Cree trappers can breathe a sigh of relief. The proposed European ban on fur imports will not apply to Native people, according to a recent decision by the European Union.
The decision is a result of lobbying by Deputy Grand Chief Kenny Blacksmith and Cree Trappers Association vice-president Thomas Coon, among others. The European Union had intended to ban fur imports from all countries where the leghold trap in used, including Canada.
Since 70 per cent of Native fur is sold in Europe, the ban would have had a serious impact on Native trapping.
A new regulation adopted by the European Union says the ban “shall not apply to pelts and goods manufactured thereof resulting from trapping activities carried out by indigenous peoples.”
Blacksmith commented, “The European Union is to be commended for the important step in recognizing the validity of our concerns.”
He pointed out that Cree trappers seldom use the leghold trap, preferring the non-leghold Conibear trap. He also praised the European Union for including Native people in talks on coming up with humane trapping standards.
“The really promising thing is that indigenous peoples were exempt from the process before but were greatly affected by resolutions that bodies like the European Parliament undertook.
Today, aboriginal peoples are going to be included in the on-going process in helping to determine the guidelines for humane trapping. This will allow us to have greater control of our future.”
Blacksmith said there is a possibility of a label recognizing that the furs are Native in origin. “This opens up a wide range of possibilities for Native trappers. I mean how do we promote what could be a niche market? How would we sell in Canada, Europe or even Asia?”
Blacksmith commented on the six Native designers working with fur, and said Crees and other Natives have to look at a stronger role in the fur market.
“Our people trap the raw product and they’re the ones who get the least amount of money. Maybe we should be looking at tanning and even manufacturing. Let’s not be scared of the possibilities. For too long we’ve been content to just trap. That’s worked in other peoples’ favour. We should be looking for more, a part of the fur market that’s larger than in the past. I feel we can do this and maintain our conservation of the land. The respect for the principles involving the land and the animals would be maintained,” he said.
Blacksmith went on to say that more work has to be done with Canada to reconcile the differences in approaches to dealing with the fur ban. “Canada has to be willing to work with Natives concerning the trapping