On Acknowledgment and Mending Relations
In FoodShare’s land acknowledgement, we honour the many Nations of Indigenous people on whose lands we live and work, and the Black people brought here against their will through the transatlantic slave trade. Our acknowledgement closes with the following key statements:
Despite the ongoing violence inflicted on Indigenous peoples and Black Canadians, FoodShare is grateful for the care and contributions made to the land by Indigenous land and water defenders and Black food growers and farmers.
We believe that advancing Indigenous sovereignty is deeply and inextricably linked to Black liberation and we remain committed to advancing both.
By including this, we recognize how deeply Indigenous and Black communities have been hurt, how closely our healing is bound up in one another’s, and how intrinsic the land on which we live, play and grow is to that healing. Not merely because food provides us the sustenance we need to survive — but because the cultivating, harvesting, preparing and sharing of food allows us to thrive.
Much of our work at FoodShare seeks to address the connection between land and food. Our community food growing projects in community green spaces are focused on creating opportunities for folks living in Toronto’s urban areas to get their hands into the soil where they live — in particular Black and Indigenous people and people of colour, who’ve largely been excluded from this type of land access.
In our leadership roles at FoodShare, Crystal as chair of our Board of Directors and Paul as Executive Director, we are regularly confronted by the harsh realities of food insecurity. Harsher still is the knowledge that, as an Indigenous woman and queer Black man, it’s people who look like us and who move through the world as we do, who have the most unreliable access to food.
In this country, Indigenous households are twice as likely and Black households are three and a half times more likely than white households to be food insecure. This doesn’t even take into account the pandemic’s ravaging toll and the skyrocketing price of food. We know folks who are cutting down their portion sizes or simply going without food in order to prioritise other expenses like rent, utilities and prescription medications — it’s heartbreaking. We don’t believe that charity is an effective solution to food insecurity. Instead, we need to push for bold, people-centred policy interventions that address poverty at the source, and acknowledge the repair necessary to address the violence and exclusion that are at the very root of the poverty in our communities. That’s why FoodShare engages in advocacy work at the local, provincial and federal levels that demands accountability and seeks to bring tangible, systemic change.
Neither one of us would do this work if we didn’t believe that better was possible. When food work is led by folks who have long cared for and laboured on this land, so much transformation lies before us. At FoodShare, we’re passionate not only about food security — people having enough to eat — but food sovereignty: communities having control over their own food systems to grow and enjoying the foods their people have cultivated for generations.
Which is why we put so much thought and care into the development of our land acknowledgement. Because we aren’t just asking folks to reflect on where they are and where their food comes from, but on what relationships they are building. We’re saying that when we centre repair, healing and the mending of relations in our work towards advancing food justice, so much better is possible.
June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day, provides us with a perfect opportunity to reflect on those possibilities. At FoodShare, we made this day a paid shutdown day for our team so that we can take the time to celebrate and honour the culture and significant contributions made by Indigenous peoples
Each of us will spend this day in ways that feel personally meaningful. To our Indigenous community members, we wish you a day of care, community and rest. For settlers and other non-Indigenous folks, some actions to consider are listed below.
Actions for Indigenous Peoples Day and Beyond
- Learning about the history of the land you are on: the people and nations to whom that land belongs, the languages spoken, and the treaties covering that land (if any). Good starting points: native-land.ca and whose.land/en.
- Finding ways to support Indigenous land and water defenders with your time and resources, including Grassy Narrows First Nation’s calls for justice. You can attend their River Run on July 21 in response to mercury poisoning in their community, sign their petition for government support, and spread the word.
- Redistributing funds if you are able to, or amplifying Indigenous-led initiatives that address community needs including food security. Two Toronto-based groups to support include: Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction and Dashmawaan Bemadzinjin (They Feed the People).
- Familiarizing yourself with the Calls to Action identified by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and the Calls for Justice identified by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and reaching out to your government representatives at all levels of government to ensure that all of the calls are implemented.
- Taking time to learn more about the experiences, cultures and histories of Indigenous peoples by signing up for a course, such as Indigenous Canada offered by the University of Alberta, and visiting local communities when invited, such as Ojibiikaan’s Traditional Food Garden in Toronto or Native Canadian Centre of Toronto’s Indigenous Day Celebration.
- Reflecting on important questions such as: What are you grateful for on this land? How can you express this gratitude to the land and its original inhabitants? What commitments can you make going forward to the people whose land you are occupying?
National Indigenous Peoples Day is a permanent paid shutdown date for all staff at FoodShare as part of our ongoing commitment to mending relations. FoodShare will also shut down on September 30, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to remember and reflect on the ways in which this country’s residential school system has caused—and continues to cause—tremendous harm to Indigenous peoples. We encourage other organisations to do the same.
Chair, Board of Directors
Paul M. Taylor