Building a Food Policy for Canada Together: Summit Summary

The Government of Canada (GoC) brought together 300 members from a variety of sectors including civil society, not-for-profit, academia, industry, the civil service and ministerial staff for a 1.5 day summit to consult on the proposed Food Policy for Canada, June 22-23rd 2017 in Ottawa. I was one of those 300 and here is a bit about that summit:

For background information and a primer on the Food Policy see our earlier blog post.

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Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada (AAFC)

The policy is to be housed under Agriculture and Agri-Foods Canada. They led the consultation and here’s some of what they had to say:

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Click to view slideshow.

Positive aspects of the summit

  • Long-term vision (slide 7 & 10): though there was ranking of priorities and looking at short-term goals, there was a strong sense from the GoC and the room that we want the policy to represent a long-term vision.
  • Food systems approach (slide 8 & 10): this was mentioned numerous times through the consultation. And although the 4 pillars of the proposed policy have a reductionist quality, there was a commitment to approaching the work from a systems lens.
  • “Whole-of-government” (slide 8, 10 & 11): The policy is housed under AAFC however there are tangible efforts to coordinate amongst multiple ministries that relate to food (many if not all!). For example, Employment and Social Development Canada was there to share the findings from the national consultations on developing a poverty reduction strategy and how this ties into a food policy. In addition, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada shared their review of Nutrition North.
  • Using great work already done (slide 9): AAFC referenced documents like Food Secure Canada’s People’s Food Policy as proposals that have informed the development of the policy to-date.
  • Neutral facilitation: the facilitators were a neutral third party and the general sense was positive about how they held the space and led the participatory feedback sessions.
  • Civil service representation: it was great to have staff from AAFC sitting at the tables taking part in the conversation. They too were excited to be there… “we haven’t had consultations like this over the past 10 years”… they seemed happy to be able to talk with experts in the field external to government.

Elephant in the room

Named a few times as the ‘elephant in the room’ was the “Innovation Superclusters Initiative“, or what I understand to be a parallel conversation and process going on to increase Canada’s agriculture exports from 56 to 75 billion per year. A couple of things noted about this:

  • There wasn’t a huge industry presence in the room – so where were they and where is that conversation happening?
  • There isn’t dedicated dollars behind the food policy yet. The belief is that they are trying to get the policy done by the next budget to make the case to put dollars behind it. The fear is that the supercluster is where the money really is and that this policy may not have legs to stand on in the end.
  • Export orientation vs. Canadian food security: in Minister MacAulay’s speech he was most excited about increasing production of high-quality food to make Canada a bigger global agricultural player. However, this emphasis really goes against the overarching conversations in the room that were about making sure that all Canadian’s have adequate food first.

What’s next?

Regional consultations to gather more perspectives on the proposed policy over the summer.

A What we Heard Report to summarize the messages from the consultations, sometime in November.

A Food Policy for Canada to be released in the new year before March.

Make your voice heard by taking the survey

Twitter #FoodPolicy4Canada


Blog Written By: Miranda Cobb, Ecology Action Centre, Research and Evaluation Coordinator

Adventures in Local Food is your source for food news in Nova Scotia, from pickles to policy. It is a project organized by the Ecology Action Centre.
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