McGill students Eva Von Jagow, who is a second year environmental studies student, and Liam Allman, a U2 mechanical engineering student, are starting a DueNORTH university chapter here on campus. DueNORTH Canada is an Ottawa-based, non-profit organization, dedicated to addressing the issue of food insecurity in Canada’s Far North.
Von Jagow founded DueNORTH in 2015, which funds a breakfast program in the Sakku School in Coral Harbour, Nunavut to help provide children with a nutritional start to their day. The breakfast program now feeds 250 students daily. The organization has expressed concerns in the past with addressing food insecurity in Nunavut, because of the “exorbitant food costs and logistical challenges of transporting food to that region of Canada.”
The elevated food costs in the region have been attributed to an increasing dependence on imported goods and the rising costs of food harvesting.
The organization began raising funds through a jewelry sale in Ottawa in the months before the Christmas season last year. People donated gently used jewelry to the fund, which was then sold. The proceeds went towards funding the breakfast project at the Sakku School.
“I honestly thought I would just have a small contribution. I thought I would raise like $1,000, but within three years we’ve already raised almost $85,000,” said Von Jagow, a second year environmental studies student at McGill, in an interview with The Daily.
Von Jagow first learned about food insecurity in northern Canada working on a research paper in Grade 11.
“I’m from Canada, I’m from the capital of Canada, and [the food crisis] is something I really had no idea about,” she said. “I think it’s honestly pretty messed up that it took me 18 years to learn about this issue. I don’t really want other people to go as long as I did without knowing.”
“I thought I would raise like $1,000, but within three years we’ve already raised almost $85,000.”
Indigenous Education Advisor Allan Vicaire, from McGill’s Social Equity and Diversity Office, agreed that recognition of an issue is crucial in addressing it.
“I think one of the ways to create change is more awareness, and when you become more aware, then you become more active citizens, [put pressure on] the governments to say ‘look, there is a problem,’” Vicaire told The Daily.
The McGill chapter of DueNORTH is the organization’s first chapter on a college campus. “McGill is kind of the test run and if it goes well this year, then we are hoping to expand it to other schools,” Von Jagow explained.
By bringing the organization to university campuses, Allman and Von Jagow hope to reach a new demographic of activists.
“I think one of the ways to create change is more awareness, and when you become more aware, then you become more active citizens, [put pressure on] the governments to say ‘look, there is a problem.’”
“We kind of saw it as an opportunity to reach out more outside of Ottawa, which is where we are from, and grow awareness of the brand and use McGill and the student life and the culture here as a means for that,” said Allman in an interview with the Daily.
While raising funds is an important objective of DueNORTH, Von Jagow stressed the importance of informing people of what is occurring. “As much as it is about raising money to implement these programs, it’s also about raising awareness, just making more people aware on the issue and the cause,” Von Jagow elaborated. “In a country as wealthy as Canada, it’s [ridiculous] that food isn’t a right anymore, even water isn’t a right.”
Vicaire said he thinks programs like DueNORTH are a good start, but more needs to be done to fully address the systemic problems facing Indigenous communities in Canada.
“As much as it is about raising money to implement these programs, it’s also about raising awareness, just making more people aware on the issue and the cause.”
“I think these are great initiatives, but at the same time I think we need to start thinking […] in the long term because this is just helping the community […] for a certain amount of time,” stated Vicaire. “But then how can we start to look at the system, critique the system, and figure out how we’re able to improve lives of Indigenous peoples?” Vicaire asked.
The club has already gone through the process of choosing the executive positions for the year, but is looking for members to join. “I think it’s really a club that everyone can bring their strengths into,” Von Jagow said. “I feel like everyone, no matter what your skills or your knowledge are, there’s definitely a way you can contribute.”
“The fact that it’s happening so close to us is something that really hits home because it’s where we are from, and it’s just [ridiculous] to think that everybody is aware of what’s happening in other countries, but no one is aware of what’s happening in Canada,” Allman concluded, highlighting the importance of this issue.
“But then how can we start to look at the system, critique the system, and figure out how we’re able to improve lives of Indigenous peoples?”