An Inside Look at Canada’s First Food Law & Policy Conference

Big news, friends: Canada’s first food law & policy conference is happening in a little less than a month. The Future of Food Law & Policy in Canada is this November 3-4 at the Schulich School of Law in Halifax, Nova Scotia. This conference marks the first time that leaders in the legal community will come together to discuss how to strengthen and improve our food systems, to consider how stakeholders perceive and adapt to change, and to learn better practices and approaches to food law problems for clients, researchers, and government.

I have written previously on both the ups and downs of practicing food law. While it is a dynamic and growing area of practice specialization, which is exciting, it is also an area of practice with few institutional support systems, which means you have to create your own. In particular, finding practice notes, networking with leading professional, and staying abreast of developments in the sector; there simply aren’t any bar associations or law societies that engage with food law and policy in a meaningful way.

I have been working with Professor Jamie Baxter and with the support of Schulich School of Law (here’s a podcast we recorded together) to develop this conference, with the goal of better defining and understanding the domain of food law and policy, identifying the next big legal and policy challenges for Canada’s food systems, and what the future of food law legal practice, research, and advocacy look like. We want to determine how the profession can best provide access to, educate and mentor the next generation of thinkers, practitioners and decision-makers in Canadian food law and policy.

This conference has legal experts giving a hard look at Canadian regulatory enforcement, labeling, and food fraud. If you remember the $1.5m in fines awarded against Mucci Farms for labeling and fraud convictions earlier this year, this panel should matter to you. Are you concerned about policy stances related to advances in food science? There are panels discussing technology, gene editing, and the regulation of frankenfoods. The conference includes a range of food law and policy panels addressing issues from animal law to food safety, farmland regulation, and Northern food systems. Through the conference you can receive CPD while learning about how climate change legislation will affect food production practices or what effect proposed international trade agreements will have on domestic food producers and processors.

The Future of Food Law & Policy in Canada includes keynotes by GowlingWLG’s Ron Doering and UCLA-Resnick’s Food Law & Policy Clinic executive director Michael Roberts (UCLA and Harvard are having their 3rd annual food law conference October 21), and a public talk by food justice advocate, James Beard Leadership Award winner, Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora, and former Food and Society Policy fellow for the Kellogg Foundation, Bryant Terry. The conference closes with a viewing of and panel on The Chocolate Case, a documentary on legal and commercial efforts of Dutch journalists to end slavery in the production of African cacao, screened in partnership with the acclaimed Devour Food Film Festival.

The conference will bring together food industry experts – lawyers, academics, policymakers, tribunal heads, people in regulatory affairs, activists – with those who want to learn about and contribute to this emerging practice area. Featuring speakers from eight provinces and four countries, along with a remarkable scope and depth of content, it is our hope to create conversations on and forge connections amongst food law and policy issues that endure beyond a two-day conference.

Canadians have become increasingly aware of the legal issues encountered by food system stakeholders, be they agricultural producers, processors, distributors, retailers and consumers, and lawmakers are playing an increasingly important role in navigating and shaping the outcomes of those issues in both law and policy. This is challenging for a profession that is just now recognizing the value in a food-focused approach to policy development, legal services and thought leadership, but it is also exciting; and it is what makes The Future of Food Law & Policy in Canada timely and important.

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