By Terry Audla
I have had the pleasure of many firsts since taking on the role of National Inuit Leader in June: Meeting with Ministers of the Crown; representing Inuit at the annual Council of the Federation gathering of provincial and territorial premiers; and in late July, my first television interview with political pundit Ezra Levant for his Sun TV program, The Source.
I would not have expected to find an ally in the ultra-conservative Levant. I’m sure we disagree on many things. But the TV host had recently travelled to Tuktoyaktuk and Inuvik, where he attended the Inuvik Petroleum Show, and evidently learned about the importance of country food to Inuit.
To “celebrity environmentalists” like Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson, wanted by Interpol at the time of our interview after fleeing house arrest in Germany, Levant championed the freedom to hunt, crying, “Fight them with facts!”
That is exactly what Inuit have endeavoured to do in our legal attempts to overturn a law banning the import of seal products to the European Union. And when it comes to firing back at jet-setting activists who fly into remote communities, destroying industries and incomes, and fly right back out again, we’ll take all the help we can get.
Levant told the audience about a woman he met in Inuvik who told him her family could eat for a year on the muktuk from a single whale. He asked to go out hunting with the family, but she said no, fearing the footage would simply become added arsenal in the propaganda war against the harvest.
“Here was an Inuit woman whose family has been living off the bounty of the sea for centuries and just eating her traditional food,” he said, “and she was condemned as if she was some evil woman, afraid to show me what was in her freezer.”
The TV host himself decried the “emotional pornography” used by animal rights groups: “You could show almost any industrial activity and get the same emotional impact.” He even embraced the actions of former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean, who, in savouring a piece of seal heart handed to her by NTI President Cathy Towtongie, helped many Canadians truly understand the Inuit connection to the land.
“I didn’t have much time for our last Governor-General,” said Levant. But her actions showed “that whatever we’ve done wrong in our history with Aboriginal peoples, we’re not going to forsake them now in their battle against European celebrities.”
This is our 100-mile diet and nobody has the right to take it from us. It is worth remembering, when we begin to feel pressure from animal activists and the like, that we are fighting them with facts, and we are winning allies at every turn.