Indigenous advocates calling for fewer restrictions on sharing of wild game

A group calling itself Indigenous Food in the City wants fewer barriers to the sharing of traditional foods, especially wild game, in urban settings.

Organization working on report and action plan to present to government and non-government agencies

Advocates say food inspection regulations prevent a dish like this moose rib roast, prepared by Canadian chef Rich Francis, from being served in restaurants. (Rich Francis/Facebook)

A movement to make sharing of traditional foods easier for Indigenous peoples in urban environments is underway in Canada.

A group calling itself Indigenous Food in the City has been hosting workshops across the country to encourage conversation on the issue.

The organization said many Indigenous communities have identified legal and other barriers to traditional food harvesting and sharing activities, particularly in urban settings.

It is working on creating a report and action plan for government and non-government organizations to adapt regulations to improve access to traditional foods.

It's kind of the glue that holds our communities together. But, really, culturally, food is alsoour source of generosity within our communities.- Glenda Abbott

The group said the action plan will be informed by consultation with legal, conservation and Indigenous rights experts.

The latest workshop took place on Friday in Saskatoon's inner city.

Indigenous food sovereignty advocate Glenda Abbott said most of the barriers relate to the sharing of wild game.

As an example, Abbott noted Wanuskewin Heritage Park holds ceremonial feasts four times a year — but it can't invite the public to the feasts if moose meat is on the menu.

She said the cultural site isn't allowed to serve any meats that don't originate from a farm because of food safety regulations.

Abbott said it's important to reconnect Indigenous people to food traditions that they have been disconnected from, including sharing.

"The way that we hunt, the way that we gather, it strengthens our kinship systems," she said. "It's kind of the glue that holds our communities together. But, really, culturally, food is also our source of generosity within our communities."

She said the importance and the relevance of food to her people's culture is often underestimated.

"It's who we are. It's where we come from," she said. "It's our connection to the land. It's our connection to our kinship systems. It's the soul and the heart of who we are as people."

Abbott said part of the way forward is cultural exemptions.

"I think there's a lot of exemptions that are made for many, many cultures within our society," she said. "But when it comes to Indigenous foods and foods that come from the land here, I don't know if those same exemptions have been made for Indigenous peoples connecting to their (food) in a cultural or ceremonial way."

Saskatchewan government issues statement

The Saskatchewan government released a statement in response to questions.

"Provincial regulations and guidelines are in place to protect the public and make sure that food is safe," the statement said.

It advised event organizers to call public health inspectors with any questions.

"Anyone attending an event where wild game is served must be advised that the meat has not been inspected," the statement said.

"Public health officials routinely work with community organizations, including Indigenous groups, on food safety guidelines when wild game is served. These guidelines, if met, allow for wild game events to be held."

With files from CBC's Saskatoon Morning.