Nunavut is the edge of the world in a lot of ways — it’s the farthest-north part of Canada, a broken-up spray of frozen land coming off the top of the country like a very icy mohawk. In terms of land mass, it’s bigger than any other Canadian province or territory, with an area the size of Western Europe, but its population (mostly Inuit) is smaller than Berkeley’s — and I mean the university, not the town.
So it’s remote, and cold, and sparsely settled, but none of that really explains why food is so outrageously expensive that the basic necessities of life are beyond normal people’s reach. Now, the locals are starting to get fed up (not literally, because they can’t afford it), and they’re agitating for government attention to their unsustainable cost of living. Cabbage that costs $28? Chicken for $65 a pound? They’re having Nunavut. (Sorry.) (Not sorry.)
Below are some photos of real food and water prices from the “Feeding Our Families” Facebook group. Canadian dollars and American dollars are basically the same now, so there’s no need to do complicated monetary conversions to figure out how staggering this is. It’s as staggering as you think.
It’s not just food, either — necessary sundries like diapers and sanitary napkins are also outrageously expensive. According to one comment on the Facebook group, it’s often more cost-effective to fly to Edmonton, Alberta, do your shopping there, and fly home. (That alone is a pretty good indication that shipping costs are not exclusively to blame.) Meanwhile, a family of four on social assistance in Nunavut would get about $275 to $325 a week for food.
Nunavut residents protested outside their local stores on Saturday, and some are reporting price changes as stores have been shamed into cutting back on their price gouging — at least temporarily. One resident reports on Facebook: “Bought an avocado for 1.99,(was 5.99 for one) green onions 2.19, cranberry juice 4.99 from 18.99.” We’ll see how long that lasts.
There’s a Change.org petition about addressing food insecurity in Nunavut, if you need something to do with your impotent rage, and the Iqaluit food bank is probably taking donations.