Friday, 27 March 2009

OTTAWA, CANADA: Nunavut students challenge seal protesters

Students challenge seal protesters
Northern News Services (subscription) - Yellowknife,Northwest Territories,Canada
The Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) Training Program students were on the Hill on
March 15 to counter demonstrators who were there in support of the
International ...

NNSL photo/graphic

A group of about 20 students and staff members from the Nunavut Sivuniksavut Training Program in Ottawa took part in a counter-demonstration to an anti-sealing protest on Parliament Hill earlier this month. - photo courtesy of Murray Angus

Students challenge seal protesters

Darrell Greer
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, March 25, 2009

OTTAWA/KIVALLIQ - Kivalliq youth played a major role in having an Inuit voice among those heard on Parliament Hill in Ottawa earlier this month.

The Nunavut Sivuniksavut (NS) Training Program students were on the Hill on March 15 to counter demonstrators who were there in support of the International Day of Protest against the Newfoundland seal hunt.

The students sang songs and distributed literature while dressed in beautiful sealskin clothes provided by the Government of Nunavut's Department of the Environment.

Karen Tutanuak and Reanna Sateana of Rankin Inlet, both 20, were among about 20 of the students and staff members at the demonstration.

Tutanuak said she really wasn't too nervous about meeting the protesters.

She said she went to the Hill to display the sealskin clothes and show the seal-hunt protesters how vital seals are to Nunavut's economy and the Inuit way of life.

"We don't go around clubbing seals to death like they do in Newfoundland and we don't leave the meat on the ice to rot," said Tutanuak.

"We eat the meat, use the skins and don't waste any part of the animal."

Tutanuak said the protest was held on a Sunday, so there were a lot of people on Parliament Hill.

She said a number of tourists wanted photos of the Inuit students.

"We sang songs for them while we waited for the protesters to arrive and they asked some questions about life in Nunavut.

"There were about 60 or 70 protesters and, when they arrived, we had to move so they could go up the hill without any direct contact between our two groups.

"Some in our group were a little nervous when the protesters came, but I knew the police were there and we weren't looking for trouble."

Tutanuak said the protesters were very loud as they came up Rideau Street to Parliament Hill.

She said they went from being so loud to almost quiet as they passed the Inuit students.

"They got really quiet as they moved closer to our group, but, as they moved past us, they got really loud again."

Sateana said she was nervous at the start, with everyone wearing sealskins and holding signs.

She started to feel better along the way when people clapped their hands and honked their horns to the Inuit students as they passed by.

"We were told not to interact with the protesters because an argument might start, but a few students did," said Sateana.

"Some protesters said they support how Inuit hunt seals, and they realized we didn't let any part go to waste, but they still didn't realize how bans hurt our economy.

"That's why we didn't really get involved in a discussion with them, because we would have argued with them over how their actions affect our way of life."

Sateana said the students gave out pamphlets about Nunavut and how important the seal is to Inuit.

She said many, many people took the literature and were reading it as they walked away.

"They seemed really interested in the information and trying to understand our point of view."

Tutanuak said the appearance by the Inuit students seemed to make a real difference with the people who weren't on either side of the protests on the Hill.

She said those people seemed to take something from the information they provided, but not the protesters.

"The protesters just support one side and they're not really interested in our viewpoint," said Tutanuak.

Sateana said she was surprised there weren't many media people at the event.

She said it was disappointing that there was no major story on the protest in any of the Ottawa papers.

"Someone gave one of our information papers to a protester and asked her to consider reading it," said Sateana.

"But she didn't want anything to do with it.

"She actually said, 'You're just a cannibal!' and sprayed the paper with Mr. Clean."

Tutanuak said the two groups walked parallel to each other, on opposite sides of the street, as they left the Hill.

She said the students held their own as they jockeyed for public support.

"We were still very active as we moved away, and we kept putting up our signs really high and singing loudly.

"When we got back to NS, we all talked about the whole experience.

"The most disappointing or frustrating part is that the protesters really won't take the time to consider our side.

"They're just so convinced they're right and that's all there is to it."

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