North

Canada, EU edge toward agreement on Inuit sealskin products

Canada and the EU are working towards a way to separate the Inuit seal harvest from that of the East Coast seal hunt, so Canadian Inuit can take full advantage of an exemption for skins harvested by indigenous people under the 2009 EU seal ban.

Talks underway to allow Inuit to take advantage of exemption for skins harvested by indigenous people

Canada and the EU are working towards a way to separate the Inuit seal harvest from that of the East Coast seal hunt, so Canadian Inuit can take full advantage of an exemption for skins harvested by indigenous people under the 2009 EU seal ban.

Canada and the European Union are edging closer to a deal that would open continental markets for Inuit sealskin products.

Terry Audla, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, says the deal won't solve the problem of low prices for seals caused by the EU's import ban. (Twitter)
In 2009, the 28-nation EU banned the import of seal products except for skins harvested by indigenous people.

The problem for Canadian Inuit is that there has been no recognized way to separate their harvest from that of the East Coast seal hunt.

Terry Audla, president of Canada's national Inuit group, says that's what Canada and the EU are now working towards.

Audla says a deal won't solve the problem of low prices for seal products caused by the import ban.

“We always said that the exemption itself was an empty box because we share the same market dynamic as the East Coast sealers,” Audla says.

Rebecca Aldworth is the executive director for the Humane Society International Canada, which campaigned to shut down Atlantic Canada’s commercial seal hunt.

Iqaluit-based sealskin clothing designer Rannva Simonsen isn’t bothered by the EU ban. 'My market is right here,' she says. (CBC)
She applauds the latest news, saying it’s a good middle ground for governments, NGOs and trade bodies.

“We have always argued that there should be an exemption for products from traditional Inuit hunters,” she says.

Iqaluit-based sealskin clothing designer Rannva Simonsen is pleased with Canada's move.  She says European customers have asked to sell her products but in the past, there were too many obstacles.

“There's an opportunity that I feel obliged to take advantage of and share with fellow Nunavummiut and see what I can do to create jobs and export added value sealskin products from here.”

Audla says there's no timeline for the two governments to work out how to brand Inuit sealskins in the European market.

With files from The Canadian Press

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