An Inuk sealskin activist says it’s not enough to say sorry for the impacts anti-sealing campaigns have had on Inuit, and the environmental groups that profited from the campaigns should pay reparations.
“After all the money that was generated by Greenpeace over the years that they [should] compensate each Inuit $1 million,” said Aaju Peter, a sealskin seamstress in Iqaluit.
She was featured prominently in the documentary Angry Inuk, about how Inuit have been affected by anti-sealing activism.
“I liken it to burning someone’s house wilfully,” she said.
“If you do that and are found guilty you should compensate or you should go to jail.”
Peter said the $1-million figure is a starting point for talks, but that any conversation about righting the wrongs of the past would need to include financial compensation.
In 2014, Greenpeace Canada’s executive director Joanna Kerr wrote a blog post outlining the organization’s regret for their 1976 anti-sealing campaign and its cultural and financial impact on Inuit. In that post Kerr committed her organization to “go further” and back up their words with actions.
In an interview with CBC, Kerr pointed to Greenpeace’s work with the hamlet of Clyde River, bankrolling their Supreme Court fight against seismic testing and raising international awareness as examples of organization’s work to mend bridges in the North.
In addition, Kerr said the idea of compensating Inuit in the form of financial reparations is something Greenpeace Canada would consider, though no dollar amount has been discussed.
“We are willing to have those conversations. Certainly there is no fundraising and there has not been any fundraising on the anti-sealing campaign for a long time… but we would certainly be open to having the conversation.”
Kerr said Greenpeace’s anti-sealing campaigns were meant to target the commercial seal industry and not Inuit, but said they now acknowledge that some Inuit participate in the commercial seal industry.
“We understand that some of the products of [Inuit hunting seal] will be used for commercial uses and we will accept that and we will respect that.”