why it matters
The pandemic has pushed a broken food system into emergency: millions of animals killed, rivers of spilt milk, migrant farmworkers dying, food bank use spiking. But it can also be the catalyst for big change: a localized food economy that feeds people, not profits.
In the life-and-death struggle with COVID-19, fundamental rights for Indigenous communities, migrant farmworkers and farmers must be an emergency response, not a distant dream.
No more band-aids: Implement UNDRIP!
The pandemic has laid bare underlying injustice in our food system: the people who grow our food and the original stewards of the land are far more likely to face food insecurity, low wages, criminalization, and now infection.
To ensure Indigenous food sovereignty and the right to live off the land, it’s past time to implement the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Justice for Migrants: status for all, adequate wages & housing for all farm workers.
Canada’s food system relies on the precarious labour of migrant workers, who are getting sick and dying because of inadequate housing and health care.
The solution is to honour, not discard these essential workers: permanent resident status for all on arrival, end detentions and deportations, a $15 minimum wage with full labour rights for all workers, and full access to all public services.
Emergency grants and debt cancellation for farmers and ranchers, especially underrepresented and young producers.
Most farmers are one or two bad seasons away from losing the farm. They struggle with huge debts, low incomes, and climate-driven weird weather.
Meanwhile, every link in the food chain is controlled by a handful of corporations.
Emergency grants and debt forgiveness for small farmers must be the first step in freeing the food system from corporate control.
Financial assistance must prioritize new farmers, Indigenous, northern, Black and racialized producers.
Hunger is a pre-existing condition: expand emergency food programs immediately.
Pre-pandemic, 1 in 6 children in Canada were already going hungry. Grants to food banks, drop in centres, and programs like Meals-on-Wheels must be ramped up.
Access to adequate, healthy food is fundamental – but food is also a foundation of culture. Provide grants to local and regional, and culturally diverse producers.
As governments restart the economy, food production must be treated as an essential public service, not a corporate profit centre.
Put seeds back in the hands of farmers. Support food diversity, not corporate monocrops.
Legislate the right of farmers to save seeds: plant breeding must be taken from private to public hands.
Declare a moratorium on GMOs, and any technology that threatens nature’s biodiversity.
Support regenerative farming practices and alternative land uses that heal the land: wetland protection, tree planting, and more.
Food distribution is the original essential service: it must be in public hands. That means public grain storage, food processing, abattoirs, and food hubs.
Corporate monopolies charge exorbitant fees to farmers for store, process, and distribute food. Corporate consolidation means farmers wait longer, travel further, and pay more for these services.
Public food and farming infrastructure provides essential services at cost, making farming more sustainable and keeping profits in communities, rather than corporate coffers.
(Invisible) hands off the land!
Over the last few decades, agricultural land has been targeted by speculators and investment capital.
This has pulled farmland into real estate bubbles, driven farmers into debt or off their land, and kept a new generation of farmers out.
We need land reform! Maximum land holding limits, protections from speculation, and financial support for small producers.
Adopt UNDROP: the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.
Yes – there is a UN declaration on the rights of peasants!
The legendary farmers movement La Via Campesina defines peasants as anyone producing food with a meaningful connection to the land.
The UNDROP guarantees basic rights – like access to clean water – to ecological small-scale farmers, Indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, and many others.
Bring back the Wheat Board.
Canada’s Wheat Board gave fair prices and stability to grain farmers for 70 years.
Its privatization in 2013 was the biggest transfer of wealth from farmers to corporations in Canadian history.
Bring back a single-desk selling agency for grain. It must be publicly-owned, democratically-controlled, and return all profits to farmers.
While governments are spending 100s of billions on recovery, it’s time to listen to food banks and put them out of business.
Getting rid of hunger isn’t just about food. It’s about guaranteeing a basic standard of living for all.
It’s also about confronting racism: Black, Indigenous and racialized communities are much more likely to face food insecurity.
Solutions include a Universal Basic Income, a Jobs Guarantee, and universal free public services.
We need big policies to eliminate food insecurity, starting with vulnerable communities.
We can build a food system that respects Indigenous sovereignty, treats producers with dignity, reconnects us to the nurturing power of the earth, and celebrates true diversity – from crops to cultures.
Offer free meals at schools and hospitals
Create a federal program to offer free, locally sourced, nutritious and lows-emission meals at hospitals and schools.
Not only would this take a bite out of food insecurity, it would create a permanent market for local producers. The end result? A more resilient, crisis-proof supply chain.
Create co-operative, publicly-owned grocery stores.
Why should the necessities of life be for profit?
Public grocery co-ops could:
- create local jobs
- support local farmers
- eliminate food deserts
- lower prices
- offer home delivery,
- end price fixing by food oligarchs.
What’s not to love?
It’s time for a Rural Jobs Guarantee.
Everything about farming has become big: big farms, big business, big petro-chemical fertilizer use, big crops for exports, big debts for farmers.
One result has been the depopulation of rural communities.
A Rural Jobs Guarantee would put communities back on the map and create huge numbers of jobs in upgrading rural broadband, improving water systems, regenerative farming, and restoring the land and waterways.
Canada is a settler colonial state, and of course the land has been the scene of that crime.
Agricultural policy has been part of pushing Indigenous peoples off land, locking them out of markets, and undermining sovereignty.
Building a just food system begins with returning land to its original protectors.
Stop trading away food sovereignty. Enshrine the right to local food.
For too long, governments have traded away the rights of farmers and consumers in exchange for corporate profit.
International trade deals must enshrine the right to local food. That means eliminating Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which prioritize the ‘rights’ of multinational companies over those of local producers.
End the dumping of food below cost from the Global North onto the markets of the Global South.
Create a public land bank.
Over the last 50 years, the average farm size has doubled, while the number of farmers has plummeted.
Increasing land prices and the high levels of debt required to get into farming means that land ownership is simply out of reach for many young and new farmers. At the other end of the spectrum, only 8.4% of farmers have someone lined up to take over their farm when they retire.
Create a public land bank to purchase land from retiring farmers and rent it at cost to new farmers. Not only would this remove the biggest barrier to entry, it would also help protect family farms.
Our demands were developed with inspiration from the leadership of the following groups, who are organizing in the face of COVID-19 to meet immediate needs and win long-term change within their own communities.
Find out more about their work here: