We often hear about the high price of food in the north, but we seldom hear about the income and employment gap that ensures Indigenous people suffer the most. A vast difference of income between Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents makes it more difficult for Indigenous people to cope with the high prices.
Statscan said the difference between the incomes of both groups was over 30 per cent in favour of non-Indigenous people in 2006, a gap that has been narrowing at a very slow pace.
Inequality is also found in job opportunities. Statscan found that in 2006, the unemployment rate for Inuit was almost four times bigger than for non-Indigenous people in Nunavut. While Canada’s unemployment rate in 2014 was 6.6 per cent, the rate for Inuit in Nunavut was 16.5 per cent. The Caledon Institute of Social Policy’s “Poverty and Prosperity in Nunavut" study reported in 2013 that “for some people in some communities, the opportunities for self-sufficiency through participation in the wage economy are slim.” The government operates a Nutrition North subsidy program, however basic economic conditions continue to present major barriers to good nutrition.
Food availability in Nunavut gained media coverage following a 2014 review of Nutrition North by the Auditor General of Canada, however most media coverage focused on the flaws of the subsidy program. Neither income inequality nor job opportunities were presented as causes of poor nutrition. After the report, the Globe and Mail and CBC focused on future improvements in food policy, while root causes were not touched on in depth. Media coverage presented some potential solutions, but without providing the full context.
Ashley Splawinski, “The failure of food policy in Nunavut,” Rabble.ca (2015), accessed February 15, 2015 http://rabble.ca/news/2015/02/failure-food-policy-nunavut
Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman, “Poverty and Prosperity in Nunavut” Caledon Institute of Social Policy (2013), accessed February 13, 2015 http://www.caledoninst.org/Publications/PDF/1027ENG.pdf
Linda Gionet, “Inuit in Canada: selected findings of the 2006 Census”, Statscan (2014), accessed February 14, 2015 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/11-008-x/2008002/article/10712-eng.htm
Daniel Wilson and David Macdonald, “The income gap between aboriginal peoples and the rest of Canada”, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (2010), accessed February 14, 2015 http://ywcacanada.ca/data/research_docs/00000121.pdf
Steve Rennie, “Nutrition North food subsidy program: What went wrong”, CBC (2014), February 15, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/nutrition-north-food-subsidy-program-what-went-wrong-1.2880756
Joshua Gladstone, “Only bold action will end food insecurity in the North”, The Globe and Mail (2014), accessed February 16, 2015 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/food-insecurity-in-the-north-has-become-a-human-rights-crisis/article22066925/
CBC News, “Report suggests guaranteed minimum income in Nunavut”, CBC December (2013), accessed February 16, 2015, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/report-suggests-guaranteed-minimum-income-in-nunavut-1.2458619
Steve Rennie, “Nutrition North: Government considers changes to oft-criticized food subsidy”, CTV News (2015), accessed February 16, 2015,
Student researcher: Carlos Prieto, University of Regina
Faculty evaluator: Patricia W. Elliott, University of Regina