Ottawa Inuit women hope to ship food north

A group of Inuit women in Ottawa are collecting food to send back home to Nunavut where they say high food prices are out of control.

A group of Ottawa Inuit women are collecting food to send back home to Nunavut, where they say high food prices are out of control.

Sandra "Kukuk" Uviluqlluk said the situation in Nunavut and in remote communities across the North is often one of quiet desperation, as people contemplate prices well beyond their meager incomes.

"It's been going on for years, too many years, and we can't stay quiet anymore," said Uviluqlluk.

For some in the North, hunting and fishing makes up some of the difference but the high cost of gas for snowmobiles and other essentials has made even hunting costly.

Uviluqlluk and her colleagues know collecting the food is the easy part and say the challenge is figuring how to get it to places like Grise Fjord and Igloolik without paying thousands of dollars in freight.

High prices and costs associated with the cost of transport has always been an issue in the remote north.

Problem getting worse

The problem has been getting worse, the Ottawa women say, soaring out of reach and leaving families hungry.

"Four kilograms of sugar when I was a cashier 13 years ago was $4.20. It's gone up to $18," said Jane Kigutaq, who is originally from Arctic Bay.

Uviluqlluk said Inuit communities have also faced problems not only from stores that charge a fortune, but also from store managers that have abused the trust of their customers. She said her husband worked at a store in her community and was shocked by what he saw.

"The manager was spraying the can of baby formula expiry dates with hairspray, wiping them off, and putting them back on the shelf. And [my husband] couldn't sleep, he couldn't sleep," she said.

Protests were held this past Saturday across Nunavut and in Ottawa to bring awareness to the issue, which gained national attention a month earlier when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food visited Canada last month.

Protesters carried signs with prices of food listed on them – butter at $7.49 and $19.29 for a three-litre jug of orange juice.

The Facebook group 'Feeding My Family' started about three weeks ago and now boasts more than 21,000 members.