Dispatch from the Food Movement: Wade Thorhaug, Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre

Thursday, November 26, 2020 - 11:57am

We spoke virtually with Wade Thorhaug, Executive Director of the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre in Iqaluit about the biggest challenges to food security and food sovereignty in the community. Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre operates out of Iqaluit in Nunavut, and strives to strengthen health, belonging and food sovereignty utilizing the power of tradition and community. 

Food Sovereignty in the North

According to La Via Campesina, food sovereignty is “the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems.” While this often conjures images of local farms brimming with produce, the meaning of food sovereignty in the North is quite different but no less abundant. Despite not having a robust local agriculture system in the North, “there was a very rich food culture that basically sustained [Inuit] people’s dietary needs that existed before the colonial period,” according to Wade. 

The local food system in Nunavut operates in a different way than it does in the South. While food producers are paid for the work they do in the South of the country and subsidies or supply management systems are applied to benefit agriculture and dairy by the Government of Canada, hunters do not have the same access to financial aid. Wade explained, “hunters are working really hard to provide free food to their community [in the North], but get very little financial support in return.”

“Hunters are working really hard to provide free food to their community, but get very little financial support in return.”


At the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre, they are asking questions such as “How do we support hunters, and what sort of framework or infrastructure is required to better distribute what they’re producing?”

Wade told us that there is a strong demand for traditional country food (hunted meat) at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre. “This year we started to distribute country food alongside our local food bank in addition to other perishable food and it was very well received,” he said. Local country food is also generally more nutritionally dense and more culturally valuable to the Inuit community, according to Wade.

He believes that people in the rest of the country often have a misconception about hunting, that it is simply a hobby or a pastime. It could very well be a viable livelihood, a profession, for those living in the North, “we just have to cultivate that more,” said Wade.

Additionally, when the issue of high food cost and food insecurity in the North come up in the media, often the reaction is, “of course things cost a lot of money, you can’t grow food up there." However, “it’s ignoring the fact that there have been some very conscious decisions on the part of the federal government which is essentially a colonial power, to limit people’s access to local foods and this is really the root problem here.”


Poverty as the Root Issue

Nunavut has a high percentage of people living on assisted income. In Nunavut, income assistance does not cover housing costs, and subsequently amounts to around $650 a month for an individual, despite the high cost of living.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic began in March and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) became available, Wade says that there was “dramatic drop” in our food access program at the Qajuqturvik Community Food Centre. CERB, which totals $2000 a month to eligible Canadians, has relatively few barriers to access, and is much more than what many people currently receive from the territorial government.

Wade said that he’s “hoping that there will be some recognition on the part of the territorial government that $2000 a month is a much more appropriate number for somebody than $650 a month, and that they’ll adjust their income assistance program accordingly.” He reiterated that “we’ve seen very dramatically in this year how income is really the biggest driver for food insecurity and as a result the number of people accessing our services.” 


Other Resources

Wade iterated that he is not native to Nunavut, and therefore it is important to read directly from experts in the North. For more resources, check out: 



This interview was conducted as part of Food Secure Canada's work looking at how Canada can meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To learn more about the SDGs, please see our page here.