April 14th, 2020
Letter to Minister Vandal regarding food security and transportation
Dear Minister Vandal,
I write to you urging federal action in terms of food security and food transportation in our North. Today's announcement by your government is important but we need to make sure it applies to communities here in Manitoba and that it is done with the goal of ensuring food security for people, not profits for companies.
First Nations in our region are experiencing serious food insecurity at this time. As you know, they are taking unprecedented steps to keep their communities safe. For many First Nations, this has meant full lockdowns whereby only medically essential travel is allowed. While they struggled with food insecurity prior to this pandemic, the current situation has only exacerbated the situation. I have heard reports from communities where there is a shortage of basic foods and essentials including diapers and baby formula. This cannot stand. We must ensure that the announcement today is made available to First Nations in Northern Manitoba.
We must also ensure expanded access and transparency with respect to Nutrition North. In terms of access, not all remote communities are eligible for Nutrition North. Right now waterways are still frozen so they are not able to access alternate forms of transportation and should thus be eligible for Nutrition North. We must also ensure that Nutrition North results in significant price reductions for people who desperately need to feed their families, and not increased profit margins for corporations. There must be transparency and accountability on this front.
Finally, your government's announcement included funding for transportation for food. This is critical and must be available to First Nations and the airlines they work with here in Northern Manitoba. Wasagamack, for example, does not have an airport and as the ice on the waterways has yet to melt, they are forced to rely on expensive helicopters to transport needed supplies. The community’s insecurity is made worse by the lack of an airport and a regional hospital. Wasagamack, along with all Island Lake First Nations and all other remote First Nations, must be able to transport much needed food supplies and essential items as soon as possible.
I look forward to your government's response and action on these fronts. These are critical steps in keeping people safe in the face of COVID-19. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns.
MP Niki Ashton