Canada – Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories now eligible for Nutrition North Canada’s retail subsidy program on a seasonal basis

Every Canadian deserves access to healthy, affordable food, no matter where they live. Many communities in the North and Arctic become inaccessible by road or water during seasonal freezing and ice-breakup, leading to increased costs to ship food and other essential items.

April 5, 2022 —Ottawa, Ontario—Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada

Every Canadian deserves access to healthy, affordable food, no matter where they live. Many communities in the North and Arctic become inaccessible by road or water during seasonal freezing and ice-breakup, leading to increased costs to ship food and other essential items. 

Today, the Honourable Daniel Vandal, Minister of Northern Affairs, and Michael McLeod, Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories, announced that the community of Fort Simpson in the Northwest Territories is now seasonally eligible for the Nutrition North retail subsidy. 

Nutrition North Canada is a federal program that provides a retail subsidy on perishable foods and other essential items to residents in 122 isolated and northern communities. The program works in collaboration with provincial, territorial, Indigenous and program partners to address food insecurity and ensure access to essential items in northern and remote communities.

The inclusion of Fort Simpson supports efforts to strengthen food security, as residents will have better access to affordable foods and essential items during isolation periods. The community currently experiences periods of isolation during the spring thaws and fall freeze up seasons, where food has to be flown to the community at a high cost. Residents will now be able to purchase subsidized food from registered northern retailers in the community during these periods. 

In response to the pandemic, the government moved urgently to provide an additional $25 million to Nutrition North Canada, to increase subsidy rates on nutritious foods and essential items. The program also expanded the list of nutritious food and essential items subsidized to include cleaning supplies. In addition, Budget 2021 is investing $163.4 million over three years to expand the Nutrition North Canada program and enable the Minister of Northern Affairs to work directly with Indigenous partners to address food insecurity.

“Our government is working with Indigenous and northern partners to make food and essential items more accessible and affordable and better understand their food security concerns. Adding Fort Simpson to the retail subsidy program means residents can affordably access perishable food and other important items they need during isolation periods, when it is more challenging to get them into the community. By listening to residents in communities, we continue to identify ways to improve the program so that it aligns with the unique needs of northerners.”

The Honourable Daniel Vandal, P.C., M.P.

Minister of Northern Affairs 

“Through the inclusion of Fort Simpson in Nutrition North’s retail subsidy program, our government is helping to make life more affordable and everyday goods more accessible to village residents.”

Michael McLeod,

Member of Parliament for Northwest Territories

“I am thankful to Minister Vandal and his staff at the Nutrition North Canada for working to get Fort Simpson/Liidlii Kue included in the program. This will help to keep essential food supplies more affordable not only for all Fort Simpson/Liidlii Kue residents but also for the surrounding communities that utilize Fort Simpson for their shopping needs.”

His Worship Sean Whelly,

Mayor of Fort Simpson

Nutrition North Canada is a Government of Canada program that helps make nutritious food and some essential items more affordable and accessible.

The program works with Indigenous and northern partners directly to understand and address their food security priorities. Nutrition North Canada supports eligible northern communities in three ways: 

Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy: By subsidizing a list of perishable foods and essential items flown in by air, and non-perishable foods and essential items brought in by seasonal sealift, barge or winter road.
Harvesters Support Grant: By increasing northerners’ access to traditional foods by supporting hunting, harvesting and food sharing. 
Nutrition Education initiatives: By delivering community-based nutrition education activities and building on existing activities to increase access to healthy food (led by Indigenous Services Canada and Public Health Agency of Canada). 

There are 122 isolated northern communities that benefit from the Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy program. These communities are located in Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Labrador. 

Of those 122 communities, 108 are also eligible for the Harvesters Support Grant. This grant provides funding to Indigenous governments and organizations to support hunting, harvesting and food sharing in isolated communities. 

Isolation is a fundamental criterion in determining community eligibility under the Nutrition North Canada program. As northerners know well, the effects of isolation are often exacerbated by the impacts of climate change. The list of Nutrition North Canada-eligible communities is reviewed and adjusted on a regular basis. Departmental officials reach out to communities regularly to discuss the many variables that impact their respective isolation periods.

To be eligible for the Nutrition North Canada retail subsidy, a community must be considered isolated and meet these requirements:

lack year-round surface transportation (no permanent road, rail or marine access), excluding isolation caused by freeze-up and break-up that normally lasts more than four weeks at a time
meet the territorial or provincial definition of “northern community”
have an airport, post office or grocery store
have a year-round population according to the national census.

The Government of Canada periodically reviews community eligibility criteria. In 2016, Nutrition North Canada expanded to an additional 37 communities across Canada’s North. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, Nutrition North Canada has been in regular contact with its Indigenous and northern partners to understand and address their immediate and long-term food security concerns. Regular discussions are also underway with territorial and provincial governments and other federal departments on collaborative solutions to support ongoing food security. 

On April 14, 2020, in response to critical priorities identified by territorial governments to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada announced additional support measures to address the immediate health, economic and transportation needs of northerners. 

This included a one-time financial injection of $25 million to Nutrition North Canada to increase subsidy rates in all eligible communities. The high subsidy level has been increased by 50 cents/kg, and the medium subsidy level has been increased by $1/kg. In addition, the list of nutritious food and essential items that are subsidized as part of Nutrition North Canada was expanded to include cleaning supplies. 

Kyle Allen

Press Secretary

Office of the Honourable Daniel Vandal

Minister of Northern Affairs

819-953-1153

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