MLA slams Nunavut's efforts to bolster seal industry at home

"What are we doing to sell our sealskin in our communities to allow our ever-so-talented women to buy affordable pelts?" asked Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser in Nunavut Legislature this week.

Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser calls for seal processing plant in territory

Rannva Simonsen organizes some of her sealskin fashions at her new store in downtown Iqaluit. One MLA is calling for a seal processing plant in Nunavut, to grow the territory's sealskin industry. (Vince Robinet/CBC)

Aivilik MLA Patterk Netser slammed the Government of Nunavut in the final day of the winter Legislature sitting, criticizing the territory's efforts, or lack thereof, of bolstering the sealing industry here at home.

During his member statement, Netser pointed to the fact that Nunavut doesn't have a seal processing plant, none of the restaurants in the territory serve seal, and retailers sell sealskin products imported from outside Nunavut.

"I have seen past sealskin products sold by Northern stores that was purchased from Greenland," he said.

"This is ridiculous that our federal government of the day [Harper government] fought so hard to remove the unfair ban of Canadian sealskin products in the European Union, but right here in our own territory, our retailers are selling products from Greenland. What a shame!" 

Netser also spoke of how Nunavut has prided itself on incorporating Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit (traditional knowledge) and language into its everyday life, and as pillars on how to function as a government.

But he went on to criticize how those values don't seem to be reflected in how Nunavut supports its sealers.

"What are we doing to sell our sealskin in our communities to allow our ever-so-talented women to buy affordable pelts?" he said.

"Our territorial seamstresses have to order tanned sealskins from Montreal, where they are tanned in southern locales and pelts ordered. It showcases the fact that Nunavut should have its own tannery for our usage."

Tannery on the horizon

Netser then followed up on the issue in Question Period.

Environment Minister Elisapee Sheutiapik said her department is working with the federal government on the issue — though she wouldn't elaborate.

She also said her department is working with one Nunavut woman, Elisapee Davidee, to buy a shearing machine for the territory — a machine to remove fat and blubber from sealskin.

"Right now she is working with the QEC because that equipment uses a lot of power, so it needs to be hooked up properly," said Sheutiapik.

She added she's hoping Davidee can go to Greenland, which has two different types of tanning machines, each with its own process, to learn how tanning is done.

About the Author

Nick Murray

Nick Murray is a CBC reporter, based in Iqaluit since 2015. He got his start with CBC in Fredericton after graduating from St. Thomas University's journalism program. He's also worked two Olympic Games as a senior writer with CBC Sports. You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickMurray91.