Friday, March 1, 2013

 

SFU News Open Letter

CBC Food Plan Skewed

System stakeholders not  consulted well enough in national strategy

Submitted by Brent Mansfield, VFPC/SFU photo

 

he Vancouver Food Policy Council (VFPC) would like to thank you for your invitation for a few of our members to attend the meeting you hosted on February 25.

 

While we applaud your efforts to visit communities across Canada we were very disappointed in various aspects of the ‘consultation’ session.

It was not a good use of people’s time and expertise to be there to simply fill out a paper copy of an online survey that has been on your website for months. Your request for participants to rank the various pre-determined outcomes outlined in the survey did not facilitate any discussion of collaborative opportunities or concerns regarding the Canadian Food Strategy Consultation Primer (dated January 3, 2013), but rather it seemed you simply wanted endorsement of the vision and direction that you had already laid out.

Your attempt to create "a food strategy for all Canadians" is admirable, however the VFPC questions whether the Conference Board and its investors truly represent all Canadians in this process. The Canadian Food Strategy Consultation Primer circulated to attendees before the consultation meeting clearly prioritizes the interests of the food industry investors.

The VFPC sincerely supports a more vibrant food economy in Canada, however we have concerns about the form of economic development called for, one that is increasingly industrialized, technologized, de-regulated and oriented primarily to global markets. In contrast we think a Canadian food strategy should encompass a wide array of public values that serve the health and well-being of the majority of Canadian people and the natural environment upon which we depend for our nourishment and livelihoods.

The VFPC asks that the Conference Board of Canada join with many others across the country in calling for a government-coordinated Canadian food strategy. We believe the Government of Canada, through such mechanisms as an all party caucus, a cross-ministerial committee, or another aegis agreed upon by the stakeholders, is the proper body to be leading a national process that engages citizens and stakeholders to create a common vision and public priorities for Canada's food system.

This process needs to clearly respect the jurisdictions and regional differences of each of Canada's provinces and territories, and similar mechanisms and processes are much needed at all levels of government. This work also needs to build upon the existing work on national food policy including the People's Food Policy Project of Food Secure Canada, which has already put significant effort into consulting diverse stakeholders in numerous communities in Canada, as well as the work of the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

Another important report that should be taken into careful consideration is that of Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. His report on Canada is now publicly available and on March 4 he will be presenting it to the UN Council on Human Rights. His report highlights a variety of hunger, health, aboriginal rights, and food systems (both land and water-based) issues, many of which are absent or under-represented in the Conference Board's food strategy up until now, and calls for many of the same solutions that we have suggested here.

The VFPC is one of over 50 groups across Canada that will be organizing community events on March 4 to further the dialogue on the critical issues he raises.

We seek your assurance that our participation in the February 25th session will not in any way - in your reports, or by other means - be construed as an endorsement of either the process or the content of the Conference Board of Canada’s attempts at a national food strategy.

We hope that you will consider redirecting your efforts to work more collaboratively with a wider array of food system stakeholders as you move forward in the planning of the 2nd National Food Summit.

 

About Brent Mansfield, Co-Chair of  the Vancouver Food Policy Council

After working as an elementary school teacher with the Vancouver School Board for three years, Brent Mansfield now works in two roles involving schools as central elements in working toward a healthy, sustainable, and just food system.

 

Brent is the community liaison for the Think&EatGreen@School Project, a project between UBC and the Vancouver School Board. He is also the Garden Project Coordinator at the Grandview/¿uuqinak’uuh Elementary School Garden, and the co-chair of the Vancouver Food Policy Council.

For more information visit his SFU page here or www.vancouverfoodpolicycouncil.ca or e-mail Brent here.

 

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