TORONTO — A heartfelt video by an Iqaluit teenager has sparked a social media campaign against talk show host Ellen DeGeneres that conflates the commercial seal hunt on Canada’s east coast with the rights of Inuit people to hunt seals in the north.
On March 23, Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss posted a YouTube video entitled “Dear Ellen” in which she explains the importance of seal hunting to people living in Canada’s north.
“We do not hunt seals, or any animal for that matter, for fashion,” explained Enuaraq-Strauss. “We hunt to survive.”
The 17-year-old recorded the video after learning that DeGeneres gave half of Samsung’s $3 million donation for her Oscar night “selfie” to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
“Having a role model to people worldwide use a photo of a few celebrities to protest against our culture, to raise money to fight against us — I’m a little bit insulted and hurt and disappointed,” said Enuaraq-Strauss.
She quotes a three-year-old post on DeGeneres’ website that calls seal hunting “one of the most atrocious and inhumane acts against animals allowed by any government.”
Enuaraq-Strauss said: “Personally, I was hurt. I understand fighting for what you believe in — that’s exactly what I’m doing right now.”
BELOW: Watch the video “Dear Ellen” by Killaq Enuaraq-Strauss
In a Facebook post on March 26, Inuk filmmaker Alethe Arnaquq-Baril condemned DeGeneres for supporting HSUS, “which acts against seal hunting.”
Referring to DeGeneres’ statement from 2011, Arnaquq-Baril wrote: “My heart broke.”
“Ellen cannot know how she is hurting us if we don’t let her know,” she continued. “We can’t blame her for only having the animal rights group’ point of view if we don’t reach out to let her know how we’re affected!”
In fact, neither DeGeneres or the HSUS have opposed the right of Inuit people to hunt seals.
The 2011 post by DeGeneres that Enuaraq-Strauss and Arnaquq-Baril quoted urged fans to donate to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an organization that opposes the East Coast commercial seal hunt, not “native people who truly have no choice but to hunt in order to survive.”
Late last week, tweets aimed at DeGeneres appeared with the hashtag “sealfie.”
The hashtag appears to have originated in a March 25 tweet by Yellowknife journalist Leila Beaudoin, who was promoting a story she did about a Newfoundland artist who created a seal fur portrait of DeGeneres.
Beaudoin told The Telegraph she is disappointed #sealfie has been hijacked.
Canadian environmental activist Paul Watson pointed out Saturday “there has never been a protest against the Inuit for killing seals” and he suggested the #sealfie campaign has been exploited by supporters of the commercial hunt that DeGeneres, HSUS and PETA actually oppose.
“I’m not falling for the charade,” Watson wrote on his Facebook page, “and I’m sure Ellen DeGeneres is not impressed with this embarrassing propaganda that exploits native women to defend the butchery done by white men.”
DeGeneres could not be reached for comment and the star has not publicly acknowledged the #sealfie campaign.
In December, actress Pamela Anderson and The Simpsons co-creator Sam Simon called on the Canadian government to end the commercial seal hunt but said native people should be allowed to hunt.
Still, while most of the #sealfie tweets seem to be in defence of the commercial seal hunt off Newfoundland and Labrador, many are about the Inuit hunters DeGeneres has not, in fact, opposed.