Circumpolar Inuit lash out at visiting Eurocrat
ICC will oppose EU’s admission to the Arctic Council
Anger against the European Union’s upcoming ban on seal products exploded inside Nuuk’s Katuaq cultural centre June 29, when Inuit delegates vented their rage against a visiting EU bureaucrat.
Their outrage was fueled when Nicholas Hanley, head of the international relations and enlargement department within the European Commission, held up a small, red, tanned sealskin presented to him after he spoke to the Inuit Circumpolar Council’s general assembly, which is meeting this week in Nuuk.
Hanley defended the seal product ban by saying the EU is consistent with its ban on sealskins, which he said doesn’t apply to seals traditionally hunted by Inuit.
Inuit leaders said they will oppose the EU’s admission as an observer to the Arctic Council unless the ban is lifted.
Inuit organizations in Greenland and Canada are suing the EU over the ban, which comes into effect later this summer.
Hanley then asked why Inuit didn’t sue the United States when they instituted their Marine Mammal Protection Act in the 1970s., which restricts the import of nearly all marine mammal products into the country.
Responding to Hanley’s statements later, Jimmy Stotts, the current ICC president, called the seal ban “hypocritica,l” because residents in the EU’s 27-member states continue to eat industrially raised and slaughtered animals.
Mary Simon, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, also blasted the EU, telling the assembly that she “completely rejects” the EU’s application for observer status in the Arctic Council.
Simon said the EU had “falsely decided” that Inuit should not be hunting seals.
And she criticized its Inuit exemption for traditionally harvested sealskin, saying that Inuit don’t hunt them “traditionally.”
‘We don’t know what that means. We live in the modern world,” she said.
Johnny Peters, a Makivik Corp. vice-president and ICC delegate, also expressed his amazement and anger that the EU could try to interfere with sealing, saying seals are essential to Inuit for their skins, meat and oil.