Four questions on food 03/17/2017

We’re getting ready to kick off our third annual Food Summit on April 7 with a public keynote event: Fair Food Nation: Envisioning a future where food is a basic right. It'll be a chance to hear from leading voices in the food justice and Indigenous communities as they talk about their vision for a Canada where everyone has a right to healthy food.

One of our panellists, Tabitha Martens, is a mixed-ancestry Cree researcher and PhD candidate studying Indigenous food sovereignty at the University of Manitoba. We asked her to share her insights on what food security means for Indigenous communities, what having a connection to the land means to her, and how we can build a future where communities across Canada are united by a right to food.

1. At Fair Food Nation, you’ll be sharing your vision for a future where everyone has enough to eat. How would this affect the communities you come from? What do you see when you look ahead?

My hope for my peoples is healing. My hope is that land-based practices become the norm for all, are incorporated into our education and health care systems, and are carried on by our Elders, knowledge holders, and women who are recognized for their vital role in community. My hope is that land and food are healing, because they are also healed. My hope is that market-based foods are chosen because we want to choose it, not because we have to, and that these foods provide healthier options at affordable prices.

2. What does having a connection to the land mean to you? How would a connection to Indigenous food traditions alter the course of a child’s life?

It means everything. It means that land is respected as teacher, and as the source for our well-being. It means that land is protected. In connecting food with the land, we are returning back to the sacred, back to our children as being the greatest gifts of our culture. Children can carry this forward for us. I see a stronger sense of belonging and connectedness for our youth — a place of refuge, a re-affirmed sense of identity, and ultimately, the idea that our hands and our hearts have work to do.

3. At Fair Food Nation, you'll point us to your North Star, your goal for healthy and happy communities united by a right to food. Can you give us a sneak peek on your talk?

We need to recognize that food comes from the land, and that land comes from creation. It is not ours, per se, but we have a responsibility to uphold our relationship with the land, a relationship based on respect, reciprocity and connectedness. Our songs, dances, ceremonies, and languages are vital to how we get there. But I don’t profess to have the answers; this is a long road and involves many, many people.

4. Despite having lost so much to settler colonialism, the effects of which are felt to this day, Aboriginal people have also demonstrated resilience by re-learning and reclaiming their traditions, in which food is a significant part. What signs of hope are you seeing in your communities when it comes to the reclamation of food and land traditions?

I see communities re-creating historic food systems in a modern day context. I see defenders of the land ensuring our food is available to us and is safe. I see the involvement of youth and Elders in revitalizing our food systems. I see so many stories of this — the sadness, beauty, and resurgence of our culture get caught in my throat.

To hear more from Tabitha and other food justice leaders about their vision for a fair food nation, please join us at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 7 at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. Get your tickets today!