February 13, 2020
(Photo: Raw materials from the land are needed to make warm wearable art like these sealskin gauntlet mitts hand-sewn by Inuvialuit Artist Gerri Sharpe)
Representatives from the Northwest Territories (NWT) presented to the European Union (EU) Commission last month recommending solutions to streamline the import of seal products from the NWT.
In 2010, the EU placed a ban on the import of seal products. In 2017, the NWT was given Recognized Body status, which exempts Inuvialuit and Indigenous harvested seal from the ban.
Under the exception, Inuit harvesters in the NWT can export seal products to the EU as long as a formal government document accompanies it. Tourists from the EU can also purchase seal products in the NWT and bring them home (no documentation required).
The exception was being reviewed during a meeting in Brussels, Belgium and the NWT made a pitch to streamline and simplify processes and protocols.
“The EU seal ban had significant impacts on our communities and the exception was a small step forward to re-establishing Indigenous communities’ rights to decide what is best for them and develop the economies they desire,” explains Joel Holder, Director of Economic Diversification with Industry, Tourism and Investment. “What we advocated for at this meeting are practices and supports that lessen the burden on our seal harvesters.”
Some of those recommendations include adopting an identified label or stamp as certification rather than generating government documentation for each pelt and establishing a working group to better promote the exchange of ideas and solutions.
In the meantime, the NWT is already taking steps to streamline the process on its own where possible. ITI is working with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to develop a system that will host a digital copy of the attesting documents to make tracking and certifying seal skins and finished products simpler.
Did You Know? Traditionally, every part of the seal is used.
Flesh, blubber and other parts are used for food; seal oil is used as fuel in lamps (qulliq) for light, heat and cooking; bones used for tools; and pelts used for clothing, artwork and other goods.