Making Peace Vigil

Standing up for peace


Posted by strattof on October 20, 2011


Food Day was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1979. Observed in more than 150 countries, its main goals are: 

  • to heighten public awareness of the problem of hunger in the world;
  • to strengthen national and international solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition, and poverty.

Today, a billion of the world’s people are chronically malnourished because they are poor. In Canada, 867,948 people used the food bank in March 2010, the highest level on record. 51% of Canadian households using the food bank are families with children.


The right to food is a human right protected under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed in 1948: ‘Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food.’

Note that the right to food is not about charity. It is about justice: guaranteeing that all people have the facility to feed themselves in dignity. 

While the right to food is firmly established in international law, it is not always observed in practice. Even wealthy nations, like Canada, frequently violate the principle of food justice. 


1. The Minimum Wage

In many provinces, the minimum wage is not keeping pace with the rate of inflation. As a result, many minimum wage workers are forced to choose between paying the rent and buying food. Across Canada, 1 in 5 food bank users is a family in which someone is working full-time.

In September of this year, the minimum wage in Saskatchewan went from $9.25 to $9.50 an hour. A meager 2.7% rise, it does not come near to meeting the rate of rent or food price increases (7.8% and 4.6% respectively) in Regina over the same period.

An adequate minimum wage for Canadian workers would be about $11.25 an hour.

2. Social Assistance

Social assistance recipients face the same dilemma as minimum wage workers: having to choose between buying food and paying the rent. According to a 2010 Saskatchewan Food Banks’ report:

  • A single person receiving social assistance through the Saskatchewan Assistance Plan would spend approximately 97% of their monthly income on rent, leaving 3% to cover food, transportation, and other monthly expenses.
  • 70% of Regina Food Bank clients list social assistance as their primary source of income. 

3. Industrial Contamination of Food Sources

Toxic waste from the Alberta tar sands industry has contaminated the Athabasca River with heavy metals and petroleum compounds. For many downstream First Nations communities, the river is/was a primary source of food. Now it is filled with deformed fish. At Fort Chipewyan, one of those downstream communities, the increase in cancer is 30% higher than in other communities, an increase that coincided with the development of the tar sands. The federal government subsidizes the tar sands industry to the tune of $1 billion per year.

4. Climate Change

Climate change is causing increasingly unpredictable weather. Floods, droughts, severe storms, heat waves: such weather events are wreaking havoc on food production. Particularly hard hit are small-scale farmers in poor countries.

The greatest contributor to human-caused climate change is increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Crucial to the reduction of CO2 emissions are international climate agreements, such as Kyoto, which set binding emission reduction targets.

Canada, however, continues to demonstrate a greater commitment to environmentally destructive projects, such as tar sands development, than to greenhouse gas emissions reduction. Indeed, Canada’s climate action record is abysmal:  

  • Canada is by far the biggest defaulter on the Kyoto climate agree-ment. Emissions in Canada, rather than decreasing, have shot up.
  • Canada is one of the top ten CO2 emitters in the world.
  • Canada has the 3rd highest CO2 emissions per capita in the world: 24.9 metric tonnes per person per year.

The climate crisis we are currently facing is caused mainly by human activity in the global north: our culture of consumerism. Here’s what we can do to help solve the crisis:

  • Buy less stuff. Put a stop to unnecessary shopping.
  • Drive less. Walk more. Bike. Get a bus pass.
  • Eat less beef. Beef production causes major greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Support eco-agriculture–more sustainable and productive agricultural systems–both at home and abroad.
  • Next month, countries will gather in Durban, South Africa for another UN climate conference. Let Prime Minister Harper know you want Canada to work for a fair, ambitious, and binding climate agreement: or 613-992-4211.

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