BRUSSELS - A EUROPEAN judge has refused to suspend a ban on the import of seal products in Europe, dealing a blow to Canada's Inuit hunters and fur traders, according to a ruling released on Thursday.

The European Union's decision to ban such imports angered Canada and prompted a legal challenge by Inuit groups from Canada and Greenland.
This new ruling by the European Court of Justice further 'disappointed' both Canadian sealers and Ottawa.

Judge Marc Jaeger rejected an argument made by the Inuits that the embargo on seal products would cause severe financial damage and raise the risk of suicide among youths in their communities.

The ban took effect partially on August 20 with a temporary exemption for Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), a native Canadian group, and 15 other plaintiffs who sought a freeze until Europe's top court makes a final ruling.

But Jaeger rejected the request, making it a total ban until the European Court of Justice decides on the legality of the prohibition. The European ban includes an exemption for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and indigenous communities for subsistence.

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