The Thunder Bay and Area Food Strategy (TBAFS) has been working to bring together local food stakeholders to take a coordinated approach to building healthy, sustainable, and equitable food systems through research, planning, policy, and program development. Members represent farmers, public institutions, small businesses and non-profit organizations, the council members are conveners and activators who collaboratively implement the priorities of the Thunder Bay Food Charter to develop and monitor a healthy, equitable and sustainable food system. Despite its many successes, before 2016, the TBAFS no formal engagement from Indigenous peoples or organizations.
With a unique opportunity to explore food as a tool for reconciliation and resurgence, the TBAFS has come to understand the Indigenous engagement gap and that Indigenous perspectives are an essential element in the future of Thunder Bay’s food system. However, a meaningful partnership must be built upon support for Indigenous peoples’ self-determination and significant efforts to strengthen the strained Indigenous-settler relations in the city. In 2016, the Executive of the TBAFS began to focus more directly on developing partnerships with Indigenous leaders and organizations to better understand the needs of Indigenous peoples along with the barriers and opportunities to engagement.
The manifestation of these efforts was support for the development of the Indigenous Circle. The initial aim of the Indigenous Circle is to reduce Indigenous food insecurity, increase food self-determination, and establish meaningful relationships with the settler population through food. To do this, it is vital that we better understand food-related needs and issues that impact Indigenous peoples and settler relations. The Indigenous Circle was given a mandate to establish a collaborative platform to support food related initiatives developed by and for Indigenous organizations in the Thunder Bay region.
Based on initial consultations and meetings with Indigenous-led organizations in the Thunder Bay region, the following six objectives have emerged in Phase I of the project:
- To build meaningful relationships among Indigenous led food organizations in the Thunder Bay region;
- To support, connect and coordinate Indigenous Circle members with food related initiatives and opportunities;
- To establish a space for Indigenous people to share information and develop solutions to address immediate needs and decolonize the food system;
- To bring awareness to Indigenous Organizations and the food related work they are involved with;
- To build relationships between Indigenous-led organizations and settler-led organizations; and,
- To support an inclusive process and supportive network to guarantee Indigenous
engagement and decolonization work happens effectively in the city of Thunder Bay.
Read more about the Indigenous Circle in the full Indigenous Circle Phase I Draft Report.