From October 13th to 16th, four Inter Pares staff members, Bill, Johanna, David and Eric, will be attending the 9th edition of Food Secure Canada’s Assembly, taking place at Ryerson University, downtown Toronto. Entitled Resetting the Table, this unique gathering will bring together an estimated 700 delegates (farmers, food bank workers, Indigenous leaders, students, policymakers, and other food-lovers) to share knowledge, learn from others and build the relationships and commitment that will feed our activism for years to come.
For four years now, Bill Fairbairn has been working with Justicia for Migrant Workers and documentary film director Min Sook Lee to shed light on the plight of thousands of temporary foreign workers in Canada’s agricultural sector, whose lack of status makes them vulnerable to abuse at the hands of their employers. Bill will be animating a session featuring Lee’s latest film Migrant Dreams (see Saturday schedule), followed by a thought-provoking conversation with migrant justice activists and a room packed with people who want their food to be JUST and local – not just local.
For Inter Pares, the Food Secure Canada Assembly is also an opportunity to bring an international perspective to what is essentially a domestic food movement. It opens on Thursday, October 13th with a public event, Decolonizing the Table - An Evening on Indigneous Food Sovereignty. This plenary will bring together Indigenous knowledge holders and strategists to discuss the ways in which Indigenous nations and communities are working to achieve food sovereignty in the 4th world reality in which Indigneous people live in a 1st world country like Canada.
The session Women at the Heart of Food Sovereignty (see Saturday schedule) will feature stirring testimonies from Indigenous women, farm leaders, and peasant women from the global South, including Inter Pares' Indian counterpart Deccan Development Society (DDS). It will also celebrate the role that women have played in developing and popularizing food sovereignty as an idea, an organizing tool, and as a manifestation of a food system that is just and sustainable. DDS will also be speaking at a plenary entitled The imperative to innovate: Solutions for food system transformation (see plenary listings).
At the Assembly, Inter Pares will also showcase the beauty and resilience of farmers in the global South, countering the images of helplessness that are often portrayed by certain mainstream NGOs and media. In the session Agroecology IS Feeding the World (see Friday schedule), we will explore how innovative, biodiversity-based and locally controlled food systems are the best guarantee of feeding a growing population and adapting to climate change. Such success stories will also counter the industry hype that industrial agriculture, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers, not to mention GMOs, are what is needed to feed us.
We will also take part in the GMOs: Impacts and Risks in Canada session (see Saturday schedule). In 2015, Inter Pares supported the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) to undertake an in-depth study on the impacts of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) since they were introduced in Canada twenty years ago. CBAN will share the main findings of its GMO Inquiry (Hyperlink to GMO INQUIRY site), providing important answers to important questions such as “What GMOs are out there?” “What is the environmental impact of GMOs?” “Are GMOs better for farmers?”, and “Do we need GMOs to feed the World?” Inter Pares’ West African counterpart COPAGEN will also share recent research findings on the impacts of GMO cotton in Burkina Faso.
In Toronto, we will also pause to remember our heroes and to celebrate new ones. This year, two dynamic women have been honored with the Cathleen Kneen Award: B.C.’s Abra Brynne and Norma Kassi, a Gwich'in Elder from Yukon Territory. In their own way, they have each built solid foundations of common cause amongst settlers and Indigenous peoples, and built food systems that are addressing food security needs in their communities. The award will be all the more poignant this year following the recent passing of its namesake, Cathleen Kneen, a woman who gave her life to struggles of social justice and bridging cultural and rural and urban divides.
And finally, the Food Secure Canada Assembly will be an opportunity for those present to flex some collective muscle. The food movement in Canada is strong and getting stronger. It had an impact during the last election when it organized “Eat Think Vote” events across the country. The campaign demanded that the federal government develop a national food policy – a task that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assigned to the Agriculture Minister in his mandate letter. But we need to break the silos of health, environment, and agriculture – we need various government departments to work together to bring in a national food policy that ends hunger and makes Canadians healthier.
Key decision-makers, including senior officials, have confirmed their attendance, and we will be there in strength to help RESET the Table. Participants can sign up for the whole Assembly, or buy a day pass for Friday or Saturday.
Want to come?