For food security to exist, all people, at all times, must have physical, socio-cultural, and economic access to food that sufficiently meets their cultural and dietary needs. Achieving food security in Kamloops is extremely complex due to historical inequalities that continue to disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) food security. This is due to oppressive and colonial ideologies that have been influencing the development of food-related policies and laws in Canada since the arrival of early settlers.
For thousands of years, Indigenous Peoples have studied and managed fragile ecosystems to sustain themselves on local and wild foods. As the longest standing environmental stewards of the region, the Secwépemc people are the most knowledgeable land managers of the Kamloops area and hold invaluable, regionally specific Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). TEK is customarily passed along from one generation to the next; however, the exchange of land-based knowledge has been severely interrupted since the arrival of colonial-settlers.
The Indian Act, a legal framework of settler colonialism in Canada, was created as an assimilation tactic and an attempt at Indigenous cultural genocide. Through this legislation, both the Residential School System and the Reserve System were implemented and imposed on Indigenous cultures in an attempt to further displace them from their nomadic ways of living. Reserve systems were also designed to limit people’s movement on the land, restricting their access to traditional foods acquired from hunting and gathering. Residential schools aimed to strip Indigenous children of their cultural pride and knowledge and replace it with European customs and values. In fact, gardening and starvation were often used as forms of punishment. As a result, many Indigenous people today have challenging relationships with food, and some are reliant on food stamps or donated non-perishable foods that lack nutritional and cultural relevance.
The Indian Act embodies the principles of institutionalized and structural racism. Structural racism refers to, “the totality of ways in which societies foster racial discrimination, through mutually reinforcing inequitable systems (e.g. housing, employment, earnings, benefits, credit, media, health care, criminal justice, etc.)” (Bailey et. al., 2017). Racism is a systemic issue because it ensures that white power and privilege are reinforced structurally and experienced by BIPOC in everyday life. Resisting systemic racism requires a community-wide approach that recognizes how racism is not limited to a single person or act, but rather deeply embedded in the fabric of Canadian society.
In order to operate successfully, the billion dollar agricultural sector in the Okanagan largely depends on temporary and foreign workers to fill labour shortages. In 2018, 16,890 temporary migrant agricultural positions were approved in BC, 5,000 of which were Temporary Migrant Agricultural (MA) workers in the Okanagan Valley (Caxaj & Cohen, 2019). These individuals fill the labour gap as the driving force in the Canadian agricultural system. Despite local food systems relying heavily on foreign labour to support food productivity, many undocumented immigrant farm workers suffer conditions that meet the definition of slavery under federal law. Agricultural labour has been traced back to the enslavement of African people, and in more recent history, has found its labour pool in Mexican and Latino cultures.
Developing diversity, equity, and inclusion in our local food system is a critical component of achieving food security. The Kamloops Food Policy Council (KFPC) is a local nonprofit organization that serves as a platform for grassroots food activism and policy development in the city. The KFPC strives to create a regenerative, sovereign, and just food system and recognizes food as a collective human necessity, no matter our size, shape, colour, or background. By sharing diverse perspectives, experiences, and ways of knowing with one another, we can more intentionally celebrate and advocate for food rights in our community.
If advocating for an equitable community food system interests you, there are ample opportunities to get involved with our network. The KFPC’s website, newsletter, and social media pages are excellent resources for upcoming events and ways to get involved. By supporting local farmers, restaurants, farmer’s markets, or attending one of the KFPC’s potluck network meetings, you are contributing towards our vision of a just and local food system.
Bailey, Z. D., Krieger, N., Agénor, M., Graves, J., Linos, N., & Bassett, M. T. (2017). Structural racism and health inequities in the USA: Evidence and interventions. The Lancet, 389(10077), 1453-1463.
Caxaj, S. & Cohen, A. (2019). “I will not leave my body here”: Migrant farmworkers’ health and safety amidst a climate of coercion. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(15), 2643.