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Nunavut MLAs vote to oppose EU seal product ban

Politicians in Nunavut are making a last-minute effort to fight the European Union's proposed ban on the import of seal products from Canada and other sealing nations.

Politicians in Nunavut are making a last-minute effort to fight the European Union's proposed ban on the import of seal products from Canada and other sealing nations.

Members of the territory's legislative assembly unanimously passed a motion Wednesday to oppose the EU ban, which the European Parliament is scheduled to consider on April 1.

MLAs worry the ban could threaten the livelihoods of Inuit sealers in Nunavut, despite the addition of an exemption for seal products from Inuit.

"The seal hunt will always be at the heart of Nunavut," Environment Minister Daniel Shewchuk said in introducing the motion to the assembly.

"I urge all members to vote unanimously to support the motion, so that we can send a clear message to the misinformed animal rights activists and the European Union."

'Exploited' by Inuit exemption

The EU ban provides a limited exemption for seal products hunted by Inuit to be traded only for cultural, educational or ceremonial purposes. That exemption would be subject to a number of conditions.

But Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo, a cabinet minister, said the exemption is meaningless to him.

"They're using the exemption for Inuit, knowing full well that it's not really going to mean anything," Tootoo told the assembly.

"To say, 'Oh, it's OK, we're taking care of these guys' to get support behind it, to me, I feel, as [an] Inuk, exploited."

Tootoo said the Nunavut and Canadian governments have been working together to stop the EU's ban.

Speaking in Inuktitut, Nanulik MLA Johnny Ningeongan said passing the motion makes a clear statement that the EU's ban will have negative effects on Nunavummiut.

The result of the European Parliament vote would still require approval from the European Council.

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