Nunatsiaq News
LETTERS: Nunavut May 10, 2013 - 7:20 am

Nunavut MLAs’ EU vote part of a sad spectacle

“This current group of MLAs are bereft of any capacity to merely understand an issue”

A motion asking for the European Union's application for observer status at the Arctic Council to be denied passed May 9 in the Nunavut legislature. (FILE PHOTO)
A motion asking for the European Union's application for observer status at the Arctic Council to be denied passed May 9 in the Nunavut legislature. (FILE PHOTO)

There was a time when I had an interest in running for territorial political office, and sitting in the Legislative Assembly engaging in debate on important issues with serious elected officials.

However, after listening to the sad spectacle in the Legislative Assembly involving a motion to oppose observer status for the European Union in the Arctic Council, I have to say that I am completely turned off with the idea.

It became quite apparent to me that this current group of MLAs are bereft of any capacity to merely understand an issue, much less to logically analyze it and then to take a sensible position on it.

Like with any issue, when it comes to the EU seal ban, it is always important to start at the beginning.

By that, what I mean is:  What was the initial concern in Europe which lead to the ban being proposed?  What was the mischief that it sought to address?  That is, respectfully, how intelligent people approach things, and I heard very little of that in our hallowed Assembly on a Thursday afternoon.

If that approach was used, individuals would remember that, a number of years ago, Europeans and others were horrified when watching video of seal pups being clubbed to death on the ice flows off Newfoundland.

Rightly or wrongly, it was those images, and not the images of a traditional Inuit hunt, which led to the public outcry in Europe about seals, and then ultimately to the passage of the ban by their elected representatives through the EU.

Because it was the perceived inhumane clubbing of the seals and not the traditional aboriginal harvesting of the animals that was seen as the culprit, the EU went out of its way to enact an explicit exemption for seal products originating from that other source.

But our wise politicians have managed find to some sinister motive in all of this and, more importantly, a sinister motive to harm Inuit.

According to Tagak Curley, this in an attack against the Inuit way of life.  Alan Rumboldt says that the ban has caused untold hardship in his community of Sanikiluaq.

Of course, what myself and many others cannot comprehend is how these men, who we think know how to read and understand what they read, cannot recognize that the ban does not apply to Inuit seal products.

At least Fred Schell attempted a more nuanced argument, but unfortunately one that doesn’t come close to adding up. Mr. Schell argued that any ban on seal products in the EU would necessarily result driving down the price of the exempted Inuit products so, therefore, the ban in itself must treat Inuit unfairly.  He used as an analogy an EU declaration that oil extracted from the Alberta tar sands is dirty oil, and the resulting effect that this has had on oil prices.

Well, Mr. Schell, most experts will tell you that tar sands oil is dirty due to the damage that it inflicts on our environment.

But I digress. The flaw in Mr. Schell’s logic was unintentionally exposed by Mr. Curley in his speech where he rightly pointed out that the EU is a political institution made up of elected officials, who are following the wishes of their constituents when it comes to seals and seal products.

As a result, Mr. Schell needs to understand that it is not this EU ban that keeps seal skin prices low.  Instead, it is a lack of demand for these products by ordinary, everyday Europeans — and southern Canadians — that keep prices low.

On the same day that I listened to the farce taking place in the Legislative Assembly, I also read an article stating that tourism in the Yukon has grown by 25 per cent over the last ten years.  A sizeable number of those tourists come from Germany, and they contribute over 200 million a year to that territory’s economy.

It seems that the Yukon understands where the future is headed and they plan to profit from it.  I hope that someday Nunavut will do the same.

(Name withheld by request)

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