The threat of the anti-harvest campaign to aboriginal peoples is an issue upon which the Government of Canada and all Canadians must take a stand, for the survival of Canada's aboriginal cultures is at stake. It is an issue that raises important, if uncomfortable, questions for us all.
Is it fair, decent' or reasonable that one society (a society that has the advantage of a mixed economy and many economic alternatives) is prepared to destroy another society (a society that has managed to survive for centuries on its single economic opportunity) because a few individuals have decided that taking life in order to live is immoral?
If the industry at risk affected the lives and livelihoods of 50 000 southern non-native Canadians and their families, or affected the economic future of the southern one-third of Canada rather than the northern two-thirds, would the Government of Canada hesitate to raise the profile of the issue? Would the Government of Canada waste time quibbling about core funding for groups working to protect their livelihoods?
Finally, how long will it take, and how far will the anti-harvest campaign move away from issues of management and conservation, before conservationists themselves are willing to act? Let us hope that Georges Erasmus was merely making a joke when he said, "Today it's fur; tomorrow it's your leather shoes."
Shelagh Jane Woods is Policy Advisor for the Canadian Arctic Resources Committee. Since January 1985, CARC has worked with Indigenous Survival International to protect and promote the traditional livelihoods and cultures of northern aboriginal peoples.