Redesign (Participation)

Ministry of food and food security, provincial and federal (adapted from MacRae and TFPC, 1999)

Implementing major structural changes is  a challenge. Institutional design is a relatively new field, and most of our current models are based on crude hierarchies or random access/free market approaches. Public institutions, unfortunately, have frequently combined the worst of both (Hooker, 1994). Our structures have been assembled over many years, generally following a pattern of incremental additions, with the overall coherence of the structure rarely assessed (Plumptre, 1988).  Such changes often generate significant internal contestation, particularly from units that are loosing authorities (for the battles over the locus of decision making for pesticide regulation, see Hill, 1994).  Consequently, creating a ministry of food is a long term agenda.

Though not a ministry, the Food Prices and Trade Board created during WWII had many of the functions of a Ministry of Food (see Goal 2, Demand Supply Coordination).  Important design lessons can be extracted from that history.  Departments of food consolidate functions from many departments, and other jurisdictions have done this, including the UK Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).  Some preliminary work was also undertaken by the Toronto Food Policy Council.  Although some of the details do not now appear viable, it proposed provincial and federal departments of Food and Food Security, designed according to the principles and theory of organizational ecology (see Table 4 of MacRae and TFPC, 1999).  These departments would be organized by food subsystems (consumption, nourishment, and health; distribution and storage; processing; production; export and import). Most functions of Agriculture departments would be folded into this new unit.  Some functions would be taken from other departments (particularly those with food and agriculture related responsibilities for  dietary health,  economic development and trade; and community and social services). Cross-cutting inter-divisional committees, similar in  approach to those established under Substitution, would provide coordination for common issues across all divisions (e.g., food quality, environmental sustainability). The federal department would differ from the provincial ones in that it would perform more significant functions in the areas of export and import, inter-provincial trade and demand and supply coordination, technology approvals, and national standard setting for research and development, nutrition and consumer information systems.

The creation of such a department would require significant changes to the Department of AAFC Act (see Instruments, Legislation, Federal).

Food Policy Council of Canada Act

The proposed National Food Policy Advisory Council (announced June 2019) will likely be a limited version of what is really required.  Many roundtables have been created through legislation to give them appropriate authority, mandate, structure, membership, processes and funding.  Given likely on-going contestation about food system design and function, this will be required for a national food policy council (for details, see Instruments, Legislation, Federal, New Legislation).

Food in the constitution (adapted from Ad hoc Working Group on Food Policy Governance, 2017)

Many of our current silos result from the absence of food in the Constitution.  Some countries have taken a juridical/legislative approach by incorporating the Right to Food into their constitutions. For example, Brazil’s Constitutional Amendment No. 64, approved in 2010, introduced Food as a Right under Article 6 of its constitution.[1]   Community Food Centres of Canada (CFCC) recently released a survey indicating ~96% of Canadians support human right to (Ipsos 2017).  And there are approaches to doing this in Canada that minimize the possibility of having to ‘open the constitution’.  In his 2012 report based on his mission to Canada, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, pointed out that as a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Canada already has a duty to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food. However, key documents like the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, as well as the Canadian Human Rights Act, have not been interpreted broadly by the courts to include the protection of social and economic rights, though there is space in them for such an interpretation (de Schutter 2012 p.5) without requiring Canada to ‘open up the Constitution’ if the federal government chose to argue for such an interpretation, and the Supreme Court agreed.


[1] BRASIL. Constituição (1988). Emenda Constitucional nº 64, de 4 de fevereiro de 2010. Altera o art. 6º da Constituição Federal, para introduzir a alimentação como direito social.