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COLUMN: A criticism of Nutrition North

To say I wasn't the least bit surprised to learn that all five major Inuit organizations – Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. (NTI), the Inuvialuit Regional Corp., Makivik Corp. and the Nunatsiavut Government – had pulled out of the federal government's Indigenous Working Group on food security this past April would be a major understatement.Nor was I the least bit surprised to learn NTI president Natan Obed and NTI health policy analyst Shylah Elliott saw the working group and the rhetoric issued by Nutrition North Canada representatives, to be a waste of time and no more than tokenism and optics (read: window dressing) that would produce no positive results.
This has always been the federal government's approach to Nutrition North and it doesn't seem to matter which party is at the top of the pecking order.
Nutrition North has been one of the worst examples of 'we know what's best for you and you will accept it sooner or later', to have ever come down the pipe.
And, despite, a much more impressive title, it appears the modern version of the working group is no more believable or productive than the advisory committee that used to pay us all sporadic visits when Nutrition North first burst out of the gates what seems like a lifetime ago.
It's mind-boggling, really, that the top Inuit associations in this country would feel so disrespected – and their input so unwanted – at this stage of the game that they'd throw up their hands in frustration and simply walk away from a program that so directly affects their people.
And, to rub salt in the wound and top it all off, to be told to leave the table if they want to, but the program is going ahead as is anyway just reeks of paternalism.
Don't eat your vegetables if you don't want to, but you're going to bed hungry.
Nutrition North and its highly promoted and equally misleading cost of a Northern food basket has been broken since the day is was announced and continues to live due to federal stubbornness and the notion a little gain is no gain at all.
Meanwhile it still costs a bloody fortune to feed a family in almost every Nunavut community and that's without even dreaming of affording anything in the fresh fruit aisle on anything resembling a continual basis.
Yeah, my milk's a little cheaper, but I can't help but notice how for every subsidy that brings a price down, five other products in the store seem to go up to keep the bottom line pretty even for shareholders and I still need that soap.
The people of Nunavut would be better served by the Government of Nunavut rolling a giant pair of dice, like they've got a pair lying around, gaining its share of the federal money supposedly saved by Inuit under Nutrition North Canada and going all-in into the food wholesale business.
Imagine coming soon to a region near you, regional distribution centres in Rankin Inlet, Cambridge Bay and Iqaluit servicing made-in-Nunavut retail outlets, or, perhaps, retail partners if the price is right, the creation of hundreds of jobs for Nunavummiut and a lowered cost of living for all.
Dirigible-landing days supplying first the distribution centres and then the retail outlets would be a most welcome and entertaining sight in every community for awhile to come.
A pipe dream for now, but at least we're comforted by the fact Nutrition North is taking care of us all.
After all, father, or, at least, Big Brother, always knows best.