Arviat

Determinants of Food Security among Inuit Women in Arviat, Nunavut: the role of climate change and multiple socio-economic stresses

Community History – The History of Our People

Arviat (formally called Eskimo Point) is the southernmost community on the Nunavut mainland (61°06N, 94°03W) located on the western coast of the Hudson Bay. The last census reported a population of 2,060 people (93% Inuit) living in Arviat (Statistics Canada 2007). For the past 30 years, it has had one of the highest per capita birth rates in Canada with an average of 60-70 births per year (data available at the Arviat Health Centre, 2009). Inuit habitants of Arviat are named “Arviarmiut”. They come from different groups of “Caribou Eskimo”, inland-dwelling Inuit of the Barren Lands in the Keewatin region (now Kivalliq region in Nunavut).

During the 1950’s, the main relocation to settlements occurred, which was triggered by the collapse of the fur trade. By 1960, almost all Caribou Eskimos were relocated to settlements with the majority of Qaernermiut and Pâdlimiut located at Eskimo Point (Arviat). This relocation gave rise to a myriad of cultural and socio-economic changes among the Caribou Eskimo population, and across the Canadian Arctic.

Arviat remains a traditional community where hunting is an important activity for diet, cultural identity and local economy. Inuit commonly hunt and consume caribou, seal, fish, geese, eggs, muktuk and berries which are viewed as core components of the community diet. The community has been regarded as having strong Inuit language and cultural practices which are highly respected by the community as important protective factors in coping with rapid change.

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Project Summary – How We Are Leading the Way

The aim of this project was to identify and characterize the vulnerability and adaptability of the Inuit women’s food system to climate change in the context of multiple stresses. Photovoice, semi-structured interviews with Inuit women (n=42) and key informants (n=8), focus groups with women (n=4), Elders (n=3) and hunters (n=2) were used to collect in-depth qualitative data.

  • Key findings show that the food system of women is affected by environmental (climatic and biophysical) variability. Arviarmiut did not associate change in caribou migration pathway and increases in polar and grizzly bear populations with climate change, but rather with natural cycles.
  • Currently, multiple human and historical factors play a predominant role in determining the food security status of women:
    • Financial resources and budgeting skills;
    • Store food knowledge;
    • Decreases in the transmission of country food knowledge;
    • Decreases in traditional training;
    • Substance use and gambling;
    • High cost of living; and
    • Presence of a spouse as single women are particularly at risk of being food insecure as they are economically disadvantaged.
  • While climate change was not identified as an important stressor on the food system by interviewees, when participant observations are placed in conversation with scientific literature on climate change there are clear linkages between climate change and food security for women in the Canadian Arctic.

Capacity Building – Connecting the Guidance of the Past with the Needs of Today

Photovoice, interviews and focus groups: These increased awareness amongst the participants about food security issues and provided them with opportunities to reflect, discuss and consider their situation and potential solutions.

Engaging discussion: By engaging with women in talking about food security, we hope to have increased their consciousness about certain aspects such as food purchasing decisions, the importance of country food in a healthy diet, the potential impacts of climate change and increased their interest in money management.

Developing local research capacity: Two research assistants were trained to accomplish various research tasks: photovoice, interviews, focus groups discussion, transcription, dissemination of results through local radio shows and national conferences. They worked with this research project and also on several others going on in the community at the time.

Next Steps – How We Are Adapting to Climate Change

The community will work towards addressing some of the recommendation made by the community members and the Arviat Health Committee during this research project.

Key Recommendations

  1. Offer training on budgeting and money management in Arviat to all community members:
  2. Offer training on traditional foods led by Elders (value, meaning, how to prepare and cook it) to women and young people.
  3. Offer cooking classes to learn about both country food and store food and how to mix them, and how to prepare meals that are cost effective.
  4. Nunavut Child Benefit cheque should be distributed on a bi-monthly basis.
  5. Nunavut Child Benefit should be provided as cards limited to certain items such as healthy food and gas.
  6. Increase the number of health professional in Arviat to address pressing issues such as nutrition.
  7. Continue supporting Hunters and Trappers Organization.
  8. Increase number of programs supporting children and youth traditional learning and empowering their culture.
  9. Increase the size of the community freezer where hunters can keep country food for their family and also food to share with the community.
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Community Profile

Region:
,
Population:
2318 (2011 Census)
Land Area:
132.07 sq km
Website:
link

Project Information

Years Funded:
Topic Area:
Partners:
  • Arviat Health Committee
  • McGill University
Contact:
  • Shirley Tagalik (inukpaujaq@gmail.com)
  • James Ford (james.ford@mcgill.ca)
  • Maude Beaumier (maude.beaumier@mcgill.ca)

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