Mining symposium apologizes to guests offended by keynote speaker's view on whale hunting

The organizers of the Nunavut Mining Symposium are apologizing to guests after a keynote speaker offended some people at Wednesday night's gala in Iqaluit.

Patrick Moore, who says he's a co-founder of Greenpeace and calls himself the "Sensible Environmentalist," spoke at the annual symposium's gala dinner. (Greenpeace disputes this claim, saying Moore "exploits long-gone ties with Greenpeace to sell himself as a speaker and pro-corporate spokesperson, usually taking positions that Greenpeace opposes.")

Moore's opinions about whale hunting hit a sour note in the crowd.

Moore told attendees that people should stop hunting whales, which is a common traditional practice across Nunavut, where Inuit hunt for a variety of the species to be used for food, clothing, tools, etc.

Moore realizes people were offended by the comments, but says he's entitled to his opinion.

"Whales are the only species on earth that have brains which are larger than humans," he told CBC.

"They are a wonderful species, they're a social species, they speak to each other. They have incredible abilities. And so I have come to see them as the people of the sea."

Moore said he has no intention to advocate against Inuit hunting whales; he said he simply hopes that hunters will consider phasing the practice out.

"I respect the rights of Aboriginal people to hunt them if that's what they want to do," he said.

"But on the other hand, in a modern world... we have all these other alternatives, and surely the seal and the caribou and the fish in the environment provide sufficient sustenance for people who want to continue hunting.

"It used to be necessary for the Inuit to take whatever they could," he said. "It isn't necessary anymore."

'Sincere apologies' to guests

Since his speech, Moore says he's taken to Twitter to explain his beliefs on the matter.

One person tweeted that Moore was booed during his presentation, calling it "cute" that a "white dude told a room full of Inuit that the whale hunt should not happen."

For its part, the Nunavut Mining Symposium distanced itself from Moore's comments.

It released a statement Thursday extending "sincere apologies to our guests who were offended by Dr. Moore's comments."

"Some of the views expressed by Dr. Moore are not reflective of our views, or the views of any of the sponsors," the statement said.

Moore is standing by his beliefs though.

"Someone said to me that I had no right to have an opinion about what Aboriginal people are doing," he said.

"But that's not true. I have a free speech right."

Clarification : This story has been updated to include comment from Greenpeace regarding Patrick Moore's claim to be a co-founder of the organization. (Apr 10, 2017 12:43 PM)