Minister Vandal announces inclusion of five communities in Northwest Territories to Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy program

From: Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

The Government of Canada understands how important it is for families to have access to affordable and healthy food in northern and remote communities.

Today, the Minister of Northern Affairs, the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Premier of the Northwest Territories, Caroline Cochrane, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, Michael McLeod, announced that five additional Northwest Territories communities will be eligible for the Nutrition North retail subsidy.

Nutrition North Canada works in collaboration with provincial, territorial, Indigenous and program partners to address food insecurity and ensure access to essential items in northern and remote communities.

The inclusion of the communities of Nahanni Butte, Tsiigehtchic, Fort McPherson, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk supports efforts to strengthen food security, as these communities are now eligible for the retail subsidy during their seasonal periods of isolation. This will lower the cost of food during break-up and freeze-up, when food has to be flown in to the communities.

Nutrition North Canada’s retail subsidy program applies to a wide range of nutritious foods, including those that are fresh and perishable. The program also subsidizes certain essential items like diapers, non-prescription drugs, soaps and hand sanitizers sold by registered retailers and suppliers.

In response to the pandemic, our government provided an additional $25 million to Nutrition North Canada, to increase subsidy rates on nutritious foods and essential items. The program also expanded the list of nutritious food and essential items that are being subsidized to include cleaning supplies. In addition, Budget 2021 is investing $163.4 million over three years to expand the Nutrition North Canada program and enable the Minister of Northern Affairs to work directly with Indigenous partners to address food insecurity.

Quotes

“The high cost of healthy, nutritious and affordable food is a challenge in many northern communities. Nutrition North Canada is one part of a broad, whole-of-government approach to addressing food insecurity in the North. Working together with partners, Nutrition North Canada supports made-in-the-North solutions that increase the accessibility and affordability of nutritious food. We continue to work with Indigenous and northern partners to improve the program to best serve northerners, and today’s announcement is a result of that collaboration.”

The Honourable Daniel Vandal, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Northern Affairs

“Addressing food insecurity is a priority for the Government of the Northwest Territories and of remote communities. Tsiigehtchic asked the 19th assembly to advocate on their behalf to be included in the Nutrition North subsidy program, and a review of the program identified other communities in the NWT with extreme food costs that could use support. I am thrilled that our advocacy has been successful. Through strong partnership with the Government of Canada, Indigenous Governments and Community Governments, we will continue to find collaborative and innovative solutions that will have a positive impact on the lives of Northerners.”

The Honourable Caroline Cochrane

Premier of the Northwest Territories

“Through the expansion of the Nutrition North retail subsidy into these five communities, our government is demonstrating our continuing commitment to improving quality of life and the affordability of everyday goods in the Northwest Territories.”

Michael McLeod

Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories

Quick facts

  • Nutrition North Canada is a Government of Canada program that helps make nutritious food and some essential items more affordable and accessible.

  • The program works with Indigenous and northern partners directly to understand and address their food security priorities. Nutrition North Canada supports eligible northern communities in three ways:

    • Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy: By subsidizing a list of perishable foods and essential items flown in by air, and non-perishable foods and essential items brought in by seasonal sealift, barge or winter road.
    • Harvesters Support Grant: By increasing northerners’ access to traditional foods by supporting hunting, harvesting and food sharing.
    • Nutrition Education initiatives: By delivering community-based nutrition education activities and building on existing activities to increase access to healthy food (led by Indigenous Services Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada).
  • There are 121 isolated northern communities that benefit from the Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy program. These communities are located in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador.

  • Of those 121 communities, 108 are also eligible for the Harvesters Support Grant. This grant provides funding to Indigenous governments and organizations to support hunting, harvesting and food sharing in isolated communities.

  • The communities of Nahanni Butte, Tsiigehtchic, Fort McPherson, Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk are now eligible for the retail subsidy during their seasonal periods of isolation. Outside of seasonal isolation periods, food is shipped into these five communities by truck or sealift; however, during break-up and freeze-up each year, food must be flown in, which increases costs significantly. This addition to the Nutrition North Canada program will help lower the cost of food during seasonal isolation to assist those who need it the most.

  • Isolation is a fundamental criterion in determining community eligibility under the Nutrition North Canada program. As northerners know well, the effects of isolation are often exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. The list of Nutrition North Canada-eligible communities is reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis. Departmental officials reach out to communities regularly to discuss the many variables that impact their respective isolation periods.

  • To be eligible for the Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy, a community must be considered isolated and meet these requirements:

    • lack year-round surface transportation (no permanent road, rail or marine access), excluding isolation caused by freeze-up and break-up that normally lasts more than four weeks at a time
    • meet the territorial or provincial definition of “northern community”
    • have an airport, post office or grocery store
    • have a year-round population according to the national census.
  • The Government of Canada periodically reviews community eligibility criteria. In 2016, Nutrition North Canada expanded to an additional 37 communities across Canada’s North.

  • Since the onset of the pandemic, Nutrition North Canada has been in regular contact with its Indigenous and northern partners to understand and address their immediate and long-term food security concerns. Regular discussions are also underway with territorial and provincial governments and other federal departments on collaborative solutions to support ongoing food security.

  • On April 14, 2020, in response to critical priorities identified by territorial governments to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced additional support measures to address the immediate health, economic and transportation needs of northerners.

  • This included a one-time financial injection of $25 million to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidy rates in all eligible communities. The high subsidy level has been increased by 50 cents/kg, and the medium subsidy level has been increased by $1/kg. In addition, the list of nutritious food and essential items that are subsidized as part of Nutrition North Canada was expanded to include cleaning supplies.

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