So you’ve heard about Northern Canada and now you want to help.
Cool. Let’s get started.
First, it’s important to understand why this has happened. Food and other products, including female hygiene products, contraceptives, clothing, books, etc, have always been higher in Northern communities, at least since around the 1950s when an interest in northern oil blossomed, companies started diving into the high quality (and quantity) of fish and wildlife products that they’d overfished and hunted in the rest of the country and when integrating Canada’s north into the rest of the country was important for political reasons as it was the height of the Cold War and any Russian nuke would come through the North. Before this, Northern communities had been cut off from the rest of what was happening in Canada. Native communities could still rely on the principles of nomadicity, hunting and gathering and new generations could be taught how to do these things. After Canada “discovered” the North (read: discovered how they could exploit all the land they’d so far been ignoring), there were fewer and fewer resources to be hunted and gathered, and Native communities began to rely more and more on goods arriving from the South, as their traditional hunting and gathering culture was no longer sustainable.
Eventually, the shipping of goods to these communities was subsidized. For a while, people even had semi-adequate housing. Food and product prices were still high, but they were almost affordable.
This year, Prime Minister Harper waged a silent budget war on Canada’s Natives. Here’s what Harper’s said in the past about Canada, and I think it accurately reflects his approach to Canada’s Natives:
We also have no history of colonialism. So we have all of the things that many people admire about the great powers but none of the things that threaten or bother them.
Here’s some information about some of the cuts he’s made. There’s a lot out there. I’m not going to tell you how to use Google.
Some of the biggest cuts he’s made have been to infrastructure. The communities facing sky-high food and product prices are communities with few roads and absolutely no commercial competition (which, by the way, is how Capitalism works. The free market, where competition keeps prices low). NorthMart is almost always the only store in these communities, so they’re able to set their prices as high as they want and they know people can’t just go to Wal-Mart and get it cheaper. People either have to pay the prices NorthMart sets, or they starve. Not so cool. But at least there were subsidies. The government paid a lot of money (NOTHING in comparison to all the jets Harper just bought) to make the cost of transporting goods to these communities cheaper so that the price tags would be affordable. That wasn’t a Harper thing, that was just a Canada thing for a long time. Not anymore.
So now you want to sign a petition.
I’m not going to stop you, but it’s not going to work. We’re talking about a guy who’s been found in Contempt of Parliament (and there are allegations he’s in contempt again). He’s also cutting funds to Elections Canada after they announced they were going to investigate what might be the biggest case of election fraud in Canadian history. Believe me, there were a LOT of petitions. This is a guy who just doesn’t care for rules and regulations (when it suits him not to). He does not care about petitions because he doesn’t care about people. Not to mention, 60% of Canada voted against him when he was re-elected.
So what can you do?
If you’re a Canadian, write to your MP and let them know you want the high cost of living in Canada’s north to change so that families can access the food and products they need to survive and live healthy lives. Ask your MP to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, back to Canada to investigate food security - this time focusing on the North, which he completely skipped the last time he came. Call them over and over and over again. Make them want you to go away. Don’t go away. Then, write to Olivier de Schutter and invite him back.
If you’re NOT Canadian - continue to spread the word. Tell your friends IRL. You, too, can contact Olivier de Schutter and ask him to investigate Canada’s North. But you should also learn about your local Native communities. How is their access to food and healthcare? How can you help? Are there Native communities in your country that can’t access the things they need to live healthy lives?