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Why mince words?

Anna Bowen

UN condemns Canada’s lack of food security.

If I’d pursued political cartooning instead of sociology, I would be sketching a picture of Immigration Minister Jason Kenney with his mouth full of cheap imported bananas. He’d have one hand over the mouth of UN rapporteur Olivier De Schutter, and the other  distributing food aid “to starving people in Third World countries.”

On May 16th, after an 11-day visit to Canada, UN special rapporteur for food Olivier De Schutter condemned Canada for its food insecurity, saying that he didn’t want to “mince words,” and reported that more than 800,000 households in Canada did not have adequate access to healthy, affordable food.

Shamefully, Tory Immigration Minister Jason Kenney effectively said that the UN should mind its own business and that De Schutter should concentrate efforts to help “starving people in developing countries, not to give lectures to wealthy and developed countries like Canada,” employing the retro division between “us” and “them” that colours every good old-fashioned approach to so-called development.

Sure, Inuk MP and federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq might have been right to call De Schutter patronizing, and a good-for-nothing academic. Lord knows nobody wants any more white guys telling aboriginal and Inuit communities what they need, but turning the attention of the international community to Canada’s ongoing mistreatment of aboriginal and Inuit communities can’t be all bad. The Assembly of First Nations National Chief, Sawn A-in-chut Atleo, for example, was grateful for the attention the UN brought to the situation of First Nations communities that struggle with food security in Canada. And Media Indigena suggested that Aglukkaq’s sourness towards animal rights activists who condemn the seal hunt—who she blames for Northern food security problems—influenced her impatience with De Schutter. (She apparently showed him a map of Canada to help him understand  why there aren’t farms in the Arctic). Notably, Aglukkaq also suggested the the UN should focus its attention on developing countries.

Regardless of the cause of food security issues for Canada’s aboriginal and Inuit communities—whether it’s interference in the seal and polar bear hunt or, say, the history of settler-colonialism in Canada—the UN has once again brought Canada’s shameful treatment of First Nations and Inuit communities into focus for the international community, and has given the controversy much needed attention.


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