Inuit Students Stage Sealskin Fashion Show on Parliament Hill to Protest EU Ban

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Sealskin marks protest on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA - Inuit youth clad in traditional sealskin garb used Parliament Hill as a catwalk Tuesday for a fashion show to protest the World Trade Organization's recent decision to uphold a European Union ban on imported seal products.

Students strutted to the beat of techno music before a gathered crowd of about 100 people, twisting like runway models to show off their authentic sealskin jackets with elaborate fur trim.

"We're very much in favour of hunting seal," said Terrie Kusugak, a student from Rankin Inlet who helped lead the rally.

"They have slaughterhouses full of cows, pigs and chickens. But it's not OK for us to hunt our seal traditionally, which is why we feel this cultural prejudice: they're allowed to slaughter their animals and we're not allowed to harvest ours?"

Canada's National Inuit organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, as well as students from the Ottawa-based Nunavut Sivuniksavut training program organized the rally.

It came on the heels of recent efforts by Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, herself an Inuk, to appeal the landmark decision by the WTO, which she said was wrong to cite moral grounds in its ruling late last year.

Aglukkaq wants the ruling struck down because it unfairly discriminates against Canadian seal hunters while allowing the EU to ban products from any type of business that involves the killing of animals, including the beef and poultry industries.

On Tuesday, several of the protesters on hand for the Parliament Hill event carried signs with a photo of two Inuit hugging a calf with the words, "Save the Baby Veal, Avoid Cultural Prejudice."

Seal hunts are a time-honoured Inuit tradition that involve a vital food source in an Arctic ecosystem with little arable soil for crops, Kusugak said. …