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Inuk singer says Facebook suspended her account over seal fur photo

Singer says fur prompted Facebook ban

Facebook is apologizing for suspending the account of award-winning Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq after she posted a photo of a sealskin coat.

Tagaq, who is from Nunavut, said she was notified that her account was being blocked for 24 hours after she shared a friend’s photo of a young man wearing the coat, along with the hashtags #eatseal and #wearseal.

Tagaq said Facebook emailed her late Thursday afternoon to apologize after she raised the issue on social media.

“They said one of their members ‘accidentally’ removed the post and banned me,” she wrote on Twitter. “Thx for supporting.”

Meg Sinclair, spokeswoman for Facebook, said the company is sorry for the mistake, which it did not explain.

“The enforcement action was made in error and we fixed it as soon as we were able to investigate,” she said in an emailed statement. “Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong.”

Tagaq, a longtime defender of the Inuit seal hunt, said animal-rights activists and others who criticize the hunt are hurting a traditional and sustainable livelihood.

“The Arctic is a vast place. Groceries are terribly expensive. Many live in poverty,” Tagaq wrote in a message to The Canadian Press from Nuuk, Greenland, where she was preparing for a concert.

“We have no other resources other than non-renewable energy. We need to export something. We need to live. To pay rent.”

Hovak Johnston, the woman who made the coat, said Inuit use every part of the seal and fur would be discarded if not used in coats.

“Inuit are really good with reusing stuff and not wasting and making sure that we try to use everything that is good for the environment —not something that’s plastic or synthetic,” Johnston said from her home in Yellowknife.

Johnston said she made the coat for her teenage son, who posted the picture on Facebook and had the picture reposted by Tagaq, a family friend.

Tagaq, who combines throat singing with elements of alternative rock and ambient music, won the 2014 Polaris Music Prize for her album “Animism.” She has sparred many times online with opponents of the seal hunt.

When she accepted the Polaris prize, she again challenged opponents.

“People should wear and eat seal as much as possible because, if you can, imagine an indigenous culture thriving and surviving on sustainable resources, wearing seal and eating it. It’s delicious and there’s lots of them,” she said in her acceptance speech.

“I really believe that if hipsters can make flower beards ‘in’, then you can do it with seal.”

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press

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