The Governor-General of Canada, Michaëlle Jean, traveled to Nunavut last week to celebrate the province’s 10-year anniversary. In Rankin Inlet, she participated in an Inuit ceremony where she ate a piece of raw seal heart. She was asked whether her consumption of the seal heart was supposed to send a message to the EU, which recently banned the importation of seal products. She responded, “Take from that what you will.” She later remarked, “My motto is breaking down solitudes… It provoked, I think, a big discussion in the country. And I think that is part of some new awareness… I hope it is.”
Reactions to her consumption of seal varied markedly. National Inuit leader Mary Simon remarked in a press release, ““To us, this kind gesture is an acknowledgment by the Governor-General of our culture and our dependence upon our wildlife as an important resource for our communities today.” On the contrary, an official from PETA was stunned “that a Canadian official would indulge in such bloodlust.”
In any case, the Governor General’s trip wasn’t just to publicize the Inuit way of life. She is also pushing for the creation of an Arctic university. In addition, her trip underscored the importance the Canadian government places in Arctic sovereignty. All the way back in 1956, while flying over the North Pole, Governor-General Vincent Massey dropped a small metal canister that held a message written in several languages saying, “This is ours.”
The event was also supposed to promote Canadian consumption of Inuit products to boost the indigenous economy. The Governor General was also served “muskox ribs, Arctic char, goose, and caribou.” Coincidentally, the New York Times happened to post a recipe for Arctic char a few days later. Seal, however, might still be a ways off from the Dining pages of the NYT.
“Governor-General applauded, denounced for eating raw seal,” The Globe and Mail
“In relishing seal heart, Jean showed grace,” The Globe and Mail
“EU’s hypocrisy over seal heart hard to swallow,” The Star Phoenix