by Abra Brynne, Executive Director
In January 2020, the Food Policy Council committed to integrating into our work programming focused on systemic racism and food. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted our plans for 2020, just as it has done to everyone, everywhere. Nevertheless, the urgent need to understand how systemic racism is manifested in food systems has only been highlighted by the events of 2020. Outbreaks at large meat processing plants shone a light on the heavy dependence on racialized communities to provide the hard labour that subsidizes our meat supply chains. Similar outbreaks amongst migrant workers exposed many Canadians to previously well-hidden programs and employment structures that have limited protections for these hard-working individuals from countries mostly in the global south that perform labour few Canadians are willing to assume.
The ways in which systemic racism is manifested through food systems are myriad, complex, and deeply entrenched over time around the world. From land stolen from Indigenous people on Turtle Island (North America) and elsewhere, to the heavy reliance on the slavery of Black people for the expansion of colonial activities around the world, the link between racism and food systems is inescapable. More recently the effects of climate change and the pandemic that disproportionately impact Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC), peasant, and northern communities also demonstrate the tragic and profoundly unjust impacts of systemic racism.
As a currently caucasian-led organization, the Council has been exploring our responsibilities and role in addressing systemic racism. Our World Food Day blog focused on unceded land, truth and reconciliation. We are proud to be a founding member of Intercultural Kootenays Society, formed to address root causes of racism in our communities, to build intercultural competencies, and to support people experiencing inequitable treatment. Intercultural Kootenays received BC Society Status in October 2020, has recently hired a part time Coordinator, and is working alongside other partners to build awareness of the existence of racism within our communities and of measures that can be taken to address it.
With this column, we are launching a regular series that will feature articles by guest BIPOC authors, as well as by our Executive Director. This Food Justice series will seek to deepen our collective understanding and to advance our work to address systemic racism. The Council will also be setting a target and seeking to diversify our Council membership to include more BIPOC and other marginalized groups. We will be looking to our Council members and to our partners to make connections and recommendations across the Central Kootenay to help the Council meet our diversity goals. Please contact Abra at any time on this matter: email@example.com.