'Heroes for the Helpless': How National Print Media Reinforce Settler Dominance Through Their Portrayal of Food Insecurity in the Canadian Arctic
Hiebert, Bradley C.
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The Inuit have experienced significant cultural changes since initial contact with European settlers and explorers in the 17th Century, changes that accelerated in the mid-20th century. Basing their relationships to the Inuit in imperialism (the policy and practice of empire expansion), Europeans used political, economic and cultural tactics to swiftly establish a cultural hierarchy and solidify the Inuit’s position as ‘The Other’ – an ‘out-group’ viewed as inherently inferior to the ‘in-group’. The Arctic has remained hierarchized because of implicit settler colonial processes that permeate political and cultural relations and underpin modern policy development. An examination of the nutrition transition – the shift away from traditional foods to commercialized market options – brings these implicit settler colonial processes into focus. The transition to a Western diet has accompanied chronic poverty and provoked high levels of food insecurity, resulting in numerous negative health outcomes among Inuit. Current health promotion initiatives employ an ineffective downstream approach to reduce Nunavut food insecurity – which is approximately three times greater than the Canadian average – when the issue is a result of rampant poverty. Disproportionately high rates of food insecurity are a manifestation of settler colonialism and fuel a covertly racist national attitude toward the Inuit, maintaining their marginalized position. This study examines national coverage of Nunavut food insecurity as presented in two of Canada’s most widely read newspapers: The Globe and Mail and National Post. A critical discourse analysis (CDA) was employed to analyze 24 articles, 19 from The Globe and Mail and 5 from National Post. Analysis suggests national print media propagates the Inuit’s position as The Other by selectively reporting on social issues such as hunger, poverty and income. Terms such as “Northerners” and “Southerners” are frequently used to categorically separate Nunavut from the rest of Canada and Inuit-driven efforts to resolve their own issues are widely ignored. This effectively portrays the Inuit as helpless and the territory as a failure, and allows Canadians to maintain colonialist views of Inuit inferiority and erroneously assume Federal initiatives effectively address Northern food insecurity.