The official chef for the parliamentary restaurant in Ottawa, Judson Simpson, has decided to advance the cause of Inuit culture, and the Canadian seal harvesting industry, by introducing seal meat to the menu. Michel Guimond, Bloc Quebecois MP, made the original suggestion that the restaurant should add seal as a show of support for the Inuit and the industry. The industry in particular is under attack by the European Union at the behest of animal rights groups.
The menu change had to be approved by an all party board that overseas the bylaws and budgets of the capitol complex. It remained just a suggestion, however, until the chef himself made the decision.
MPs from Newfoundland and Labrador, where seal harvesting is an important industry, applauded the chef’s decision. Gerald Keddy, a Conservative MP, said he has eaten seal meat numerous times. He is something of a connoisseur. “My preference is ringed seal out of the High Arctic. That is the tastiest of them all. Next to that, the grey seal is fine, not a thing wrong with that,” he said.
While the exclusive restaurant is only open to MPs, cabinet ministers, journalists, staff members, and their guests, the symbolism of the move is significant. It validates the human consumption of seal meat by Canadians. Last May, Canada’s Governor General, Michaelle Jean, referred to as “the badass Governor General,” provoked an international controversy when she ostentatiously ate some raw seal heart during a visit to an Inuit community in Nunuvut Territory. She was displaying her support for the Inuit culture, where hunting seals is an important part of their tradition. Seal meat is still included in the diet of the Arctic people.