Food Justice Conference at Dalhousie University: Exploring the Role of the Law in Canadian Food Systems


The Food Justice Conference that was recently held at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law was the first ever conference of its kind in Canada. The two day conference (Nov 3 & 4) brought together legal minds in the field (such as lawyers, researchers, policy makers, adjudicators, and advocacy organizations) to discuss the role that the law plays in our food systems and also to envision and plan where food law is going in Canada.

While most of the conference required registration, a free event at the stunning and historic Halifax Seaport Market was hosted and open to the public. The event featured and engaging presentation by food activist, Bryant Terry.  For those who Terry calls “privileged eaters,” access to food may rarely be considered in any meaningful way. Besides donating sporadically to a community food bank, most Canadians living above the poverty line do not think about food justice issues on a regular basis.

The right to access quality, nutritious food is owed to all human beings though. It is something we ought to care about. The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which Canada signed in 1976, states that we have “a legal obligation to respect, protect and fulfill the right to food.” The United Nations Rights Council has created and staffed a position called the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. Mr.Olivier de Schutter, the person currently holding this position, wrote a report on how Canada is doing in fulfilling its obligations regarding food justice. Here are some of the highlights and recommendations from that report:

  • Reinvestment in agriculture is an essential part of Canada’s work towards the right to food. Specifically, agroecology is a form of agricultural development which is recommended for the Canadian context. It involves “mimicking nature instead of industry.”
  • Canada should be investing in knowledge by reinvesting in agricultural research .
  • Canada should be empowering women in the agricultural industry.
  • Canada should be creating a macro-economic enabling environment (such as connecting sustainable farms to fair markets).

What Can You and I Do to Learn More and Get Active Around Food Justice?

Just Food is a fascinating organization that is working towards building awareness and encouraging action around food justice issues. Check out their blog which features a number of fascinating articles, such as how fermenting food and justice are connected.

Food Secure Canada provides some great resources on this topic, including blogs, discussions, webinars and policy and advocacy information.

This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA or PBSC.