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Trappers in Saskatchewan have received an indefinite reprieve. Until recently, the European Union had planned to ban the import of fur of 13 animals from countries using the leg-hold trap. The implementation of this ban would have negatively impacted on Canadian trappers even though only a small percentage still use the leg-hold trap.
The ban has been on the books for more than five years and was to be implemented on January 1, 1997. Its implementation has been postponed on two prior occasions.
However, negotiations were held late in 1996 between Canada, Russia, the United States and the European Union. These negotiations resulted in the European Union's Executive Agency indefinitely lifting the ban on the import of fur products.
"The Commission agreed with the view that we've concluded negotiations with Canada and Russia to establish standards on humane trapping and that the ban on a European level should not go ahead," said European Commission spokesperson Peter Guilford.
The European Union's ban would have proven to be significant for the estimated 100,000 trappers in Canada. The European market accounts for approximately 75 per cent of the fur exported from this country. Of all the wild fur exported from Canada, only five per cent is harvested through use of the leg-hold trap.
The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) has opposed the ban since its inception. The FSIN maintained that banning Canadian fur products would significantly affect the economic position of Saskatchewan's Aboriginal trappers. Their numbers are estimated at 5,000.
To protest the European Union's ban, the Saskatchewan Indian Veterans Association (SIVA), in partnership with the FSIN and the Saskatchewan Government travelled to Europe in October 1996.
The delegation included FSIN Vice-Chief Allan Adam, Minister of Northern Affairs Keith Goulet, SIVA Grand Chief Howard Anderson and distinguished Aboriginal veterans.
The group met with government officials from the European Union. They reminded them of the role Aboriginal veterans played during World War II. "The European Union must be reminded of the role we played in protecting their freedoms and way of life," said Grand Chief Anderson at a press conference during the trip. "Now, we, in turn, need the support of their governments and peoples in protecting our economies and way of life."
Vice-Chief Adam stressed the FSIN's commitment to improving regulations with respect to trapping. "We have long been supportive of the historical trend to move toward more humane and practical traps. We also support the setting of standards on this goal."
In essence, the parties are now working to do just that. The agreement will see the establishment of more humane trapping standards that are acceptable to both the consumers and producers. The agreement will see a four-year phase-out on steel leg-hold traps. A padded version of the trap will be allowed.
The European Commission is confident that the fur ban will not be imposed. However, it will not become effective until the European Union Parliament votes on it. This vote is expected to occur in March 1997.