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Senator pushes for national recognition of Anita Stewart-founded Food Day Canada

Senator Rob Black is in full support of a bill that would nationally recognize Food Day Canada

OTTAWA – One of Canada’s senators is working to pass a bill to officially recognize Food Day Canada, and in turn its Elora founder. 

Fergus senator Rob Black spoke at a second reading of a bill he’s sponsoring, an act to establish Food Day in Canada, on Tuesday evening in the Senate.

Food Day Canada is an annual celebration of — and education on — all things Canadian food pioneered by longtime Elora resident Anita Stewart in 2003 as a response to the mad cow disease crisis faced by beef farmers. 

Black explained in an interview this day has been celebrated each year since then if passed this bill would officially recognize the day at the national level on the Saturday before the August long weekend.

“It’s not a national holiday, it’s not meant as a day for people to take it off, it’s just meant as a day to recognize Food Day in Canada,” Black said. 

“It goes along with the late Anita Stewart’s wishes. She always wanted something nationally recognized.”

Stewart, a local food activist who became the first Canadian food laureate at U of G, died in October 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer. 

Black knew Stewart personally, simply describing her as a great lady, and had a picture of her sitting on his desk when he gave a speech on the bill. 

In a joint phone interview, Stewart’s sons said the bill has the full support of Anita Stewart’s estate and they are willing to help in any way possible to get it ratified.

“I sort of see this as a major moment in Canada’s actual identity, having a food day is not a small thing,” Brad Stewart said. 

Brad said he remembered travelling with his mother and hearing her explain to disbelievers that Canadian cuisine is both real and distinct from others. 

"Canada is food and the world is richer for it," Jeff Stewart said quoting his mother. 

This is really what Food Day Canada is about in their eyes, as Mark Stewart said it’s a chance each year to learn something new about different Canadian producers. 

“The more we educate ourselves, the more we are able to shop locally and we will make different decisions at the grocery store,” Mark said, which in turn will benefit local producers. 

Black said acknowledging the importance of Canadian agriculture is overdue. 

“We can acknowledge that farmers, fishers and processors and producers provide for us three times a day, 365 days of the year,” Black said. 

“It’s important that we acknowledge that and this is just one way we can do that nationally.”

Black explained there is a lengthy process to get this bill ratified which includes further Senate readings, a committee review and it has to go through the House of Commons.

However, Black is hopeful this can move through fairly quickly. 

“There’s nothing partisan about this, it is strictly a good news bill in my mind,” Black said. 

Paul Stewart said it’s a shame their mother couldn’t be there to see this accomplishment, although adding she wasn’t one to take all the credit.

“She put so much of her time and energy over the years into this and really broke new ground and pioneered the Canadian food movement,” Paul said. “She’d be so happy to see how far it’s come and being recognized for this would just be such a big thing for her.”

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Keegan Kozolanka

About the Author: Keegan Kozolanka

Keegan Kozolanka is a general assignment reporter for EloraFergusToday, covering Wellington County. Keegan has been working with Village Media for more than two years and helped launch EloraFergusToday in 2021.
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