Colonial histories and contemporary food systems

Why focus on this topic?

Colonial policies, agendas and administrations have shaped many contemporary systems and structures. Food systems and agricultural planning in colonized nations were frequently restructured by colonial powers attempting to maximize their own profits. This often involved focusing on a limited number of cash crops that could be exported, at the expense of a more diverse array of foods consumed by local populations. We are exploring how the legacy of colonial rule impacts food systems, with repercussions for social, economic, environmental and health outcomes.

How is this research done?

We will synthesize evidence from the literature and key informant interviews to understand how colonialism continues to impact the food system, particularly in Canada, a settler colonial context. This evidence will be used to develop a system map in order to understand the repercussions of colonialism for food system outcomes.

What do we expect to find and why will it matter?

This project will assess the ongoing legacy of colonialism in the Canadian food system. It will map how the history of colonial administration has shaped current food policy, which in turn shapes outcomes for Canada’s populations. Understanding these connections is crucial given the high prevalence of food insecurity and low diet quality in Canada’s indigenous populations and the environmental degradation driven by food system activities.

This project will be a first step in developing an evidence base that can be used to lobby Canadian institutions to acknowledge the role they have played in current food system problems and provide evidence around how to decolonize the food system through system-level change.