Inuit launch new offensive against seal ban

Inuit setting up seal nets on Baffin Island in Canada's eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut. (Levon Sevunts / Radio Canada International)
Inuit setting up seal nets on Baffin Island in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.
(Levon Sevunts / Radio Canada International)
A new pan-Arctic Inuit organization is taking its case on seal hunting directly to the European Parliament on Thursday.

The organization called Inuit Sila is based in Copenhagen and has been defending and promoting Greenland Inuit seal hunters for three years, but has announced it is becoming a pan-Arctic NGO to include all Inuit and the important tradition of seal hunting.

They took their case to an EU meeting in Brussels today, serving seal meat to delegates and announcing the expansion of the organization to include Inuit hunters from around the Arctic.

Seal ban

The European Union ban on commercially produced seal products in 2009, along with 40 years of campaigning against seal hunting, has virtually wiped out the market for seal products according to the organization.

A press release from Inuit Sila says the seal population is far from endangered and sale of sealskin is an important income for hunters living in a part of the world where you cannot grow crops. It says the annual Inuit seal hunt in the Arctic is 100% sustainable and that the catch is around 200,000 animals a year out of a growing seal population of around 12 million. It claims the seal population hasn’t been this high in 200 years.

“It has always been the idea that Inuit Sila should be extended to cover all Inuit seal hunters in the Arctic, who are all affected by the EU ban,” says Leif Fontaine a spokesperson for Inuit Sila in Greenland. “The consequences of the ban in Nunavut, Canada, are largely the same as in Greenland.”

The 2010 Eye on the Arctic report “Seal Ban” looks at how the EU policy is affecting Inuit in Canada:

‘Must stand together’

Inuit rights activist Aaju Peter, now based in Nunavut, agrees: “We must stand together in this one case,” she says.

“This applies to all communities in the Arctic, which are severely affected by 40 years of campaigns against seal hunting and now the EU’s discriminatory ban.”

She also sees this as part of a bigger Arctic movement of the Inuit people getting more united.

“Together we have a stronger voice internationally,” Peter says. “On the whole, I believe that we must begin to orient ourselves more toward each other from east to west in the Arctic. If we are not united, no one will listen to us.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Nunavut gets EU exemption for seal products, Eye on the Arctic

Finland:  Sámi politician calls Finland “racist country”, Yle News

Greenland: What the EU seal ban has meant for Inuit communities in the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Norway:  Norway visa rules worry indigenous peoples, Barents Observer

Sweden:  Sami demand rights as indigenous people, Radio Sweden

Russia: Russia brands Arctic indigenous organization as “foreign agent”, Barents Observer

United States:  Arctic conference spotlights indigenous issues, Alaska Dispatch News

Marc Montgomery, Radio Canada International

With a passion for anything antique with an engine, and for Canadian and world history, Marc comes with a wealth of media experience. After DJ work at private radio in southern Ontario, and with experience in Canadian Forces radio and tv in Europe, the state broadcaster in Austria (Radio 3), and the CBC in Ottawa and Montreal, he was the host of the immensely popular CBC and RCI show, "The Link". He is now part of the new RCI online team producing stories from and about Canada from coast to coast.

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