OTTAWA - A federal official says Canada's decision to hold the meeting of G7 finance ministers and central bankers in Iqaluit later this week is not intended to prove a point about the cultural and economic importance of seals in the North.
The unusual location for the meeting, especially in the middle of winter, has raised some eyebrows abroad and resulted in shortages in both accommodation and flight availability.
A senior finance official, speaking on background in advance of the meetings on Friday and Saturday, insisted that Canada is not trying to gain support for the seal hunt, and he stressed Ottawa has received no concerns from anyone attending the meeting about the issue of seals.
Europe is in the process of placing a ban on seal products, but G7 officials from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Italy, will be confronted with the fruits of the controversial seal hunt at every turn.
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will not try to lobby the European ministers about lifting the ban, the official said.
Saturday night's community feast will include seal meat, some of it served raw in the traditional manner, along with Arctic char and other local and imported foods.
The ministers and bankers will also be sitting on seal-skin upholstered chairs at their meetings in the Nunavut assembly and they will be given seal-skin mittens and vests as parting gifts.
The official said the choice of Iqaluit was made to get officials away from the big city atmosphere so they could discuss some of the financial and economic problems facing their and the global economy frankly and openly.
The business part of the meetings will take place Saturday morning, when officials will tackle financial system reform, the need to address China's undervalued currency, when and how nations should move to deal with mounting deficits and Haiti reconstruction.
Unlike past G7 meetings, there will be no concluding written communique detailing the agreements issued. The meetings will end early Saturday with literally a fireside chat when officials can bring up whatever issues they want.
The finance official said the intent is to return the G7 to its original informal roots, and noted that dignitaries are being asked to wear sweaters, not suits and ties.