Canadian delegation meets with anti-sealing Europeans

A Canadian delegation including Inuit representatives started meeting with European government officials on Monday, hoping to counter growing opposition to the annual seal hunt.

A Canadian delegation including Inuit representativesstarted meeting with European government officialson Monday, hoping to counter growing opposition to the annual seal hunt.

The trip, which is organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, started Monday with meetings in Brussels and will end at The Hague on Friday.

The delegation will also meet during the week with the German government, which has said it will move ahead with banning imported seal products out of concerns the Canadian seal hunt is inhumane.

The Netherlands has also confirmed that it will proceed with legislation to enact a ban, while the European Union's executive commission plans to conduct a study to see if the hunt is humane.

Canada has maintained that an import ban could hurt the livelihoods of seal hunters in the North and in Atlantic Canada.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Mary Simon, who is participating in the tour on behalf of Canadian Inuit, said Friday that they don't want a repeat of the 1980s, when seal pelt prices plummeted due to aggressive anti-sealing campaigns.

"There's some indication in Europe that some countries that are part of the European Union … are actually passing resolutions and legislation to ban import of seal skins, even though they say they are not against aboriginal sealing. Past experience shows that bans that include so-called Inuit exemptions have proven not to work," Simon said.

Simon said she wants European government officials to know what a negative impact anti-sealing campaigns can have on the economic well-being of Inuit.

Meanwhile, an Inuk seal hunter who returned from an anti-sealing protest earlier this month said Inuit must be more aggressive and strategic if they want to send their message to Europeans.

Aiju Peter of Iqaluit, who wore a traditional sealskin outfit and took her son to a March 15 protest in The Hague, said she is growing tired of Europeans dictating how she should live her life.

'European society wants us to stay little Eskimos'

"European society wants us to stay little Eskimos; they don't want us to progress," she said. "In their mind, we are like a little ideal world. We really have to not buy into that.

"I need to make a living. I need to be able to sell my products. I don't want to be constrained, I don't want to be just able to go hunting and eat the meat, but I also want to be able to sell the sealskin."

Peter spoke to a handful of anti-sealing protesters and some government officials while at The Hague, in order to give the Inuit perspective.

"I didn't realize that they had taken over a lot of the politicians, a lot of the view that they had gone to extremes to brainwash people and even small children, and how far people can go in advancing their point of view in getting what they want," she said.

"It was very much like lying … in public, so that was very educational. I realize that we have to be more aggressive in pursuing or educating people."