NS students hit back at anti-sealing activists

Okalik may visit Europe to lobby against pelt ban

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Donning sealskin jackets donated by Nunavut Tunngavik, the counter-protesters aimed to show the importance of seals to Inuit culture.

“We still use skin for clothes, like culture and tradition, but it’s also a modern thing too because a lot of people can do really beautiful things with sealskin,” said Sandi Vincent, a first-year NS student. “We were trying to show them we take pride in it.”

Vincent said the number of pro- and anti-sealing demonstrators were about the same.

“They had a megaphone, but we were so much louder,” she said.

Fellow first-year student April Akeeagok said she was nervous the night before the protest because she’d never been to a demonstration before last week.

“But when I got there I felt a lot of energy to fight for our own culture,” she said.

Inuit Child First, Indigenous Services Canada

NS instructor Murray Angus said he was surprised by how few anti-sealing protesters showed up for the event. Still, his students tried to steer clear of those who did turn out.

There was no hostility, he said, though RCMP did shoo away some anti-sealers who tried to confront the NS students.

“The NS students attracted more attention, certainly from the media and from the public, than the anti-sealers did, so on that basis it was a success,” he said.

Last week’s demonstrations came after Belgian legislators voted unanimously to ban the import of seal products. Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are also mulling similar bans. But the European Union has so far rejected calls for a ban that would apply to all of its 27 member states.

Premier Paul Okalik may travel to several EU countries this spring to make the case for Nunavut’s reliance on international markets for seal products.

Mary Simon, president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, said Inuit will fight for their right to hunt seals.

Invitation to submit an expression of interest as to the availability of space for lease in Iqaluit, Nunavut

“We support the initiatives of our fellow Inuit in working to protect markets for seal pelts and products,” Simon said in a news release. “We intend to communicate our side of the sealing story to Europeans in the weeks to come, at The Hague, London, Brussels, and Berlin. I support Nunavut Premier Paul Okalik’s initiative to lead an upcoming mission to those locations, and speak out on behalf of Inuit.”

An EU ban would cut world demand for pelts, but two of the world’s largest consumers of sealskins, Norway and Russia, would be unaffected by such a move because they’re not EU members.

Still, Akeeagok can’t help but worry about the future of sealing in Nunavut.

“My dad is a wildlife officer and he’s been hunting all his life. He survived off seal meat. It’s our culture so it’s going to affect us a lot if they ban it.”

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