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SDG 2: Zero hunger

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The environmental perspective

Canada's food system helps to provide safe and healthy food for Canadians and ensure long-term food security. This chapter's focus on a healthier and more sustainable Canadian food system directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework Target 2.4: By 2030, ensure sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production, that help maintain ecosystems, that strengthen capacity for adaptation to climate change, extreme weather, drought, flooding and other disasters and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

Canada's food system is grounded in nature and depends on a healthy environment, including clean water, healthy soils, and stable pollinator populations. Both agriculture and aquaculture are important contributors to Canada's economy. In 2020, the agriculture and agri-food systems, including food retail and food services, contributed $139 billion to Canada's gross domestic product, while in 2019, Canada produced 187,026 tonnes of aquaculture products, valued at more than $1.2 billion.

Sustainable agricultural practices, innovative food policies, food security and resilient food systems have never been more critical. Canadian farmers and ranchers are stewards of the land and continue to help identify solutions to climate change and species at risk recovery. Canada's agricultural practices and food policies support efforts to achieve food security, improve nutrition, reduce food loss and waste, and promote sustainability. Farmers and ranchers must be resilient to climate change, extreme weather events, invasive alien species, and other risks to continue producing a consistent supply of food for Canadians while maintaining a decent income and standard of living.

Aquaculture is the world's fastest-growing food production sector. It represents almost 20% of total seafood production in Canada, and about a third of the total economic value of fisheries. In the coming decade, a shortfall in wild-caught fish and seafood is projected that can be met by increased sustainable aquaculture production.

Wild capture fisheries are a lifeline in Canada's coastal communities, providing food security and well-being, as well as cultural continuity and economic development. This is especially the case for Indigenous communities that are more dependent on fish for food than non-Indigenous communities. In 2019, 9.14 kilograms per person of sea fish, shellfish and freshwater fish products were available in Canada for consumption.

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity is the inability to have access to enough quality or quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that individuals will be able to do so. As of 2018, nearly 1.2 million Canadian households experienced food insecurity due to financial barriers.

For Indigenous peoples, access to safe and nutritious food includes both store-bought and traditional or country food. Indigenous peoples have much higher rates of food insecurity compared to the general Canadian population. The high rates of food insecurity among northern and Indigenous populations can be explained by factors such as the relative remoteness and isolation of their communities, financial hardship and socioeconomic inequities, climate change and environmental dispossession and contamination. For example, the effects of climate change significantly impact the availability and sustainability of traditional food sources. The Government of Canada is advancing efforts towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples by strengthening traditional food systems, recognizing the importance of food to Indigenous culture and well-being, and, in so doing, supporting Indigenous food self-determination and food sovereignty.

Maintaining the resilience of Canada's food systems includes managing the spread and introduction of invasive plant and animal species that could pose a risk to Canada's livestock, crops, and overall agricultural production. Promoting compliance and carrying out enforcement activities at Canada's borders limits the introduction and spread of invasive species.

For Canada's food system to be resilient and contribute to food security, it must be environmentally sustainable. Canada's agriculture sector is adopting innovative technologies and practices to improve environmental performance—for example, by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, storing carbon in soils, protecting water resources, and supporting wildlife habitat. The agriculture sector can continue to improve its environmental sustainability by efficiently using fertilizers, adopting clean technologies, implementing practices to conserve and recover species and ecosystems, and improving soil health. Biomass produced on agricultural land can also be used to generate bio-energy and replace fossil fuels.

Where the Government of Canada is going

Mandate letters released in December 2021 outline the Government of Canada's direction and policy priorities. Selected commitments related to Sustainable Development Goal 2 are listed below.

  • Update business risk management programs, including by integrating climate risk management, environmental practices and climate readiness. Ensure that producers, including Indigenous, young and women farmers, have the opportunity to contribute (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food).
  • As part of a green agricultural plan for Canada, increase support to farmers to develop and adopt agricultural management practices to reduce emissions, store carbon in healthy soil and enhance resiliency; triple funding for clean tech on farms, including for renewable energy, precision agriculture and energy efficiency; and work with farmers and stakeholders to reduce methane and fertilizer emissions in the agricultural sector (Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food).
  • Continue to work on a responsible plan to transition from open net-pen salmon farming in coastal British Columbia waters by 2025 and work to introduce Canada's first-ever Aquaculture Act (Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard).
  • Continue to improve food security in Inuit Nunangat, including through the Harvesters Support Grant and the Nutrition North Canada program, amended to make it more transparent and responsive to Inuit needs (Minister of Northern Affairs, Minister responsible for Prairies Economic Development Canada and Minister responsible for the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency; Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations).

How the Government of Canada contributes

The Government of Canada contributes to sustainable food systems by supporting sustainable agriculture and aquaculture production systems, including through science-based decision making and enhanced policies, programs, and regulations. Canada is committed to eliminating hunger through actions and policies that support sustainable agricultural and aquaculture sectors and strengthen the security of its food systems.

Food systems in Canada are a shared responsibility between federal, provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments. Federal authority is used to enact and enforce laws, regulations, and policies for land use and soil management, fisheries and fish habitat, water and air quality, biodiversity and ecosystem health. Legislation related to Canada's food systems includes, for example, the Fisheries Actand Safe Food for Canadians Regulations. The government uses a number of tools to support aquaculture management, including regulations, policies, scientific research, monitoring, enforcement, engagement and collaboration.

Canada is also investing in ways to increase production, access, and consumption of safe and nutritious food, while continuing to develop programming that promotes food security in Indigenous and remote communities through financial assistance for local and community initiatives. Working toward sustainable food systems and food security requires collaboration. For example, in partnership with provinces, territories, civil society and industry, as well as Indigenous governments and organizations, the Government of Canada developed A Food Policy for Canadato tackle food issues that matter to Canadians. The Food Policy serves as a roadmap to a healthier and more sustainable food system for Canada with a vision that all are able to access safe, nutritious and culturally diverse food.

Similarly, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a federal-provincial-territorial shared agricultural policy framework that shows how cooperation among governments guides environmental programming. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership will expire in 2023, so work on the next agricultural policy framework has begun.

Meanwhile, through the Natural Climate Solutions Fund, the Government of Canada is investing in the development and adoption of environmentally-friendly farming practices that store carbon and mitigate climate change while helping protect biodiversity, improve water and soil quality, and strengthen farmers' bottom lines.

Investing in science and innovation, the environment and climate change, public trust, and risk management helps the agriculture and aquaculture sectors grow sustainably, manage risks, and create better opportunities for fishers, farmers, businesses and Canadians.

Internationally, Canada plays an active and constructive role in the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Canada takes part in global conservation programmes such as the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture chaired by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Canada supports initiatives under the United Nations World Food Program and has co-sponsored a World Trade Organization statement committing to not using export restrictions or prohibitions on non-commercial humanitarian food purchases by the World Food Programme, which will help to ensure that trade rules support progress toward SDG 2.

Food security in Indigenous and northern communities

The legacies of colonial policies in northern and Indigenous communities in Canada have contributed to a reliance on market foods from the south. High levels of food insecurity are present in Indigenous, northern, and isolated communities, where a lack of access to traditional and market sources of nutritious food is exacerbated by climate change. For example, degrading permafrost and volatile weather patterns disrupt traditional hunting and fishing practices of Indigenous communities and have contributed to an increasing reliance on the transportation of less nutritious and more costly food from southern Canada.

To address this complex issue, the Government of Canada offers programs that aim to improve food security through subsidies, nutrition education initiatives, emergency funding, infrastructure and capacity building, and is committed to working with Indigenous partners to address food insecurity, including through programs developed collaboratively with Indigenous peoples.

A key partnership is the Inuit-Crown Food Security Working Group, a sub-working group of the Inuit-Crown Partnership Committee as part of the Permanent Bilateral Mechanism process. This working group was established in 2019 to provide a whole-of-government approach to the issue of food security and to leverage the contributions of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the 4 regional Land Claim Organizations, Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada, and the National Inuit Youth Council, as well as multiple federal departments and agencies.

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2022-2026 FSDS

Draft Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022-2026