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Ministers press EU to rethink seal ban Add to ...

Ottawa is launching a last-minute campaign to persuade the European Union to back down from its plan to ban Canadian seal products.

"We've put a full court press on this," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said yesterday.

"I've asked our ambassadors as well as our officials to go out and have them reconsider this position. I think it's extremely vital for Canadians, extremely vital for the Northern communities, and everyone who of course receives a kind of revenue from ... the seal hunt."

European parliamentarians are set to vote as early as today to approve a motion that would curtail the sale of many Canadian seal products. The ban was widely endorsed by the EU in May, but needs a final parliamentary nod of approval and a series of regulations before it takes effect this fall.

Pelt prices have plunged in anticipation of the ban.

Since the EU's parliament has gone through elections since then, Mr. Cannon said there is an opportunity to plead Canada's case anew, and to show European politicians that their arguments are based on wrong information about the seal hunt.

"It's not done in a cruel fashion," he said. "It's not done in a cruel way. It's done according to standards and norms that have been acknowledged internationally."

The ban would exempt seal products from Inuit or aboriginal hunts, but Ottawa argues that the only thing the European measures would accomplish would be to hurt the livelihoods of all Northerners.

"We are particularly concerned that no one in the European Union has listened to the Inuit on this matter. This misinformed and ill-considered regulation will strike at some of Canada's most vulnerable communities," International Trade Minister Stockwell Day and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said in a press release.

The ministers plan to hold a news conference this morning to make another plea to the EU. Ottawa has said in the past that a European ban would prevent Canadian seal exporters from using Europe as a fashion hub, and a stop-over on their way to bigger markets in Russia and China.

The federal government has taken steps to challenge the ban through the World Trade Organization, and will pursue its case if the EU proceeds, the ministers said.

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