Re-Considering Market Development Approaches to Support Nunavut Inuit Priorities in the Seal Market




Keywords: Inuit; value chain; sealskin products; market development; local capacity; Canada; European Union; trade ban; provenance; self-determination


Seal hunting is a long-standing cultural practice for Inuit, who have also long participated in the commercial seal market. Inuit were negatively impacted by anti-sealing campaigns that resulted in international trade bans and subsequent market collapses for seal products. To improve market access for Inuit seal products, the Canadian government established the Certification and Market Access Program for Seals (CMAPS) to support export of Inuit seal products in European Union markets. In 2015, the Government of Nunavut became an Attestation Body under the EU Indigenous Communities Exemption, which enables the Government to certify Nunavut seal products for export into EU markets. To date, market development efforts have largely focused on supporting the export market for Nunavut sealskins, while less attention has focused on how such efforts impact the local value chain and meet the needs of Nunavut Inuit involved in the seal market. Focus group discussions with Inuit value chain actors in Iqaluit and Qikiqtarjuaq provide insight into the Nunavut seal value chain and explore perspectives of how government policies and programmes are meeting the needs of Nunavut Inuit. Findings revealed multiple gaps in the local value chain that have gone largely unaddressed due to a priority on export markets over the local value chain. These gaps limit export development opportunities and the ability for the seal market to adequately meet the needs of Nunavut Inuit and Nunavummiut alike. Collectively, this study demonstrates the importance of centralizing Inuit in economic development policies to support local economies and ensure Inuit priorities are met.