Canadian Roots Exchange youth conference 2020


“What does Indigenous food sovereignty mean to you?”

This is the question we asked to hundreds of youth at the Canadian Roots Exchange conference The Gathering, last weekend, which took place in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, Québec. Gathering both Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth from coast to coast to coast, the conference was an opportunity for all to learn, dialog, and strengthen solidarity and reconciliation.

The Food Secure Canada team was on site with a kiosk, where participants could select an image or word that represented food sovereignty to them:

Our team also held a workshop, where 30 youth joined us to share food memories that were meaningful to them. There were common threads across the powerful stories, including elements of discovery or rediscovery, community, learning, ritual, health, healing and underscoring the importance for communities to have access to land and resources to grow and harvest, and to pass these skills to the next generation.

We then discussed how to strengthen Indigenous food sovereignty, and what that looks like in each of their communities. Here are a few reflections from the youth participants:

  • One participant said, “When I think about food sovereignty in my community, I think we have to acknowledge the history,” that Indigenous cuisine is diverse, going beyond bannock and goulash
  • For one participant, her community garden allowed her to become acquainted with local fruits such as Saskatoon berries, and how she hopes that gardens like hers will help increase access to traditional fruit such as these
  • In Northern Ontario, one participant shared about the value of knowing the land – going beyond scientific knowledge to include how to work with nature and understanding the soil
  • Another participant shared about the need to increase access for Indigenous people to country foods, such as game meat that is often restricted
  • Yet another youth talked about participating in a moose hunt for the first time, where her entire community came together to prepare the animal so that no part was laid to waste

As one participant said, “food sovereignty is much more than about food.” Food brings people together, even a room full of strangers at a conference. Food is powerful, and in celebrating and respecting Indigenous food sovereignty, food can unite. 

FURTHER READING: "Amid tensions, Concordia event seeks to bring Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth together," CTV News (Feb. 22, 2020).


Thank you to Shelby Gagnon for her support at the workshop. Shelby works with the Canadian Roots Exchange as well as the Thunder Bay & Area Food Strategy.

Many thanks to the team at Canadian Roots Exchange for inviting Food Secure Canada to take part in this conference.

Network group: