Inuit express “moral outrage” over WTO decision on seal products
"The misrepresentation of the seal hunt has an effect on our local economies"
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Terry Audla says he is “morally outraged” by a May 22 decision by the appellate body of the World Trade Organization to uphold a European Union ban on Canadian seal products.
Canada lost its bid to overturn a 2013 decision by the WTO that determined the EU seal ban is “necessary to protect public morals.”
And that’s an argument that Inuit find “abhorrent,” ITK said in a May 22 release.
“Inuit live according to the principles of fairness and compassion and we seek nothing more than to feed our families and make an honest living in the modern economy,” Audla said in the release.
“It is morally reprehensible for anyone to impede those goals – which are the basic rights of any citizen of the world.”
ITK said Inuit across the country continue to reject the so-called “Inuit exemption” clause of the legislation, which it notes did not include any prior consultation with Inuit.
In its November 2013 decision, the WTO panel noted an “inherent flaw” in the make up of the Inuit exemption that would allow Greenlandic Inuit products to flow into the EU, but not Canadian Inuit products.
The 2013 decision called on the EU to address the discriminatory aspects of the legislation.
“From what we can gather from today’s appeal finding, the Inuit exemption itself is considered unjustified under Article 20 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which potentially creates another set of problems with the EU in relation to Indigenous peoples,” Audla said.
“Nevertheless, I want to clarify that our position from the start has been a rejection of the seal ban regulation as a whole, including all that is contained in it, including the Inuit exemption.”
ITK maintained that seal populations are abundant, and the harvest of the animal is sustainable.
And that harvest provides important economic value to individuals and communities, ITK added, as well as sources of income much needed to help sustain livelihoods and ways of life.
In the first sitting of the new session of the Nunavut assembly May 22, premier Peter Taptuna called the WTO decision “disappointing.”
“The seal harvest is central to the Inuit, and Canadian, way of life,” he said. “Seal remains an important source of food and income for many Nunavummiut. The misrepresentation of the seal hunt has an effect on our local economies.”