Will the Government of Canada stand up for Inuit?

The CBC is reporting that seal pelt prices in Nunavut have plummeted, and places the blame on the European Union's recent ban on seal products.

But the European ban has a clear exemption for seal products from aboriginal sealing. European markets for Nunavut seal products will not be affected by the ban.

Seal pelts from Nunavut make up an estimated 3% of the seal pelts in trade, with about 10,000 seal pelts entering into trade each year. European markets are said to account for 5% of the market demand for seal pelts. If this is the case, much of the European market demand for seal products could be satisfied with seal pelts from Nunavut.

So why isn't the Government of Canada doing anything to help Canadian Inuit access the EU market - which will now ONLY be open to products from aboriginal sealing?

As today's press release by Canadian Senator Mac Harb notes, “This is a perfect opportunity for the government to secure access to the EU market, and ensure that Inuit communities will benefit. But instead of putting resources and effort into supporting these communities and helping them to market their products, the government is throwing taxpayer’s money at a doomed WTO challenge.”

It appears as though the Canadian government's tactic to “play the Nunavut Inuit card as leverage" to open markets for seal products "and have the east coast sealers follow” - as outlined in a 2001 memo from the Department of Foreign Affairs - has backfired. If Canadian Inuit suffer as a result of the EU ban, the blame will lie squarely on the shoulders of the Canadian government and their refusal to distinguish between Inuit subsistence hunting, and Canada's inherently inhumane commercial seal hunt.

If the Government of Canada truly cared about Inuit communities, for whom sealing is an important activity, now is the time to prove it and stop using Inuit as “leverage” to promote the commercial sealing industry.

Unfortunately, most politicians are so concerned with pandering for Atlantic Canadian votes in the next election that they are unlikely to "stand up" for Inuit seal hunters, even when given the opportunity to do so.

Sheryl Fink
Senior Research and Projects Specialist
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Guelph, Ontario

*International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) does not oppose subsistence hunting by Inuit and other aboriginal people.

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