This report illustrates the ongoing concerns and struggles of Indigenous peoples seeking food sovereignty in Ontario, and the continuity of colonial views and practices in government ministries.
We examine these realities through a case study involving the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), as well as Indigenous community members that engage with OMAFRA and other parts of the agri-food public sector. Our study reveals that, first, Indigenous peoples remain structurally excluded from government decision-making, visioning, strategic and land-use planning, policy, and programming. Second, colonial laws, policies, processes, and practices continue to dominate, while Indigenous laws and points of view are marginalized. It follows that OMAFRA’s goals, priorities, and programs have contributed to land contamination and privatization in ways that hinder Indigenous peoples’ access to their traditional territories, food and land-based practices, and infringe on their treaty rights. Third, non-Indigenous people, including many working in government, lack crucial knowledge concerning treaties and Indigenous relationships to land and stewardship. This is an ongoing and significant barrier to reconciliation. Finally, we argue that while Indigenous land and food practices have long been marginalized, they have much to offer in building a sustainable food system across diverse local ecological contexts.
How does the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs infringe on the rights of Indigenous peoples’ food sovereignty goals? What visions do communities hold for reclaiming sustainable food systems?