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European Union Opens Door to Inuvialuit Seal

Sealskin products for sale at the IRC Craft Shop in Inuvik

Inuvialuit-created sealskin products will be an option for fashion-conscious Europeans combatting next year’s winter weather thanks to a long-standing lobbying effort led by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

The European Union (EU) has accepted the Northwest Territories’ (NWT) application to accept the Inuvialuit as a Recognized Body under the Indigenous exception to the EU seal products prohibition.

This will provide unencumbered access to the European market for seal products harvested in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region.

“Seal products have long been a part of our traditional Inuvialuit culture in providing a sustainable source of food, clothing and income," said Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, Chair and CEO of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation. "As a Recognized Body for selling these products throughout the European Union, our regional harvesters and artisans will now have an additional economic outlet for their work. We are pleased and ready to expand the marketing efforts of Inuvialuit seal products to Europe. We are also pleased to see that the EU is respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) will incorporate the marketing of NWT seal products under the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand. In collaboration with Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), ITI will also be advancing a certification program to promote consumer confidence in European travellers who will now be able to return home with sealskin products purchased in the NWT.

“This is a considerable achievement under the GNWT’s mandate which will bring valuable economic opportunity and priceless support to important cultural practices for the Inuvialuit people," said Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment. "We look forward to executing on the promise of this new market — the second-largest economy in the world — for the benefit of all seal harvesters and their families.”

In support of its mandate to advance greater economic diversification for the NWT economy, the GNWT has committed to promoting the products of its traditional economy to international markets. These efforts further align with GNWT obligations under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement.