Redesign (provisioning)

Nation to nation agreements, self-determination, resurgence, and Indigenous Food Sovereignty (IFS)

Domestic and international actions and agreements on contaminant reduction

Common-pool resource management of food in urban areas


Nation to nation agreements, self-determination, resurgence, and Indigenous Food Sovereignty (IFS)

IFS is about cultural identity, relationships, connection to land and water, and history (Robin, 2019). Morrison (2011) stresses that it is nearly impossible for indigenous peoples to have food sovereignty if  land and water (and wild foods upon that land and water) are not protected. “Indigenous food sovereignty is ultimately achieved by upholding our long-standing sacred responsibilities to nurture healthy, interdependent relationships with the land, plants, and animals that provide us with our food” (p. 100). Thus,"[s]elf-determination must exist within and beyond food to include the ability of Indigenous peoples to self-determine their own futures." (Robin, 2019:.87). But, "there is not one, catch-all solution to achieve food sovereignty for Indigenous peoples within Canada.  Rather solutions must come from Indigenous communities, who are best positioned to know what works and what does not within their specific social, political and cultural locations." (Martin and Amos, 2017:215).

In a background report that informed the People's Food Policy Project (2011), the Indigenous Circle (2011: 11-12) named the following critical actions:

1. Land reform and redistribution: Return to the original nation-to-nation agreements as expressed in wampum belts, treaties, and other instruments which expressed our willingness to share the grand resources of the land. Allocate adequate land for the exclusive use of hunting, fishing and gathering reserves in areas currently designated as crown land, national or provincial parks, and other public lands.

2. Environmental degradation: Share in the urgent need to heal Mother Earth by integrating Indigenous customary law, which is harmony with natural law, with western science and legislation at all levels of government. Allocate adequate resources (time, human, financial, technical) to adapt existing Canadian legislation to include holistic Indigenous methodologies in assessing, preventing, monitoring and mitigating cumulative risks associated with the environmental, cultural, spiritual, and social health of Indigenous land and food systems.

3. Address social determinants of health that are negatively impacting the ability of Indigenous Peoples (on and off reserve) to respond to their own needs for healthy culturally adapted Indigenous foods, i.e.: poverty, lack of affordable housing, culture and language, family healing, etc.

4. Responsibility and relationships: Heal and rebuild (reconcile) contemporary relationships between Indigenous peoples and stakeholders (Canadian citizens and their government), and others who share the gifts of this great land we know as Canada. This will be accomplished by clearly integrating our shared world views and outlining and articulating responsibilities, while also supporting the protection, conservation, and restoration of Indigenous and other land and food systems.

Mapping and protecting indigenous foodsheds (Thompson et al., 2019) has to be part of nation to nation agreements and IFS. The Wasagemek people of Northern Manitoba "priorities include food sovereignty,nopimink, com-munity-led education, and infrastructure, including adequate housing and a community airport, to bring about reconciliation, renewal, and healing from the effects of residential schools and other colonial policies." (p.267).  Building foodsheds also means building distribution infrastructure like shops, restaurants and country food kitchens.

Many authors cite Coulthard (2014, p. 18) regarding resurgence. The politics of resurgence “is less oriented around attaining legal and political recognition by the state, and more about Indigenous peoples empowering themselves through cultural practices of individual and collective self-fashioning."

According to Kamal and IMPC (2020), "The second important theme discussed in resurgence literature is how culture is formed and sustained through land-based relationships." and "resurgence scholars provide clear guidelines on community-level involvement; these include eating land-based food, youth empowerment, practice of language, passing on traditional knowledge, renewal of Indigenous law and kinship, rebuilding leadership, and cultural and economic revitalization of land-based activities".

With 11 of 14 First Nations having agreements negotiated since 1993,Yukon leads in treaties and self-government,  no longer subject to the Indian Act.  These agreements provide more space for resurgence, addressing heritage, fish, wildlife, natural resources, water, forestry, taxation, financial compensation, economic development, law-making, programs, services and land management (Slowey, 2021).

Provincial agreements are also important,  such as the Manitoba MOU with the Manitoba Metis on Manitoba Métis Natural Resource Harvesting Zones, in conformity with the Metis Laws of the Harvest (Beaudin - Reimer, 2020). Not all provinces have equivalent rights which restricts Metis access across borders.  This must be rectified.

Domestic and international actions and agreements on contaminant reduction

Canada is a signatory to many multilateral and some bilateral agreements on contaminant reduction that, if well implemented, can help reduce contaminant levels in many wild foods. Much mercury and POPs loading is legacy contamination, but there is also the problem of increasing contamination (and more northern movement) from more recent pollutants like fire retardants.  Climate change is also likely to exacerbate contamination problems (cf. Brown et al., 2018). Other agreements or sub-agreements, however, Canada has not signed, or is a signatory but has not ratified. See Goal 10 for more on these agreements and Canada's actions domestically and internationally.

The problem, as highlighted in many other sections (including Goal 10), is that Canada often fails to align domestic implementation with its international obligations, and regularly equivocates in its reporting on progress.  Certainly, domestic action alone will not curtail many of these polluting substances, which is why international agreements are required, but Canada's domestic failures mean more needs to be done and we are not in a strong position to scold other nations about their implementation deficiencies.  Many agreements have specified exemptions or action thresholds that nations can use to avoid activity, sometimes suggesting ineffectiveness of the agreement.

So, although Canada has made significant progress on reducing the manufacture, use, import and export of many pollutants, others continue to be released at significant levels.  The key domestic legislative instruments, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) and the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), while generally strengthened over the years, still have weaknesses that contribute to the release of contaminants, some of which are discussed in numerous sections of this site. CEPA is scheduled for modernization but how significant an upgrade it will be remains unclear. Environmental groups are pushing for:

  • Bans on certain acutely toxic materials
  • Better work supporting alternatives
  • Mandatory labeling in certain products such as cosmetics
  • Enforceable air and drinking water standards
  • Better focus on protections for marginalized peoples and communities
  • Recognition of the human right to a healthy environment

At this stage, all these changes should be implemented. Resolving this problem is a long term process that requires continuous tightening of regulatory instruments to control emissions and actions to reduce pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Common-pool resource management of food in urban areas

Elinor Ostrom's principles for common-pool resource management are set out in Goal 5, Sustainable Fisheries Management, Redesign.  They can also be applied to land based systems, including urban areas, although there is debate about whether urban areas are consistent with Ostrom's principles.

In cities, self - provisioning is connected to the urban commons. Although food producing units are generally small, they are linked to the wider processes of managing a city. Especially for self-provisioning, food is not a private good, and the resources need to produce/obtain it better lend themselves to collective and public good regimes.  Land - based commons are historically thought of  as areas of land with shared rights to graze, plant, and forage. "Three essential components are identified from the theory of common-pool resources: 1) a shared resource, 2) a community of resource users and 3) collective governance" and "In the urban context, these components can be recognised as 1) the city and its urban spaces as a shared resource, 2) the city’s residents as a community of resource users and 3) residents’ participation in the city, through political movements or resource management, as a form of collective governance." (Felstead et al., 2019). In the city, this is made more complex than in classical common pool resources  by the competition for space, and the resulting processes of inclusion and exclusion.  Harvey (2012) cautions that public space and urban commons are not necessarily the same because creating an urban commons requires a collective effort to manage it.

A key issue then is helping a collectivity to develop trust and the skills to collectively manage, especially given that urban communities are often disconnected, and don't typically share a common past. Neighbourhood scale may then be important because it counters some evidence that larger groups are more prone to failure.  Divergent levels of income and status can also impede effectiveness (Tedder, 2010). They often unite, instead, around a common threat to a common space, frequently a rebellion against modern forms of enclosure (Felstead et al., 2019).  This suggests the need for both training (see Goal 7, Structure and processes, Efficiency) and relations with institutional actors with access to the legal and institutional frameworks of cities to help limit enclosures and coordinate the collectivity (Felstead et al., 2019).  This assumes of course that public institutions are prepared to fulfill public missions, a concept that has been under siege in the neoliberal era.  All this is important to avoid collective action failures (Tedder, 2010).

Foster and  Iaione (2017) provide examples of urban projects in 100 "co-cities" that they feel reflect Ostom's principles.  An emerging body of planning and design literature explores how to "convert" existing urban spaces for food provisioning (cf. Carrot City; Kassie, 2019; de la Salle, 2019).  The scale of many remains limited, both spatially and in terms of participation, but they represent initiatives to build upon leading to the redesign stage.  There are also modelling studies that forecast some of the possibilities with the right planning and design changes (cf.  McClintock and Cooper, 2010; McClintock et al., 2013;  Saha and Eckelman., 2017).

In addition to conversion analysis, there are also new city neighbourhoods being constructed with food at the centre. These represent a different phenomenon than Agri-hoods (see Goal 1, Retail food access, Substitution), which are primarily rural or outer suburbs where land is more plentiful.  These new neighbourhoods are typically dense, providing a wider range of ecological services, including food (cf.  Park 20/20 MasterPlan the Netherlands;  case studies in Donovan et al., 2011).