Auditor General to review Nutrition North program

Canada's Auditor General has agreed to review the federal Nutrition North Canada program.

Northern politicians, citizens have been critical of food-subsidy program

Canada’s Auditor General has agreed to review the federal Nutrition North Canada program.

The program was launched in April 2011 and replaced the longstanding Food Mail program. It is meant to provide subsidies on foods across the North.

Since the Nutrition North program was installed there have been protests about the rising cost of food across Canada's North. A Facebook group called "Feeding my Family" started by Iqaluit resident Leesee Papatsie has gained more than 19,000 members who share and comment on images of food prices in remote communities. Legislatures in all three territories have requested a review of the program.

Since the Nutrition North program came into effect in April 2011, there have been protests across the North about the escalating cost of some food items. This protest was held in Pangnirtung, Nunavut, in June 2012. (Daniel Kulluruqtuq/CBC)

Six MPs from northern ridings requested the review, including Western Arctic MP Dennis Bevington, although the Auditor General's office told CBC News that the audit was planned before the MPs' request was made.

In a news release, Bevington said food support programs are essential for isolated northern communities.

"The crisis in the cost of living in the North is especially difficult in communities that rely on air freight for their supplies," he said.

The auditor’s report is expected to be released in the fall of 2014.

Yukon chief happy with news of review

The Chief in Old Crow, Yukon, is applauding the news.

Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater said the new program is so inefficient and expensive, most Old Crow residents now fly in their own groceries.

"Right from the very beginning we didn't like the fact that it was being administered by Ottawa, where people don't have to live with the consequences of the decisions made. We are told that 50 per cent of the people are flying in their own groceries [rather] than buying it at the store, and more people would do the same if they could afford it so there obviously is a huge, huge problem," he said.               

The food subsidy program serves at least 100 northern communities, including one in Yukon.