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The Hon. Pana  Merchant, B.A. Appointed to the Senate by the Rt. Honourable Jean Chrétien, Senator Pana Merchant represents the province of Saskatchewan and the Senatorial Division of Saskatchewan. She has served in the Senate of Canada since December 12, 2002.

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World Food Day

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Statement made on 27 October 2011 by Senator James Cowan

Hon. James S. Cowan (Leader of the Opposition):

Honourable senators, October 16 marked World Food Day.

In 1996, Canada joined with 184 other nations at the World Food Summit to set an ambitious target: "To eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015."

It is now nearing the end of 2011, and the number of those who suffer from hunger, far from being cut in half, has escalated. It is estimated that the world population is about to reach 7 billion. The number of those suffering from chronic hunger is nearing 1 billion; 1 out of every 7 people goes hungry. That is a terrible statistic.

We have all seen the soaring prices of basic foods around the world in recent years. Indeed, this year, the theme of World Food Day was "Food prices — from crisis to stability." According to the World Bank, rising food costs in 2010-11 pushed nearly 70 million people into extreme poverty.

Last week, I received an email from Katie Hunt, a student at Saint Mary's University in Halifax. At present she is in China, having been selected as one of four Saint Mary's students to spend this semester overseas on an internship working towards food security. She wrote to me about the challenges facing farmers in that country, and this is what she said:

It is a broken food system that allows us in the global north to suffer from obesity when according to the WFP [the United Nations World Food Programme] 925 million people suffer from chronic hunger, 65% of whom live in only 7 countries. It is immoral that in many cases the very people that feed the world are rural farmers who themselves go hungry. We have the resources necessary to ensure that no one has to worry where their next meal comes from; ending global hunger is not an ideal, it is a necessity.

I agree with Ms. Hunt. There is much we can do as a great and prosperous nation.

I was pleased to see that the Minister of International Cooperation shares this concern. She recently announced that Canada will commit $350 million in new funding to the World Food Programme over the next five years.

This is not a partisan issue, honourable senators. Prime Minister Chrétien published Canada's Action Plan for Food Security in 1998; Prime Minister Paul Martin doubled Canada's annual contribution to the World Food Programme; and I am happy to see that this government is continuing those efforts.

This is an issue that deeply concerns many of us in this chamber. A year ago His Honour hosted a two-day Speakers' consultation among the presiding officers of the upper and unicameral houses of the G20, and the topic was food security. I attended that meeting, as did a number of senators from both sides of this chamber. At that time it was agreed that the dialogue begun in Ottawa would continue. Senator Kinsella said: "Parliamentary dialogue will be undertaken with a view to implementing the actions needed to alleviate global food insecurity."

Honourable senators, action is more necessary now than ever before. I invite you to join with me in reaffirming our commitment as a nation to the eradication of global hunger, at home and abroad.

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