This summer, Anna Logie is waking up to views of Frobisher Bay and rolling snow-capped hills in Iqaluit, Nunavut. During her first two months in Canada’s North, Logie has learned how to craft a sealskin hat, has tried her hand at ice-fishing, and has hiked the tundra near the “Road to Nowhere.”
But her time in the Arctic is hardly a vacation: this second-year Common Law student at uOttawa aims to implement a vital community project there, thanks to a Students for Canada’s North scholarship sponsored by the Michaëlle Jean Centre for Global and Community Engagement (MJCGCE).
The idea for Anna’s project took root during a conversation with Inuit activist Aaju Peter about the decline of the Inuit commercial seal hunt in Canada’s Arctic. In 2010, the European Parliament placed an import ban on seal products, undermining a long tradition of Inuit hunting and trade. Although the ban included a so-called “Indigenous Communities Exemption”, the exemption was adopted without consulting indigenous peoples and did little to shield them from the crash in sealskin prices. Moreover, the seal hunt is vital to Arctic communities: Inuit Sila, a Greenland-based NGO that promotes the economic, environmental and socio-cultural value of the Inuit seal industry, states that “The seal has always been and still is essential for survival in the Arctic, one of the harshest regions of the world. It is legal to hunt seal throughout the year, and they are an important source of nutrition for both humans and dogs. The skin is used to keep people warm in the cold winters, and the sales of skins are an important source of income”.
“The seal has always been and still is essential for survival in the Arctic, one of the harshest regions of the world.” – Inuit Sila website
However, last October saw the end of the European import ban, and consequently, Anna saw a great opportunity to revitalize the Inuit seal products industry in Canada. She proposed a project to pass on traditional seal hunting knowledge and build advocacy skills among youth in Iqaluit through weekly workshops.
The project, which features 15 workshops attended by youth, community members, Elders and hunters, is a partnership between the Makkuttukkuvik Youth Centre, the Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada, and a new branch of Inuit Sila, known as Inuit Sila Canada, headed by Aaju Peter. “During the workshops, Elders and hunters share traditional knowledge about seals and the group discusses strategies to promote the market and build advocacy skills,” says Anna. The traditional skills being taught include Inuit games, seal-skinning, seal-butchering, and lighting a qulliq (an Inuit lamp often fueled by seal oil). Advocacy skills include filming, video-editing, public speaking, debating, and inter-cultural communication. In addition, Inuit Sila Canada now has a website that will soon feature an educational video filmed and edited by Inuit youth. Anna hopes that these young people “will learn how to engage confidently and successfully in civil society and public debates in order to defend Inuit rights and interests.”
“I hope that the youth will learn how to engage confidently and successfully in civil society and public debates in order to defend Inuit rights and interests.” - Anna Logie
Pakak Picco, a young Inuk hunter who works with Anna, described his first-hand seal hunt experience. “People sometimes ask me what I’m doing when I spend time beside the animal that I have hunted. It’s good to have the chance [through the workshops] to explain to them that I am thanking the animal,” he said.
Anna and Pakak will soon take part in a seal hunt boat trip, where they will help young Inuit community members film part of the educational video that will serve as an advocacy tool to complement their newly developed skills and networks.