Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. President Cathy Towtongie today called on the Government of Canada to reject the European Union’s application to be granted permanent observer status at the Arctic Council.
NTI met with EU officials in Iqaluit earlier this week to discuss the EU’s seal ban and the EU application for permanent observer status. Until the EU completely withdraws its seal ban, Towtongie said NTI remains strongly opposed to its application.
“Arctic countries and Arctic Peoples are dependent socially, economically and culturally on the sustainable use of wildlife and renewable resources. The EU has demonstrated repeatedly that it does not support Canada’s sustainable use of renewable resources. The EU demonstrated this through its actions on Canada’s seal hunt and its recent lack of support at CITES on the polar bear harvest,” said Towtongie.
Towtongie said the EU’s decision to ban the importation of seal products was not based on concerns for sustainable use or humane harvesting methods, but on national politics and misinformed public opinion, contrary to international trade agreements and scientific evidence.
Furthermore, the EU’s position on the international trade in polar bear products showed that the EU does not accept the role of Inuit as wildlife co-management partners in accordance with the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement, and does not acknowledge that the current management system for polar bears in Canada is adequate.
During the recent CITES meeting in Thailand, which included a US proposal to uplist polar bears, the EU proposed an amendment to the US proposal which would have granted the EU an oversight role in polar bear management in Canada. Fortunately, the international community voted down the EU amendment and the US proposal because Canada clearly demonstrated the polar bear harvest is humane, sustainable and does not threaten the polar bear population, a fact that was also supported by the CITES administration prior to the meeting.
The EU’s positions on seal imports and polar bears reveal that the EU does not meet the criteria for observers at the Arctic Council, including respect for the values, interests, cultures and traditions of Arctic Indigenous Peoples.
“These are examples of the EU’s attitude toward Canadian and Inuit wildlife management. It is not in the best interests of Inuit to have the EU granted permanent observer status,” said Towtongie.