Nutrition North fails Old Crow

The Nutrition North food subsidy program is bad for Old Crow and for taxpayers, says Darius Elias. The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin wants to see his community take control of administration of the program.

The Nutrition North food subsidy program is bad for Old Crow and for taxpayers, says Darius Elias.

The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin wants to see his community take control of administration of the program.

“This is the most difficult, frustrating file I’ve worked on since I’ve been MLA for the Vuntut Gwitchin riding. It’s just unbelievable.”

Nutrition North replaced an earlier program called Food Mail in April 2011.

Old Crow is the only Yukon community eligible under either program.

The community was not consulted on the change, said Elias.

“The communication level between the department and my community was absolutely ludicrous. There was absolutely no communication whatsoever. They basically came and said this is how it’s going to be.”

Under food mail, shipping costs for food and other necessary item were subsidized.

Old Crow residents could buy eligible items from any store they liked in Whitehorse and ship it home via Air North at a cheaper rate.

The town’s Northern Store also benefitted from discounted shipping rates.

Under Nutrition North, the subsidy was transferred from the freight charge and instead went directly to the retailer.

Old Crow residents can still make special orders from certain Whitehorse retailers, but the price to do so skyrocketed, and you need a credit card.

The quality and variety of foods available at the Northern is far worse, said Elias.

The local retailer ships its perishable food from Winnipeg, and especially in the winter it is often in bad shape by the time it hits shelves.

It costs $26.16 per kilogram for red seedless grapes in Old Crow, said Elias in the legislature last week.

When grocery costs to consumers went up instead of down after Nutrition North was introduced, the federal government increased the subsidy.

Two former managers of the Food North program came out about Nutrition North’s failures in a recent commentary piece published by Nunatsiaq News.

“Analysis shows that cheerleaders for this program have been using smoke and mirrors in the way food cost information is collected and presented, and have selectively quoted figures in a way that misleads rather than informs the public about northern food costs since Nutrition North Canada came into effect on April 1, 2011,” wrote Fred Hill and Michael Fitzgerald.

“The major problem is that now corporations and the federal government have control of where my constituents shop and access to food and the affordability of food,” said Elias.

He has been working with politicians and officials on the territorial and federal levels to reach a solution to the problem.

Across the North, communities are unhappy, he said.

“Everybody has got different reasons across the North as to why it’s not working for their citizenry.”

While little has changed, the federal government is open to suggestion, he said.

“The prime minister’s office, in no uncertain terms he said, ‘Well, come up with a proposal to help fix the problem.’ And so that’s where we are right now.”

Premier Darrell Pasloski has already agreed to partner with him to work on the problem, said Elias.

“The best-case scenario for me is that the Vuntut Gwitchin government and the development corporation take over the program in co-operation with Air North and we simply be accountable directly to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, speaks at a press conference in Whitehorse on March 30. Hanley announced three more COVID-19 cases in a release on Nov. 21. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three more COVID-19 cases, new exposure notice announced

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley, announced three… Continue reading

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: COVID-19 strikes another blow at high-school students

They don’t show up very often in COVID-19 case statistics, but they… Continue reading

The Cornerstone housing project under construction at the end of Main Street in Whitehorse on Nov. 19. Community Services Minister John Streicker said he will consult with the Yukon Contractors Association after concerns were raised in the legislature about COVID-19 isolation procedures for Outside workers at the site. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Concerns raised about alternate self-isolation plans for construction

Minister Streicker said going forward, official safety plans should be shared across a worksite

The Yukon’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley, pictured at a press conference in October, announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Nov. 20 as well as a new public exposure notice. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New COVID-19 cases, public exposure notice announced

The new cases have all been linked to previous cases

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

City council was closed to public on March 23 due to gathering rules brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The council is now hoping there will be ways to improve access for residents to directly address council, even if it’s a virtual connection. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Solution sought to allow for more public presentations with council

Teleconference or video may provide opportunities, Roddick says

Megan Waterman, director of the Lastraw Ranch, is using remediated placer mine land in the Dawson area to raise local meat in a new initiative undertaken with the Yukon government’s agriculture branch. (Submitted)
Dawson-area farm using placer miner partnership to raise pigs on leased land

“Who in their right mind is going to do agriculture at a mining claim? But this made sense.”

Riverdale residents can learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s plan to FireSmart a total of 24 hectares in the area of Chadburn Lake Road and south of the Hidden Lakes trail at a meeting on Nov. 26. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Meeting will focus on FireSmart plans

Riverdale residents will learn more details of the City of Whitehorse’s FireSmarting… Continue reading

The City of Whitehorse is planning to borrow $10 million to help pay for the construction of the operations building (pictured), a move that has one concillor questioning why they don’t just use reserve funds. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Councillor questions borrowing plan

City of Whitehorse would borrow $10 million for operations building

Most Read