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Nutrition & Systemic Racism

By Gary McLeod
June 25, 2020
25 Minute Read


We have a great treat for you today, an interesting take on nutrition and racism, expertly researched and written by Coach Gary. More on that in a minute. However, we’d like to take this opportunity to provide some context to the article, and at the same time update our members on the racism and sexism scandal in the CrossFit™ community, as we’ve had several requests from members asking us to address this issue.

Several weeks ago, the founder of CrossFit™, Greg Glassman, made racist, inflammatory statements that sent shockwaves through the community. Many boxes de-affiliated as a result. However, others have opted to stand by the community despite well-corroborated accounts of racism and sexism amongst the executive of the company. At North Star Fitness, we promote equality and stand in support of black, indigenous, and people of colour. We feel that remaining in the affiliate community is incongruent with our values. We have since given up our affiliation and are happy to move forward as North Star Fitness. This does not change anything about our classes or our training methodology, it’s simply a change in nomenclature and a deliberate distancing of our brand away from the divisiveness of the culture.

We have been in this community since 2007, and have experienced first hand the lack of professionalism, the sexist and racist remarks, and the identity politics within the CrossFit™ community. While we are disappointed that so many affiliates appear to be looking to others for guidance rather than leading their own communities, we feel this is simply proof of a broken affiliate model. At the very least, it is clear that the CrossFit™ affiliate system is not equipped to deal with issues such as discrimination or to provide adequate support for its affiliates. At worst, one could make the argument that racism and sexism are a direct result of the CrossFit™ culture and the affiliate model itself. The affiliate model, which encourages the commoditization of fitness, and in turn a race to the bottom, is very a profitable one for HQ, but one that is doomed to fail for affiliates, who are taking on all the risk and actually serving the members of the community.

This scandal in the community has illuminated the unfortunate reality that many affiliates have had the totality of their education provided by a single organization, one that has now proven itself to be racist, sexist, and dogmatic. At North Star, our staff hold a wide variety of credentials and certifications, never limited to just CrossFit™. We realized over a decade ago that our members’ wellbeing should always come first. Having a diverse knowledge base with a variety of tools allows us to help our clients be happier and healthier, without being constrained to a single methodology, and free of conflict of interest. We also choose to be leaders rather than followers. We choose to do the right thing for our clients, no matter what that looks like for each client. Integrity and veracity are our core values and we believe in doing the right thing even when that’s the hardest thing to do.

At North Star Fitness, we are no strangers to discrimination, as female indigenous founders in a fiercely male-dominated industry. While it might be easy to point the finger at our friends south of the border when it comes to systemic racism, our country has just as complex and horrific history of racism. Discrimination and health are both causes that are near and dear to our hearts. In over twelve years in the health and fitness industry, the one guiding concept that has never failed us is that evolutionary science must be a guiding light when it comes to creating a healthy lifestyle. Many chronic afflictions of modern society can be prevented or treated simply by respecting ancestral health lifestyle practices. While much of the data are anecdotal, the mechanisms and concepts are well supported, if we accept the assumption that the human body is best suited to the lifestyle that it has evolved with over hundreds of thousands of years. Modern health policies that fail to take into account evolution tend to have negative outcomes, and those negative outcomes cost lives. Just as racism collides with health issues in the CrossFit™ community, systemic racism is sorely apparent here in Canada when we look at the health of indigenous peoples.

In this well-cited essay, Coach Gary compares the outcomes of indigenous nutrition and health approaches to modern mainstream interventions, and makes a convincing argument that historical and modern nutritional policies are examples of systemic racism. Whether you are interested in improving your health, learning about nutrition, or getting a better understanding of the issues that afflict indigenous people in our country, you’ll find it an interesting read.

-The North Star Fitness Team

Systemic Racism

Ignoring indigenous health interventions in favour of mainstream health interventions is systemically racist based on the outcomes of each approach.

Canada’s first European settlers and explorers had to learn the hard way that foods such as sugar and flour caused death and disease when attempting to subsist on it in our harsh winters. We can contrast that with pre-contact indigenous peoples who enjoyed excellent health year-round as indicated by the anthropological and archeological record. Indigenous peoples played a significant role in introducing the newcomers to a very healthy way of life that allowed the settlers to not only survive but thrive and gain a foothold for colonization. Once colonization was established, the cereal and grain-based agrarian (agrarian for short) way of life that initially killed early settlers, was touted as superior. Indigenous peoples have suffered ill health effects at the suppression and loss of their original way of life ever since. When policymakers and health care practitioners remain willfully ignorant to history, an entire people suffer and die as a result at disproportionate rates from chronic lifestyle conditions. This common practice of willful ignorance that is embedded within the Canadian healthcare system, government, and academia is systemic racism.

    When the first European settlers and explorers came to what is now Canada, they were met with the harsh Canadian winter where temperatures regularly drop to minus 40 degrees Celsius. The winters are very long and provisions were limited. When the provisions ran out or had to be rationed, these men were tasked with subsisting on game they could hunt and catch. This did not go very well. Many died from protein poisoning resulting from eating the lean muscle meats of animals like rabbit. “Man cannot live on meat alone.” Vilhjalmur Stefansson. Nor just lean meat apparently. For these new explorers and settlers to gain a solid foothold in what is now Canada, the indigenous population had to provide a very important foodstuff, Pemmican. Pemmican consisted of 50% powdered meat and 50% saturated fat by weight and was prepared in such a way that it maintained all of its vitamin and mineral content. Canada would not be Canada as we know it without Pemmican. It is interesting that for the past 60 years mainstream medicine had vilified saturated fat as a cause of death and disease. Before the health of indigenous peoples subsisting on an ancestral diet is discussed, it is prudent to explore another ignored factor from our observable anatomy. When we look at the digestive anatomy of any mammal, we can determine the foods that are best suited for their anatomy (carnivore, herbivore, or omnivore). Why is this vital information ignored? Especially considering the health outcomes of ingesting things that are not consistent with what we were designed to eat. The Giant Panda is a great example. The panda has a digestive tract similar to a carnivore with no digestive fermentation process yet eats nothing but bamboo. As a result, the panda has in excess of forty bowel movements a day. Panda’s regularly suffer from lethargy and irritable bowel syndrome. The female of the species only ovulate once a year and they are on the verge of extinction.  Mammals such as cows and gorillas subsist on plants, or so it seems. In order to do this, they have had to develop a symbiotic relationship with bacteria that eat the plant cellulose and in return provide protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Cows have a four-chambered stomach where the bacteria go to work. This is a foregut fermenter. The cow does not live on the grass it grazes on. Instead, it lives on the bacteria and the byproducts the bacteria produce. The gorilla is a hindgut fermenter. Its large intestine is huge and filled with anaerobic bacteria that break down cellulose. The gorilla forages plants and spends most of its day eating and pooping but is the same premise as the cow. The gorilla feeds the bacteria and in return, the gorilla gets what it needs from the bacteria, not the plant matter by itself. Human digestive anatomy is more consistent with carnivores’, such as a lion’s digestive anatomy. Our gut is relatively small compared to that of a gorilla and we do not require the intervention of cellulose consuming anaerobic bacteria in a very large bowel. Instead, we get what we need from meat and fat in a small bowel. Humans require amino acids from protein (they are essential). Humans require fatty acids from fat (also essential). Although we can eat carbohydrates, humans do not require carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not essential because the human body can manufacture everything it needs when the fatty acid and amino acid needs are met. It would seem that humans are primarily designed to eat animal products. The anatomical evidence is consistent with what indigenous peoples thrived on in the harsh winter environments of the North. Early humans have made great efforts and innovation in the harvesting of the fattiest animals. If we are carnivores then why did early settlers die from protein poisoning? It turns out that we are unable to eat a diet where more than 40% of calories come from meat. In hunter-gatherer cultures, fat not meat, was the primary source of calories. Pemmican is what saved the day yet the saturated fat that made up 50% by weight of this wonderful shelf-stable winter food was shunned.  

If fat is preferable to human physiology as a predominant source of calories and we have carnivorous digestive anatomy, then why can we live off carbohydrates? We can compare many cultures who subsist on grains and cereals to those that subsist on fat as a preference and compare the health outcomes. There is much observational evidence to conclude; mammals that consume calories consistent with natural environments have the best health outcomes. Canadas’ indigenous peoples, prior to adopting agrarian foods, experienced excellent health. Diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and dental problems were virtually nonexistent.  Take this observation of the Plains Indians of North America, who subsisted on mainly bison. In 1877 Lieutenant Scott, a United States cavalry scout, wrote, “They were all keen, athletic young men, tall, lean and brave, and I admire them as real specimens of manhood more than any body of men I have ever seen before or since. They were perfectly adapted to their environment.” Vilhjalmur Stefansson was a Canadian Arctic explorer and Harvard-trained ethnologist. He observed, “There is, in fact, nothing better than pemmican, particularly for demanding conditions. As little as 2 pounds/day per person may be required, which is substantially less than any other food product. Under less demanding conditions, about 1 pound per day is required to maintain health.” Stefansson entered the Arctic with the purpose of studying the Inuit language and culture. However, when separated from his expedition in the winter of 1906, Stefansson was taken in by a group of Inuit. With the arrival of spring in June of 1907, he both spoke their language and had acquired their skill of living off a hunter’s diet. Stefansson wrote extensively about these experiences in the scientific literature and in books for the lay public. One of his main topics was the adaptation of the Inuit culture to survive as nomadic groups in the arctic on a diet of hunting and fishing. Stefansson’s claims caused tremendous controversy. Subjected to great criticism and even scorn, Stefansson agreed to recreate the Inuit diet under scientific observation. In 1929, he and a colleague from his arctic explorations ate a diet consisting of meat and fat for 12 months. This experiment, supervised by Dr. Eugene DuBois, was conducted at Bellevue Hospital in New York. For the first 3 months of this study, the two were under constant observation to guarantee compliance, after which they were allowed more freedom of movement but with frequent tests to document that they remained in ketosis (converting fat to a substance that can be used for fuel in place of glucose). This study was reported in multiple peer-reviewed publications, the primary reports being published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry in 1930, as noted by DuBois, the study results were “negative”, in that both subjects survived the 12 months in apparent good health, having no signs of scurvy (which was predicted to occur within the first 3 months) or other deficiency diseases. Dr. Weston Price, a dental surgeon form Cleveland Ohio studied multiple populations subsisting on a carnivorous diet.  Price studied the Inuit of Alaska. He described them as “an example of physical excellence, and dental perfection” and as “robust muscular and active.” After his study of various hunter populations through the world Price concludes; “the diets of primitive groups which have shown a very high immunity to dental caries and freedom from other degenerative processes have all provided nutrition containing at least four times these minimum requirements; whereas displacing nutrition of commerce…have invariably failed to provide even the minimum requirements. In other words, the foods of the native Eskimo contained 5.4 times as much calcium as the displacing foods of the white man, five times as much phosphorous, 1.5 times as much iron, 7.9 times as much magnesium, 1.8 times as much copper, 49.0 times as much iodine and at least ten times the number of fat soluble vitamins.” The killing of the bison and the displacement of indigenous peoples and food systems to make way for settlers and agriculture across Canada and the forced adoption of an agrarian diet by indigenous peoples, has left indigenous descendants with rampant levels of diabetes, heart disease, and cancers. These observations have been repeated over and over again in Africa, Australia, and many other places world wide. The result is always the same; eating mostly a variety of animals nose to tail and some in season plant matter produced health free of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.  

An ancestral diet can be compared with cultures who subsisted on agrarian diets. The Ancient Egyptians for example were nicknamed “artophagoi” or “eaters of bread”. Their low fat, low cholesterol diet consisted of mainly carbohydrates. Specifically, they ate bread, fruits, vegetables, honey, oils (olive, flax, sesame, safflower), goats milk, cheese, fish, birds, and sometimes red meat. A diet consisting of whole foods more or less along these lines is exactly what is being promoted as healthy today. Is it healthy? What kind of health did the Egyptians experience? Dr. Michael Eades points out that the Egyptians were “rife with disabling dental problems, fat bellies, and crippling heart disease.” Canada’s indigenous population is being told over and over again to eat this way to be healthy. An agrarian diet like the Egyptian diet is an improvement over the ultra-processed junk foods that are much cheaper and more available on many reserves throughout Canada. Nonetheless, the Egyptian diet sorely misses the mark.  Based on the tomes of evidence produced throughout recent history as well as what is available in anthropological studies and archeological findings, diets like the ancient Egyptian diet or even the highly touted Mediterranean diet are not as healthy as mainstream messaging would have us believe. There is lots of science that has been around for some time now with more and more piling up but that science ignored. This science gets at the heart of why indigenous peoples were so healthy contrasted with the disease-riddled Egyptians. This is also why there is such a prevalence of chronic disease in present-day Canada, more so for indigenous Canadians.

In the 1990s, Staffan Lindeberg, an associate professor of family medicine at the Department of Medicine, University of Lund, Sweden, did a medical survey of a group called the Kitavans. The Kitavans do some farming and reside on a small island that is a part of Papua New Guinea. Lindeberg noted that the Kitavin diet consists of root vegetables (yam, sweet potato, taro, tapioca), fruit (banana, papaya, pineapple, mango, guava, watermelon, pumpkin), vegetables, fish and coconuts. This is a stark contrast to Canadian indigenous peoples who subsisted on pemmican for the long Canadian winters. The Kitavans have very little heart disease even though a high percentage of their population smoke tobacco and their main source of fat is saturated fat from coconuts. To compare the Kitavan diet to the ancient Egyptian diet, it is notable that the Egyptians ate a lot of bread and seed oils. The Kitavans do not eat bread and seed oils.  The Kitavan genetic lineage has had many generations very close to the equator. This equatorial lineage may suit its inhabitants to the local food system similar to Canadian Indigenous northern lineage being suited to being healthy on a carnivorous way of eating. Both the Kitavans and Canadian indigenous become sick from consuming a cereal and grain-based agrarian diet. Traditional indigenous ways of eating do not consume processed refined carbohydrates or industrial seed oils like canola oil of sunflower oil. The populations who ate mainly animals, nose to tail, always ate some plant matter also depending on the season. In some cases like the Inuit, not very often. In other cases like the Kitavans, often. Plants provide beneficial phytochemicals, anti-oxidants and plant-based vitamins.  The Kitavans and the Inuit may not do well if their diets were switched. Or they may do just fine. Two things are certain, cereal and grain-based agrarian diets are not good for human health and ancestral health should not be ignored by medical science.

    Insulin resistance seems to be the number one driver of some cancers, all heart disease, stroke, dementia, and of course diabetes. Diseases of lifestyle like those mentioned are not because of cholesterol, not because of eating fat and not due to eating too many calories. According to an intervention program that operated under an ancestral paradigm where all chronic conditions are considered to be driven by insulin resistance was conducted by the City of Reno Nevada Specialty Health Program for its civil service, Police and Fire Fighter personnel. Initially, the city of Reno did a 3-year pilot program on 196 officers at a cost of $324,000.00. This three-year program was estimated to save the City of Reno approximately $25 million. That is a 6000 to 1 return on their investment. Now that the program has been rolled out to mainly the Police and Fire personnel, its return on investment is 33 to 1. The projected 30-year savings are approximately $1.3 Billion. All this by abandoning the conventional paradigm and utilizing an ancestral health approach. Functional medicine practitioners and health care providers are using an ancestral approach to put many of these chronic conditions into complete remission. A Nephrologist from Toronto, Ontario, Dr. Jason Fung is completely reversing Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in a matter of a few weeks with no drugs utilizing only fasting combined with a low carbohydrate healthy fats diet, exercise, and lifestyle coaching. Health Canada is ignoring this. Currently, Health Canada considers diabetes to be an incurable degenerative disease to be managed with medication. Why are diet and lifestyle not the number one intervention? Indigenous peoples had it right to begin with, ignoring this is systemic racism that is resulting in needless death and harm in here and now in the year 2020. 

Canada has historically had a very sordid relationship with Indigenous peoples. In our day and age, the issues are being discussed and dissected. The Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and the residential school history are in the Canadian school curriculum. These are all great ways to learn and never repeat those horrible mistakes of the past and a good reminder to be better in the present. The issues this essay are discussing, unfortunately, are not given as much weight and attention as the mortality rates should dictate. When looked at objectively, this topic holds much more weight because of how many people die due to these ideas not being given credence by Health Canada, academia, and government. The most glaring problem I can identify is the hubris of academia, the doctors they produce, and the system they uphold. Mostly their unwillingness to seriously consider an ancestral lifestyle approach to treating chronic illness. Outside of the harm of forced assimilation through the residential school system, I do not think there is a more sordid relationship than that of the Canadian Health Care system and Indigenous peoples both historically and currently.

The traditional lands and territories of indigenous peoples of Canada were used for subsistence and provided great health and protection against chronic lifestyle conditions plaguing indigenous peoples subsisting on the current agrarian diet. The Canada Food Guide’s past recommendations are a blight on indigenous people’s health. 

It is interesting that the federal inter web states;

“1942 Canada’s Official Food Rules were developed by the Nutrition Division of the federal government in collaboration with the Canadian Council on Nutrition. Food consumption surveys, although limited at the time, revealed problems such as poor access to food, insufficient money for food, and malnutrition in some populations. Thus, the Official Food Rules were intended to be a focal point for a wartime nutrition program to improve the health of Canadians by maximizing nutrition in the context of food rationing and poverty. The publication identified six food groups (Milk; Fruit; Vegetables; Cereals and Breads; Meat, Fish, etc.; and Eggs) for which specific amounts of foods were suggested for daily consumption. Limited supplies of certain foods, such as milk, prompted the Council to base the Food Rules on 70% of the Dietary Standard. The foods listed in the Rules were considered to be “health-protective”, a term we are more likely to associate with current nutrition debates.”  Nowhere on the federal government’s website is our indigenous population’s role of nonconsent horrendous starvation experiments recognized in the development of the guide. The robust health of indigenous peoples subsisting on an ancestral diet was observed by many Canadian health officials of the time but instead of exploring the topic further, indigenous peoples were deemed inferior because of how sick they became when switched to agrarian foods. Health Canada has the records and is still not acknowledging their horrible past. The paper titled; “Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942–1952” States: “Between 1942 and 1952, some of Canada’s leading nutrition experts, in cooperation with various federal departments, conducted an unprecedented series of nutritional studies of Aboriginal communities and residential schools. The most ambitious and perhaps best known of these was the 1947-1948 James Bay Survey of the Attawapiskat and Rupert’s House Cree First Nations. Less well known were two separate long-term studies that went so far as to include controlled experiments conducted, apparently without the subjects’ informed consent or knowledge, on malnourished Aboriginal populations in Northern Manitoba and, later, in six Indian residential schools. This article explores these studies and experiments, in part to provide a narrative record of a largely unexamined episode of exploitation and neglect by the Canadian government. At the same time, it situates these studies within the context of broader federal policies governing the lives of Aboriginal peoples.” Mainstream medicine it seems, is still guided by the one cause one cure medical paradigm. For example, if you have a bacterial infection, you take an antibiotic. One cause one cure. This reductionist way of thinking completely falls apart when treating conditions that are a result of many confounding factors that differ from individual to individual such as heart disease and diabetes. Our current medical approach scrambles around treating the symptoms with drugs never curing the disease when the Indigenous lifestyle had the cure-all along. Unfortunately, these many confounding factors and the expenses involved in conducting a proper double-blind placebo-controlled trial means there really are no good nutritional studies to say which way of eating is best. Human nutrition is not a settled science and by mainstream medicine acting as if it is, mainstream medicine’s stance is a blight on everyone’s health. The New Canada Food guide has a wonderful section on indigenous foodstuffs but the rest of the document sorely misses the mark by indicating that a plant-based diet is the be all end all for good nutrition. This is still promoted even in light of the historical evidence archived by Health Canada.   

Aside from the results of the prevalence of chronic disease in indigenous populations presently, the level of cognitive dissonance exhibited by health professionals and academics is alarming. An academic consensus exists that considers nutritional science as “established” still vilifying saturated fat and promoting abominations such as vegetable oil as healthy. It is inconceivable to the medical community and academics that plants may not even be needed for the maintenance of good health. Traditionally, indigenous populations ate local and in-season mostly nose to tail animal products. We know what kind of health was sustained as a result. One of the most glaring facts that seems to be ignored or explained away by hunter-gatherer mortality statistical trickery is that there were zero plant foods available or stored in the winter. It was a carnivorous diet. A carnivorous diet is labeled as “fad,” “unhealthy” and “extreme”. When observing the mortality statistics and removing infant mortality and other issues that can be treated today by modern medicine like infections, acute care and trauma care, the life expectancy of hunter-gatherers is good with a very high quality of life in the twilight years. Presently, there are many anecdotes that indicate a carnivorous diet puts all manner of ailments into remission. One of the most famous examples is Mikhaila Peterson, who put her severe rheumatoid arthritis and debilitating depression into remission by just eating beef. Dr. Shawn Baker is another example who does tremendous feats of athleticism eating nothing but meat. He has the blood work to prove this way of eating needs further exploration. I guess Vilhjalmur Stefansson’s controlled study of N=2 wasn’t enough either to generate more scientific scrutiny. Or conversely, is this information being actively suppressed and intentionally ignored?

More and more people are going against the grain so to speak. Ignoring this mainstream messaging and mimicking these ancestral diets under names like “Paleo”, “Ketogenic” and the vilified “Carnivore diet”. I am not sure why there is so much push back to making these ways of eating and an ancestral lifestyle the first line of defense when treating indigenous populations for chronic diseases. Especially when we see such promising results when these lifestyles are maintained over the long term. I highly doubt there is some evil racist mastermind at Health Canada twirling his moustache thinking up ways to keep indigenous people sick. But is there? The following are several documents that have been presented to Health Canada by various groups. What they present are similar to the ideas being expressed in this essay. A letter to Health Canada, Products and Food Branch Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, penned by a group of concerned Canadian Physicians and Allied Health Care providers to Mr. Hutchinson, Dr. Philpott, and the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion was signed by over 700 health professionals, mostly doctors stating that the current promotion of agrarian diets causes harm and the stance against saturated fat causes harm and is completely unscientific. This was ignored.  Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology titled Obesity in Canada A Whole-of-Society approach for a Healthier Canada, dated March 2016 was also seemingly ignored. From indigenous leadership and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, The Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, Health:

18. We call upon the federal, provincial, territorial, and Aboriginal governments to acknowledge that the current state of Aboriginal health in Canada is a direct result of previous Canadian government policies, including residential schools, and to recognize and implement the health care rights of Aboriginal people as identified in international law, constitutional law, and under the Treaties.

19. We call upon the federal government, in consultation with Aboriginal peoples, to establish measurable goals to identify and close the gaps in health outcomes between Aboriginal and non Aboriginal communities, and to publish annual progress reports and assess longterm trends. Such efforts would focus on indicators such as: infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases, illness and injury incidence, and the availability of appropriate health services.

20. In order to address the jurisdictional disputes concerning Aboriginal people who do not reside on reserves, we call upon the federal government to recognize, respect, and address the distinct health needs of the Métis, Inuit, and off-reserve Aboriginal peoples.

21. We call upon the federal government to provide sustainable funding for existing and new Aboriginal healing centres to address the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual harms caused by residential schools, and to ensure that the funding of healing centres in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories is a priority.

22. We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian health-care system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

23. We call upon all levels of government to:

i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the healthcare field

ii. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal health-care providers in Aboriginal communities.

iii. Provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals.

24. We call upon medical and nursing schools in Canada to require all students to take a course dealing with Aboriginal health issues, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, and Indigenous teachings and practices. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

and from the United Nations,

“United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”,

Article 24

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to their traditional medicines and to maintain their health practices, including the conservation of their vital medicinal plants, animals, and minerals. Indigenous individuals also have the right to access, without any discrimination, to all social and health services.

2. Indigenous individuals have an equal right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. States shall take the necessary steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of this right.

Both the TRC calls to action and UNDRIP a great indication of what must be done but continues to be ignored. Even the United Nations has engaged in this cognitive dissonance. Although they produced this great declaration of indigenous rights, they along with the World Health Organization have vilified meat/fat consumption. In fact they avidly promote agrarian diets. Why? 

    In conclusion, I have to ask the question; how can Canadian policymakers and health care providers along with academia persist with such a level of systemic racism in the face of current ongoing harm directed at indigenous peoples? The number one killer of Canadians is Cancer at 30% followed by heart disease at 21%, diabetes at 18% and stroke at 6%. We also know that indigenous peoples accounting for 4.9% of the Canadian population and are affected at a rate of 2-3 times higher than that of the rest of the Canadian population, yet disgustingly, these institutions seem happy to remain willfully ignorant to the history of excellent health experienced by Indigenous peoples prior to having cereal and grain-based foodstuffs forced upon them. Promoted by media today and perpetuated by strong feelings of historical harms, I hazard to say that the focus on police as a racist institution, tearing down monuments along with attempts to change or erase historical accounts overshadow the current harms that are causing death and destruction regarding health and low quality of life in Canada’s indigenous peoples and indigenous peoples the world over. When considering the other issues mentioned, there is no comparison nor is there even a question of what aspect of systemic racism has to be tackled first. Take the controversy over Aunt Jemima brand syrup and pancake mix owned by Quaker Oats. It is true that the label promoted a racist stereotype yet no one is discussing, especially not Quaker Oats, how high-fructose corn syrup and starch affect minorities’ health negatively at a disproportionate rate. It would seem the media, government, universities and health care providers are complicit in not speaking up about the harm being caused by the product itself and are happy to talk more about the empty gesture by comparison of removing the brand. Although the historical evidence gives the health outcomes of nutrition the most weight in my opinion, there is more to the outcomes of health than just nutrition. The ancestral way of life encompassed so much more, proper sleep (just as important as nutrition because they compound each other and go hand in hand), strong community bonds and lots of non-exercise activity. There are studies to indicate that factors outside of nutrition also contribute to good health. There are many wonderful people who are actively fighting for education because education plays a role in good health, 2 parent families play a role, assisting people to move away from addiction plays a role and the culture of individual communities suffering multi-generational trauma play roles in the health of peoples. Those things are real issues but at least it is very politically incorrect to deny that those are factors. The history of indigenous health being completely ignored by the institutions responsible for health, Health Canada, universities, and the rest of government should not be acceptable. This particular willful ignorance is resulting in death and disease ongoing in the year 2020 and will continue to do so if we do not demand change. Acknowledging traditional indigenous health by the institutions I have mentioned is vital to ending this form of racism. Figuring out how to mimic indigenous traditional ways of life in the here and now as the first-line intervention regarding both prevention and treatment of chronic lifestyle diseases such as cancers, heart disease, and diabetes is something that needs to happen yesterday. Pharmacological interventions have their place, are needed, and would likely be greatly enhanced in conjunction with ancestral interventions. The men and women who make our institutions work are needed and are great at acute care and trauma care. I doubt any of these individuals are racist. I know they work hard to save lives with the tools they are given no matter the race. It is the system that is racist. It is the system that says with action, not word, we don’t care! If the system cared, we would have the cure readily available for most chronic conditions. It is the system that needs to change. Health Canada could be combining the best of both worlds similar to the actions taken by the City of Reno for the health and wellness of its civil servants. Indigenous people need a system where you can go see a doctor and get tests like a 23 and me genetic profile, an advanced Lipid and Diabetes Mellitus test and other tests. Indigenous peoples in Canada need qualified health coaches to educate and help them carry out the doctor’s interpretations of that profile. That profile may indicate a low fat, fiber-rich high carbohydrate diet like the Kitavans or it may indicate a way of eating toward the carnivorous side of the spectrum like the Inuit. Figuring out what can prevent and reverse chronic disease is currently only available to those with the economic resources to hire a health coach schooled on these ancestral interventions. The positive results these private health care providers get for their clientele is ignored and/or discounted by academia and the Canadian Health care system to the detriment of all Canadians, especially indigenous Canadians. A Jewish man, a Muslim man, a Vegan man, and an Indigenous man are all in the hospital for various reasons. It is supper time. The Jewish fella gets his kosher diet, the Muslim man gets his halal diet, and the Vegan gets his plate full of veggies. The Indigenous man asks for his ancestral diet… he gets laughed at. 


Works Cited

-Lore of Nutrition by Tim Noakes and Marika Sboros

-BMC Endocrine Disorders Agrarian diet and diseases of affluence – Do evolutionary novel

dietary lectins cause leptin resistance?

Tommy Jönsson*1, Stefan Olsson2, Bo Ahrén1, Thorkild C Bøg-Hansen3,

Anita Dole3 and Staffan Lindeberg1

-Aboriginal Health in Canada Second edition by James B. Waldram D. Ann Herring and T. Kue Young

-Moving Aboriginal Health Forward by Yvonne Boyer

-Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology titled Obesity in Canada dated March 2016

-Raymond Obomsawin Ph.D, Historical and Scientific Perspectives on the Health of Canada.s First Peoples March, 2007

-A letter to Health Canada, Products and Food Branch Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion, attention Mr. Hutchinson, Dr. Philpott, and the Office of Nutrition Policy and Promotion dated December 8, 2016 (Revised July 24, 2017) signed by over 700 health professionals

-The Fat of the Land by Vilhjalmur Stefansson

-Administering Colonial Science: Nutrition Research and Human Biomedical Experimentation in Aboriginal Communities and Residential Schools, 1942–1952

-Specialty Health Police Wellness and Prevention Program. Reno, Nevada, USA

-Loren Cordain, S Boyd Eaton, Anthony Sebastian, Neil Mann, Staffan Lindeberg,

Bruce A Watkins, James H O.Keefe, and Janette Brand-Miller Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005;81:341.54.









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