Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development – Hunger and Food Security

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, when it comes to feeding Aboriginal people, the government has failed, and it has failed in so many respects.

Honourable senators remember the report from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. One might remember that report: The government became quite indignant about all that saying, “How dare the United Nations come into this country and talk about food and security and human rights; how dare they do it.” Well, honourable senators, guess what? It is still happening in the rest of the country beyond the 800,000 or 900,000 households that Senator Hubley talked about.

In his report, Mr. de Schutter said that this country is “disconcerted by the deep and severe food insecurity” facing First Nations, Metis, Inuit people and so on. I do not think anything in this budget will add to food security or put food on the table for Aboriginal people.

There are other statistics here, too. Statistics do not lie. Aboriginal people in this country “were found to be four times more likely to experience hunger as a direct result of poverty.” “More than one quarter of Aboriginal people off reserves and 30 per cent of Inuit children have experienced food insecurity at some point.”

The statistics that come from Food Banks Canada, according to HungerCount 2012, show “First Nations, Metis and Inuit people account for 4 per cent of the Canadian population, yet make up 11 per cent of individuals utilizing food banks.”

I have two questions for the leader.

How can she stand there and say the government is doing so much for Aboriginal people when statistics show us that is not true? Today, Statistics Canada indicated that the Aboriginal population grew by 20 per cent between 2006 and 2011, and the non-Aboriginal population increased by only 5 per cent during the same period.

Honourable senators, with the Aboriginal population in this country growing so rapidly, would the leader not agree that we must act now to ensure that a new generation of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Canadians — children — will not have to face hunger in this country during their lifetime?

Hon. Marjory LeBreton (Leader of the Government): Honourable senators, again, we have various programs, including programs to get more food to the North. We have various food programs, but in terms of Aboriginals, this government, through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, has been working very hard with the leadership in the Aboriginal communities, plus the leadership in the North, to ensure that Aboriginal young people are the people who benefit from resource development and from opening up the North.

The government has undertaken a whole list of endeavours. For anyone to get up and make a blanket statement that we are doing nothing for Aboriginal people is quite incorrect.

Seeing that I am running out of time, I will be very happy to provide Senator Munson with a long list of all the programs the government has undertaken to ensure our Aboriginal people get the quality of life they deserve. We are making many gains with the Aboriginal communities in terms of connecting the younger population to the developing resource economy of Canada.