Inuit angry over high food prices but unwilling to move 0
A snowmobiler and dogs are seen on the ice of Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut, February 23, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Kilpatrick/Pool
OTTAWA - Outraged by $15 bags of apples and other skyrocketing costs for basic groceries in Nunavut, a handful of Inuit protesters gathered in Ottawa Saturday to demand solutions.
Protester Simona Arnatsiaq says it isn't an option for Inuit to move to wealthier parts of Canada as millions of immigrants have done.
"We are indigenous to Nunavut," she said. "Why would anybody want to move away from their homeland to ease their pain?"
Arnatsiaq says even traditional hunting isn't a solution, complaining that bullets and rifles are too expensive and blaming global warming for hurting animal populations.
Instead, Arnatsiaq wants to see more southern suppliers shipping goods north.
"We want competition in the South so we can shop comparatively and be offered low prices in the North," said Arnatsiaq.
Without more competition among grocery suppliers, Arnatsiaq says federal subsidies meant to offset the cost of shipping food up north won't help reduce the price of red peppers from $16.89 per kilogram or the price of a box of 84 diapers from $73.
She says retailers should publicly reveal their transport costs to reassure Nunavut consumers that prices are reasonable, though Arnatsiaq shies away from the question of whether there is price gouging going on.
"I have no idea because we have no information," she said.
Protesters also gathered outside grocery stores in Iqaluit to protest high food costs Saturday after Iqaluit mother of five, Leesee Papatsie, launched a Facebook page called "Feeding My Family" to show people the extreme prices.
Nunavut MLA Ron Elliott says another big part of the problem is poverty.
"We have high rates of unemployment," Elliott told Sun News Network from Iqaluit. "There are not a lot of jobs. Quite a few people rely on social assistance, so one of the issues the government of Nunavut itself is working towards is a poverty reduction strategy."
Elliott says food prices in Nunavut can also spike when supplies brought annually by ship run out and food is flown in to re-stock shelves.