Participants discuss country food as a facilitator takes notes at the recent hackathon in Nain, a community in the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Courtesy The Gordon Foundation)

Food insecurity in Arctic Canada needs northern solutions, hackathon hears

Eye on the Arctic brings you stories and newsmakers from across the North

Tackling food insecurity in Canada’s Arctic is a complex issue, but one thing is clear, solutions need to come from the communities affected, not from southern capitals, heard a recent ‘hackathon’ in the Inuit self-governing region of Nunatsiavut.

“Sometimes things just work differently in the North,” Kristeen McTavish, the Nunatsiavut Government’s food security coordinator, told Eye on the Arctic in a phone interview. “We have to not only listen, but really take into account what northerners are saying and trust they know what is needed to make their regions healthy.”

Feature Interview
For more on Nunatsiavut, food insecurity, and why southern regulations don’t work in the North, listen to Eye on the Arctic‘s conversation with Kristeen McTavish:

Pan-Arctic approach

Approximately two dozen people participated in the October 25-26 event, held in Nain, a community in the Inuit self-governing region of the province of  Newfoundland and Labrador,  in Atlantic Canada.

The event was initiated by The Gordon Foundation, a charitable foundation that specialises in northern issues and policy.

None of the participants could be reached by Eye on the Arctic before deadline, but the list of those involved included everyone from subsistence hunters and  nutritionists  to policy makers, and came from all of Canada’s northern territories; Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut; along with the Inuit self-governing regions of Nunatsiavut and Nunavik, in northern Quebec.

The ‘hackathoners’ were divided into groups of five or six along with a facilitator. Together they took on questions looking at all aspects of food security.

Nunatsiavut Elder Adam Lidd speaks to participant Leslie Carson at the Northern Policy Hackathon in Nain. (Courtesy The Gordon Foundation)

Though a range of issues were discussed, the need for northern specific policies around food, came up again and again, especially when it came to country food, the term used by many of Canada’s Indigenous peoples for the sea and land mammals that make up their traditional foods, organizers said.

For example, a regulation that hunted food cannot be served in hospitals or daycares may protect people from contaminated food in southern Canada, but in the North, it prevents patients and children from accessing their most nutritious and culturally important food sources at the times they need it most.

“These policies suit southern Canada very well, but they make no sense in northern Canada ” said Sherry Campbell, president and CEO of the Gordon Foundation, in a phone interview from Toronto.

“There’s a real feeling that policies on a number of issues are set by southerners who probably don’t have the full understanding of the context of the North.

“Northern skills, and knowledge that’s traditional, really needs to be recognized in these policies – or northerners need to be exempt in cases where it makes no sense in their communities. It could really be as simple as that.”

Prevalence of household food insecurity in Nunatsiavut's five communities

-79.4 per cent in Nain
-83.1 per cent in Hopedale
-35.1 per cent in Makkovik
-39.6 per cent in Postville
-21.6 per cent in Rigolet

Source: Nunatsiavut Household Food Security Survey, May 23, 2017

‘An issue that needs urgent attention’

The findings from the hackathon will be written up and circulated to policy advisors in the coming months.

But Kristeen McTavish says she hopes issues of food security in northern Canada become part of a wider national debate.

“I’m continually shocked and surprised when I enter into a discussion and I hear from people ‘oh, I had no idea there was food insecurity in Canada,” said McTavish.  “We need to educate the public and make people realize this is an issue.”

” We also need to address the complexity and really talk about this in the context of colonialism, and ongoing colonialism really… We need to elevate that conversation.”

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: American science foundation awards $500,000 to food security research in Indigenous communities, Eye on the Arctic

Denmark/Greenland: Researchers must be honest with Arctic peoples about food contaminants says doctor, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Sami group occupies island in northern Finland to protest fishing rules, Yle News

Norway:  The food crisis in the Far North, Barrents Observer

Russia:  More than 800 000 reindeer to be vaccinated against anthrax in Russia, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Demand ups Sweden’s reindeer meat prices, Radio Sweden

United States:  Food insecurity in Alaska, Alaska Dispatch News


Categories: Indigenous
Tags: , , , , , ,

Do you want to report an error or a typo? Click here!

@*@ Comments

Leave a Reply

Note: By submitting your comments, you acknowledge that Radio Canada International has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Radio Canada International does not endorse any of the views posted. Your comments will be pre-moderated and published if they meet Netiquette guidelines.

When you express your personal opinion in an online forum, you must be as courteous as if you were speaking with someone face-to-face. Insults and personal attacks will not be tolerated. To disagree with an opinion, an idea or an event is one thing, but to show disrespect for other people is quite another. Great minds don’t always think alike—and that’s precisely what makes online dialogue so interesting and valuable.

Netiquette is the set of rules of conduct governing how you should behave when communicating via the Internet. Before you post a message to a blog or forum, it’s important to read and understand these rules. Otherwise, you may be banned from posting.

  1.’s online forums are not anonymous. Users must register, and give their full name and place of residence, which are displayed alongside each of their comments. reserves the right not to publish comments if there is any doubt as to the identity of their author.
  2. Assuming the identity of another person with intent to mislead or cause harm is a serious infraction that may result in the offender being banned.
  3.’s online forums are open to everyone, without regard to age, ethnic origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
  4. Comments that are defamatory, hateful, racist, xenophobic, sexist, or that disparage an ethnic origin, religious affiliation or age group will not be published.
  5. In online speak, writing in ALL CAPS is considered yelling, and may be interpreted as aggressive behaviour, which is unpleasant for the people reading. Any message containing one or more words in all caps (except for initialisms and acronyms) will be rejected, as will any message containing one or more words in bold, italic or underlined characters.
  6. Use of vulgar, obscene or objectionable language is prohibited. Forums are public places and your comments could offend some users. People who use inappropriate language will be banned.
  7. Mutual respect is essential among users. Insulting, threatening or harassing another user is prohibited. You can express your disagreement with an idea without attacking anyone.
  8. Exchanging arguments and opposing views is a key component of healthy debate, but it should not turn into a dialogue or private discussion between two users who address each other without regard for the other participants. Messages of this type will not be posted.
  9. Radio Canada International publishes contents in five languages. The language used in the forums has to be the same as the contents we publish or in one of the two official languages, English or French. The usage of other languages, with the exception of some words, is forbidden. Messages that are off-topic will not be published.
  10. Making repetitive posts disrupts the flow of discussions and will not be tolerated.
  11. Adding images or any other type of file to comments is forbidden. Including hyperlinks to other websites is allowed, as long as they comply with netiquette. Radio Canada International  is in no way responsible for the content of such sites, however.
  12. Copying and pasting text written by someone else, even if you credit the author, is unacceptable if that text makes up the majority of your comment.
  13. Posting any type of advertising or call to action, in any form, to Radio Canada International  forums is prohibited.
  14. All comments and other types of content are moderated before publication. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to refuse any comment for publication.
  15. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to close a forum at any time, without notice.
  16. Radio Canada International  reserves the right to amend this code of conduct (netiquette) at any time, without notice.
  17. By participating in its online forums, you allow Radio Canada International to publish your comments on the web for an indefinite time. This also implies that these messages will be indexed by Internet search engines.
  18. Radio Canada International has no obligation to remove your messages from the web if one day you request it. We invite you to carefully consider your comments and the consequences of their posting.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


One comment on “Food insecurity in Arctic Canada needs northern solutions, hackathon hears
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    The state of change is here to stay. The Inuits, and other Northern Folk need to adapt accordingly, but probably with the right sort of assistance from Federal or Regional Government.