Exploring the Impact of Canadian Regulatory Requirements on the Persistence of the Subsistence Lifestyle: A Food Security Intervention in Remote Aboriginal Communities

By Holly Gardner and Leonard J. S. Tsuji.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Aboriginal (First Nation, Inuit, and Metis) rights to hunt, fish, and trap have been entrenched in the Canadian Constitution (1982), and in extensive provincial and federal case law (see Newman, 2009 for a detailed review of case law and ‘Duty to Consult’). The persistence of the subsistence lifestyle by many members of First Nations communities in the subarctic region of Ontario, Canada, has significant implications with respect to the social, cultural, and economic sustainability of these communities. In 2011, a food security intervention entitled “Sharing-the-Harvest” was initiated with participants coming from all First Nations communities along the western James Bay Coast of Ontario. The project was meant to overcome many of the economic barriers to subsistence hunting by providing transportation, equipment, and consumables to support the spring harvesting of lesser snow geese (Chen caerulescens caerulescens). While there were several positive outcomes achieved through the years of the project, one critical barrier to participating in the intervention was identified in the first year, firearms licensing. In Canada, although Aboriginal people do not need a license to partake in traditional subsistence pursuits (e.g., fishing, hunting, and gathering), a federal firearms Possession and Acquisition License is required to purchase and possess firearms and ammunition. The process for acquiring the license includes a course, written test, and licensing fees. Economic and literacy constraints were barriers that needed to be addressed. This article describes an initiative - a rolling licensing drive in two communities, in subarctic Ontario - that allowed many of the people participating to later partake in subsistence activities, sustaining their traditional lifestyle.

Keywords: Subsistence Lifestyle, Intervention, Subarctic First Nations, Snow Geese, Food Security, northern Canada, Sharing-the-Harvest

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 11, Issue 1, March 2015, pp.1-10. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 728.074KB).

Holly Gardner

PhD Candidate, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Dr. Leonard J. S. Tsuji

Professor, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada