The Edmonton Food Council recently had the opportunity to attend a national summit on developing a Food Policy for Canada. Here is our report back and next steps!
A Food Policy for Canada: What Do Edmontonians Think?
After years of lobbying by Food Secure Canada and other food organizations, the federal government has charged the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food with leading the development of a national food policy. On May 29, 2017, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced that the Government of Canada was launching consultations to support the development of A Food Policy for Canada – a national food policy, led by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Minister MacAulay states that the mandate of the national food policy initiative is to “develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranches and farmers, on the tables of families across the country.”
The national food policy is intended to encompass the entire food system from farm to fork. As this national food policy is developed, the Canadian government is exploring how best to align and coordinate current and future federal initiatives strongly linked to agriculture and food.
There are four proposed themes of A Food Policy for Canada:
- increasing access to affordable food;
- improving health and food safety;
- conserving our soil, water, and air; and
- growing more high quality food.
A Food Policy for Canada Summit
The first two components of the public consultation were an online survey (deadline has been extended to August 31, 2017) and an invite-only summit. The Edmonton Food Council was one of some 300 stakeholders across Canada who received an invitation to participate in the summit.
The summit took place over a day and a half in Ottawa on June 22 and 23, 2017. The representatives of the Edmonton Food Council and fresh: Edmonton’s Food and Urban Agriculture Strategy were Kirsta Franke, Co-Chair of the Edmonton Food Council, and Kathryn Lennon, Principal Planner at the City of Edmonton.
Over 300 stakeholders attended the summit, representing a wide diversity of perspectives, from anti-poverty groups, to women’s rights, to potato farmers. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to make new friends with individuals and organizations across the country who are doing inspiring work! Some of the people we met at the summit included representatives from (in no particular order):
- Food Secure Canada
- Manitoba Food Matters
- Vancouver Food Policy Council
- National Zero Waste Council
- Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
- Government of Nunavut
- Health Canada
- Environment Canada
- Egg Producers Association
- Canadian Organic Growers
- Sustainable Beef Roundtable
- Food First Newfoundland
- New Brunswick Food Security Action Network
- Food Locally Embedded, Globally Engaged (FLEdGE)
- Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition
The ministries in attendance included the Ministry of Agriculture and Agri-Food; Ministry of Families, Children and Social Development, and the Ministry of Health. The stakeholders at the summit were asked to provide input regarding what may be the vision, values, guiding principles and objectives for A Food Policy for Canada. We were told: “We are not building consensus, we are not making decisions. This is a brainstorm.” We were also told: “We do not have a preconceived notion as to the specifics of what this policy will contain. Your experience, support, ideas matter in the development and implementation of this policy. It really is carte blanche.”
What We Learned: Consultation Process and Timeline
Public consultations will be completed by the end of September 2017 and presented in a “what we heard” report in November 2017. The draft national food policy will be completed in October/November 2017, and the official policy is expected to launch in early 2018. The federal government is holding regional consultations, including in the northern territories, and will continue to engage with territorial and provincial governments. The federal government wants ideas from all levels, including federal, provincial and municipal, but they do want specifics for the federal government to take action on.
Members of Parliament have been provided with toolkits to engage with their constituents over the summer. There will be potential roundtable engagements sessions hosted by MPs in August and September. The Edmonton Food Council will be contacting our local MPs about setting up some engagements sessions and we’ll spread the word about any local sessions as soon as they are confirmed.
What We Learned: the Edmonton Food Council’s Live Notes
Please refer to the Edmonton Food Council’s Twitter channel @yegfoodcouncil #FoodPolicy4Canada for our on-the-spot notes from the summit. As part of the development of the national food policy, the Edmonton Food Council recognizes that collaboration with local governments, and between all levels of government, is critical. We also believe it is important to share local knowledge and experiences, as there is an incredible wealth of knowledge, expertise and initiatives already present in the Edmonton area.
There were several common and repeated elements in the discussions at the summit that resonated with us, representing items that many people wanted to see included in the national food policy:
- Agricultural land preservation – refer to Farmland: A Prerequisite for Farmers, Food and Agri-Food Policy
- Holistic food systems approach, life-cycle, circular economy, water, land
- School food programs
- Indigenous food sovereignty
- Human rights approach – refer to the UN’s universal declaration of human rights
- Food waste
It is important to draw connections to a number of recent and ongoing consultations related to food which are taking place across the federal government, including the following:
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Next Policy Framework
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Food Labelling Modernization
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Safe Food for Canadians Regulations
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Plant and Animal Health Strategy
- Employment and Social Development Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy
- Health Canada’s Healthy Eating Strategy
- Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada’s Nutrition North
Other Resources/Articles About the Summit and Food Policy
What can I do?
For more information on A Food Policy for Canada, refer to the federal government’s website.
Online consultations are open until August 31, 2017.
Host Your Own Consultation Session: The Government of Canada has developed a toolkit with materials to help you host your own session and gather feedback from your community or organization on what matters most to them when it comes to food issues and opportunities. The toolkit is designed to help guide your discussion and help you collect and submit the results. The deadline for submitting feedback is September 30, 2017. The results you share with the Government of Canada will be used to inform the development of A Food Policy for Canada.
If you’d like to contribute to the discussion, do not wait for formal engagement – write a letter to your MP (refer to the list below) and cc FoodPolicy-PolitiqueAlimentair@Canada.ca and firstname.lastname@example.org
|Boissonnault, Randy||Edmonton Centre||Randy.Boissonnault@parl.gc.ca|
|Diotte, Kerry||Edmonton Griesbach||Kerry.Diotte@parl.gc.ca|
|Aboultaif, Ziad||Edmonton Manning||Ziad.Aboultaif@parl.gc.ca|
|Sohi, Amarjeet (Hon.)||Edmonton Mill Woods||Amarjeet.Sohi@parl.gc.ca|
|Jeneroux, Matt||Edmonton Riverbend||Matt.Jeneroux@parl.gc.ca|
|Duncan, Linda||Edmonton Strathcona||Linda.Duncan@parl.gc.ca|
|McCauley, Kelly||Edmonton West||Kelly.McCauley@parl.gc.ca|
|Lake, Mike (Hon.)||Edmonton – Wetaskiwin||Mike.Lake@parl.gc.ca|
|Michael Cooper||St. Albert – Edmonton||Michael.Cooper@parl.gc.ca|
Our next steps are to contact Edmonton area MPS to discuss how we can be of assistance to them in engaging with Edmonton area constituents over conversations surrounding food. We’ll keep you posted!