Copyright © 2019 Senator Dennis Patterson.

Statement – Commercial Seal Hunt

December 14, 2009

Honourable senators, today I will talk about the misinformed animal welfare activists who have had the gall to interfere with the Inuit subsistence economy in the harvesting of seals. These activists are some of the same folks who imperilled the security and safety of people on Parliament Hill last week. Even worse, the European Union fell prey to their distortions of the truth.

I was proud when our Governor General paid respect to the Inuit people and their culture, partaking of seal meat while in Rankin Inlet this summer, and that our federal cabinet was served seal meat during their meetings in Iqaluit this year. This act shows respect for the nutritional, cultural and economic value of the seal harvest to the Inuit people.

The animal rights activists proclaim that the Inuit are not the target of their campaign of misinformation, but the Inuit have been hit hard, as surely as if they were specifically targeted, as have our friends who are sealers in the St. Lawrence and in the Atlantic provinces. We do not criticize Europeans for eating pâté or veal. We do not criticize the Europeans for foie gras, made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened before slaughter, typically achieved through force-feeding corn. We do not talk about the possible health consequences of an enlarged liver that the duck or goose faces. I am sure Inuit would be amazed at this practice but they would also be respectful. After all, French law states that foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France. This is what I say about the seal harvest to Inuit and to East Coast and St. Lawrence sealers.

Inuit do not understand why they are targeted when hunting for their cultural and traditional food of seal, whose fur has sustained and clothed Inuit in one of the harshest climates of the word for tens of thousands of years.

This action taken by the Europeans toward seal products is insulting and offensive to a proud and ancient culture, a people who are, first and foremost, proud and loyal Canadians. The action jeopardizes our greatly-valued and now-threatened renewable resource economy. We learn it is costing Inuit harvesters dearly in a developing fragile economy where hourly wage jobs are in short supply and where the cost of gasoline, bullets and outdoor equipment is daunting.

Please understand that Inuit mostly hunt seals in the ocean in summer, on the sea ice in spring and on the floe edge in winter. The seal is not only important as nutritious food, chock full of vitamins, it also provides high quality leather for clothing, waterproof boots and oil for the lamps, which have sustained the Inuit for centuries. The seal hunt is both humane and sustainable.

The Inuit are long-suffering victims of these heartless activists. Nunavut News/Northreported on November 16 that the price of Nunavut seal pelts has dropped drastically in the wake of the European ban on seal products. The price was as high as $70 before the European ban. A cured pelt now sells for as low as $25. Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. in North Bay, Ontario, reports that they usually sell between 10,000 and 12,000 Nunavut seal pelts annually prior to the ban but, this year, have sold only 2,500, a decrease of 70 per cent.

Honourable senators, I am proud of the government’s position and wish the ministers concerned every success in standing behind Inuit sealers while challenging the European Union at the World Trade Organization.