The Council of the Haida Nation (CHN) hosted a fourth Haida Gwaii Talks Coronavirus webinar on April 27, with Nika Collison moderating discussion about what food sovereignty means on the islands.
The guests who participated in the webinar were Dr. Gordon Horner, chief of staff at the Haida Gwaii Hospital in Queen Charlotte, CHN vice president Trevor Russ, Christopher Horner, coordinator of the Adult Day Program in Old Massett, and Kevin Brown, climate action coordinator for the Old Massett Village Council (OMVC).
Gordon kicked off the discussion portion of the webinar with a brief medical update.
“Locally, fortunately we’re not inundated,” he said of COVID-19 cases, adding “there’s a bit of a false sense of security around that.”
Preventative practices such as social and physical distancing still need to be followed, he said, because “any one of us at any time could be carrying the virus” even without symptoms, including residents returning from medical appointments off-island.
Collison then asked Russ why local food is important.
Russ said the discussion was interesting following the action in Skidegate earlier that day, when people rallied at a checkpoint set up at the Haida Heritage Centre to send any visitors arriving on the ferry from Prince Rupert back to the terminal.
“The talk of [the ferry] possibly not coming ashore if we didn’t move the line back a little bit, I think that really highlights … if we ever lose that service it’s going to be difficult for many people locally to get their essentials,” he said, since the ferry was also carrying containers of food to stock island grocery stores.
Russ also said he had previously discussed the possibility of food insecurity at local grocery stores during the COVID-19 pandemic with CHN president Gaagwiis Jason Alsop.
“We got together a bit of a working group,” he said, adding that they had some Gwaii Trust money set aside to help with community gardens and plant more community fruit trees like the Skidegate Band Council did last year.
Christopher then gave a presentation that included images from the greenhouse he built in Old Massett, which has been supplying the Local Food to School living pantry program he coordinates out of the Adult Day Program building.
He said the OMVC recently invested in four community gardens, including the expansion of the Adult Day Program garden and greenhouse, expanding a potato bed at the Gudangaay Tlaats’gaa Naay Secondary school, and creating two new gardens, at St. John’s Anglican Church and the apartment building in New Town.
He also said they were sending almost 90 seed packages out to families through local maternal and child health programming.
“It’s starting a little movement and sharing resources with each other,” he said.
Brown updated viewers on the community energy emissions plan he is working on for the OMVC and noted that Old Massett has a biomass heating system — a type of system that relies on plant or animal material for energy production — “that is running at 50 per cent capacity.”
He said he has been researching greenhouse hydroponics as a method to utilize hot water from the biomass heating system, which in turn has introduced him more to the “green thumb community.”
He also said he is drawn to the issue of food security because the number of people accessing the food bank in Old Massett is high and “nears unemployment.”
The webinar discussion ended with Christopher giving advice about starting, planting and caring for produce, and Collison said more webinars will focus on food sustainability in the future.
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