A recent report co-authored by Trent’s Dr. Chris Furgal is drawing national attention to the food security plight of northern Canadians. The report, entitled Aboriginal Food Security in Northern Canada: An Assessment of the State of Knowledge was released March 27 by the Canadian Council of Academics and quickly received national coverage from CBC News, Sun News, and other media outlets.
Professor Furgal, an associate professor in the Indigenous Environmental Studies Program, was part of a multi-disciplinary panel of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal expert scholars who authored the report. The expert panel was assembled by the Council to conduct an independent, evidence-based assessment of northern food security and its implications for Aboriginal health.
“The assessment was requested by the Minister of Health, on behalf of Health Canada,” Prof. Furgal said. “This was based on their view of the importance of northern food security as a critical issue of public policy in Canada today.”
The study paints a picture of how challenging it is for Aboriginal people living in northern and remote communities to access safe, nutritious food on a regular basis. It describes food security in the north as a serious and complex issue with significant implications for health and wellness, especially for the Inuit.
As an expert panellist, Prof. Furgal was involved in all areas of the study. “Existing scientific data, peer-reviewed literature, and credible grey literature was considered,” he explained. “We ensured that evidence was informed by traditional knowledge and community-based research and we worked with national Aboriginal organizations to seek additional data and ensure that the conclusions rested on a diversity of sources.”
As a researcher working in the field, Prof. Furgal was aware that food security was an issue for northern residents; however, he was still alarmed by the revelations of the assessment. “The report findings were surprising in regards to the very extreme and clear picture they present of the severity of the issue in Canada's North. Collectively, we (the panellists) started to use the word "crisis" in reference to the state of the issue in our work,” he said.
Prof. Furgal is hopeful that the report will increase awareness of the issue and lead to key actions, at all levels of government, to address food insecurity. He also hopes there will be support for research to fill some of the important gaps identified in the development of the report.
“Quite simply put, things need to be done now and on a large scale to address this critical issue in Aboriginal health in Canada,” Prof. Furgal said.
In the meantime, Prof. Furgal is continuing ongoing research relevant to this topic. He and his students are involved in research projects in northern Quebec (Nunavik), Nunavut, and in the Inuit land claim area of northern Labrador (Nunatsiavut) looking at aspects of Arctic food security.
For more information visit: www.heicresearch.ca or http://www.scienceadvice.ca/en/publications/assessments.aspx
Posted on Thursday, April 3, 2014.