Federalism and fragmentation: Addressing the possibilities of a food policy for Canada


  • Sarah Berger Richardson Faculty of Law, McGill University
  • Nadia Lambek Faculty of Law, University of Toronto




federalism, food law and policy, divisions of power, fragmentation, democratic experimentalism, national food policy


Canadian federalism poses unique challenges for the development of a national food policy. Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government and the provinces are granted powers to govern exclusively in certain areas and to share jurisdiction in others. Where one level of government has exclusive jurisdiction, the other level of government is not permitted to interfere. However, good food system governance requires addressing policy coherence and coordination horizontally, across sectors such as agriculture, trade, health, finance, environment, immigration, fisheries, social protection, and vertically between the federal government, the provinces, and international and transnational actors. The development of a national food policy for Canada offers an opportunity to harmonize law and policymaking, and clarify the key roles that all levels of government play in the development and governance of food systems. This will require identifying sites of conflict and overlap, but also spaces for collaboration, coordination, and innovation. A national food policy will necessarily have to work within the constraints of Canadian constitutional law, but federalism and the division of powers can be harnessed to create a more just, equitable, democratic and sustainable food system.





How to Cite

Berger Richardson, S., & Lambek, N. (2018). Federalism and fragmentation: Addressing the possibilities of a food policy for Canada. Canadian Food Studies La Revue Canadienne Des études Sur l’alimentation, 5(3), 28–48. https://doi.org/10.15353/cfs-rcea.v5i3.281