socialist as it comes!

  21. Posted by MassFormation on

    With NDP/Liberals who can’t wait to take all your guns away, and Kivalliq KIA president keen on toasting caribou calving grounds. Nunavut is well on its way eating bugs. Just be happy, while Nutrition North Canada figures if bugs will be covered as it’ll be the only food allowed in Nunavut.

    • Posted by S on

      Too true, ‘Mass Information’; the nonsense, rhetoric, and doctrine that is distributed as news and information by mainstream social media like CBC and CNN, by every level of government and its bureaucracy, and by those who influence policy and process from their castles, is unnerving.

      Much, much worse though, is the lack of questioning and the ease of acceptance of that nonsense by the masses

  22. Posted by L isn’t that bright on

    Why was she even elected in the first place? She won’t do nunavut any good

    • Posted by Jack Sparrow on

      Stop the presses. Hold the phone.
      Chips are now “nutritional”🤣

  23. Posted by John WP Murphy on

    Those of you who are complaining about food prices in Nunavut and claiming them to be the highest In the world, may want to get your facts straight.
    I was recently in LA New Zealand and Australia. I was astonished to find that food prices as well as household items and just about every other day to day items far exceed the costs I have experienced on my 34 years in Nunavut
    Something is working right.


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