Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today about things that are really dear to my heart.
I grew up on a farm in central Alberta. I've hunted and fished since I was big enough to carry a BB gun and harass the sparrows and starlings in the yard. For the past 30 years, I've made my living in the wildlife industry as a professional guide and now as an outfitter. I've also dedicated many hours and dollars to conservation in one form or another, belonging to different organizations and going to meetings.
Recently, we spent quite a bit of time working with the Government of the Northwest Territories on a stakeholders Wildlife Act advisory group, or SWAAG, developing, drafting and tweaking the new Wildlife Act. It's finally done, after about 10 years of trying, and I think it is in large part due to the foresight of the minister to establish SWAAG and take to heart the concerns of the third party interests in the Northwest Territories.
I think we all understand and know of the deep-rooted relationship between hunting and fishing and the aboriginal cultures in the north. But in the Northwest Territories, there really isn't a big difference between NWT aboriginals and resident hunters. Hunting, trapping, and fishing have been part of northern culture from day one. It really was the trapping industry that opened up the doors to the north.
In most aboriginal cultures, hunting and taking the life of an animal is seen as a spiritual event. In many of the cultures it's a part of the right of passage into manhood. If you are not proven proficient as a hunter you can't provide for your family, and you are not allowed to marry and enter into the state of manhood. There is a deep-rooted aboriginal connection to the land, to the animals that live on the land, and to hunting and fishing.
I would like to challenge you a little bit today. I've spent pretty much my whole life in the mountains. As I said, I have dedicated countless hours and lots of finances to conservation and the preservation of habitat. I believe I have the same connection the aboriginals do. Why would it be any different? When you live on the land I believe you become part of it and you still have that same connection.
I had a good friend who was a fellow outfitter in British Columbia, he was a member of the Tahltan first nation and his name was Fletcher Day. He's gone now, but I remember one time he said to me, “Harold you have every bit as much right to hunt and fish in this country as I do. You just haven't fought hard enough for that right.”
I've thought about that many times and I wish it were true. I wish my right to hunt and fish were entrenched in our constitution; it isn't, but I wish it were. I really do believe that it is something that has been part of how Canada came to be Canada. Hunting, fishing, and trapping were part of what made Canada what it is today. Why isn't it my right as it is an aboriginal's right?
My good friend Ken Hall, who has sat with me on the SWAAG committee in Yellowknife for the past couple of years, wrote, “The cultural significance of hunting to my family is as important as it is to any other culture in the NWT, including aboriginal people. We hunt for the same reasons: for food; to practice traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation; to teach our children respect for and appreciation of the land; to learn about and to commune with nature.”
Ken is not an aboriginal person. He is a third-generation Northwest Territories resident, and he feels very strongly that it is every bit as important to him culturally and socially to be able to hunt and fish as it is to anybody else in the Northwest Territories.
I think it's really hard for those of you who have never hunted, who have never taken the life of an animal and seen the life blood flowing on the ground, to understand the spiritual connection you have with that animal, to understand that it is really an emotional thing that happens. As an outfitter, you'd be amazed how many of the hunters tear up and cry when they are successful in taking an animal.
People think of hunters as being macho guys who are out there to murder and slay, but for the most part I find the opposite is true. Most hunters get very emotional when they take an animal. I believe that somehow there's a spiritual connection, which is maybe not even understood, when you take the life of an animal and it provides for you. That is what hunting originally was, to provide for the needs of feeding your family. I think that connection is the reason that hunters have always taken the lead, and probably always will, when it comes to conservation.
I'm sure that by now all of you have heard about and are familiar with the North American conservation model, the success story it has been, and I think given the opportunity will continue to be. Hunters and fishermen, and even to some extent trappers, have taken the lead historically when it comes to conservation. Had it not been for this North American conservation movement, initiated and driven by hunters, we wouldn't have the wildlife that we do today in North America.
This probably doesn't pertain as much to the very far north as it does to the settled areas of Canada, but I think it would be very true everywhere. If hunters hadn't led that charge, we wouldn't have the wildlife that we do today. Because of that, I think it's crucial that we try to somehow entrench the rights of Canadians who choose to hunt and fish. I do believe they will continue to be the driving force who make sure we have wildlife, and habitat for that wildlife, for many generations to come.
I think this is a lesson we can learn well from the Kenyan example. Some of you may be familiar with Kenya. In 1977, all hunting was banned in Kenya. We won't mention names, but it was basically a bribe by a large British corporation to the government of the time, offering them money in exchange for outlawing hunting.
Today those large species of wildlife in Kenya have seen as much as an 80% decline in numbers. There are 70% to 80% of those large wildlife populations gone, which putting a stop to hunting was supposed to preserve. Most of the experts in Kenya today feel that within 20 years those large species will be extinct. Those large mammal populations will be completely extinct. There is a large movement developing in Kenya today to reinstitute hunting to try to save the wildlife of Kenya.
That's the story of the North American model. That's the story of the history of hunters when it comes to conserving wildlife. Hunters are the rubber on the road when it comes to conserving our wildlife, and I think that's true in many cases around the world. I really do believe that a carefully regulated, well-managed, sustainable harvest of wildlife is one of the best tools we have at our disposal for the conservation of wildlife and ensuring that we have both habitat and wildlife for many generations to come.
There are many challenges. I've been involved in wildlife management at several different levels, and it is very complex. One of the biggest obstacles that I see is the urbanization of our society and the disconnect between the urban masses and the land and wildlife. How do people who grew up in a city, who have never had any connection to the land, have any knowledge of wildlife, of conservation, of management? Yet with the way that we govern wildlife in most of Canada today, they have an equal say in the management of that wildlife. I see that disconnect as being problematic.
Everybody is really passionate about wildlife, whether it's me, as a hunter or whether it's an animal rights activist. There's a lot of passion, and it's hard to separate the passion from the science. Today in Canada, most wildlife management is done by government bureaucracies. I think most of us know that sometimes government bureaucracies aren't the best way to do things. They can get very weighted down and become ineffective. I can tell you lots of stories about the inefficiencies of wildlife management.
However, we have opportunities to maybe have a look at that. In the Northwest Territories, under the land claims process, co-management boards were set up. Wildlife management is a shared responsibility between these co-management boards and government, between science and traditional knowledge. I think that's something we are going to have to look at in this country to balance out the polarization that happens between animal rights and activists—
The rest of my presentation is pretty much statistics. If you have the notes, we can look at them. I would say, if I don't have time to go over them all with you, we really do look at hunting and fishing as the economic engines in the Northwest Territories. At times, when the oil field moves out of Norman Wells, about the only new dollars that come into town, other than government meeting dollars, are from the hunters. It is part of of many of the communities and part of the economic engine that drives the local economies in the Northwest Territories.
Most of the numbers are in my speaking notes. I have found some new numbers. The trapping, for instance, in the NWT, under the land claims, is exclusive to aboriginals. It has declined over the last 20 years, but recently the Government of the Northwest Territories has done some very forthright and visionary programs to improve the trapping participation. Last year they had record numbers, 30-year-high numbers, of fur taken and the value of fur was up to about $2.7 million.
Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Grinde, and thank you for making your notes available. They are available in both French and English and all of our members have them.
I would be open to a motion by someone to include the rest of Mr. Grinde's written statement into his verbal one, and that would be part of the record.
An hon. member: I so move.
(Motion agreed to)
Statement by Mr. Harold Grinde: On NWT hunting and fishing statistics, 40% of NWT people hunt and/or fish today. It's basically unchanged since 1983. About 45% of aboriginals hunt or fish, compared with 33% of non-aboriginals.
Today there are about 1,250 licensed hunters in the NWT, or 3% of the total population. It is important to remember that aboriginal hunters do not need to be licensed, so 1,250 licensed hunters represents about 6% of the non-aboriginal population of the NWT.
There's been a downward trend, from about 2,000 licensed hunters in the 1980s. This trend is, in part, due to a loss of opportunities for resident hunters—parks, protected areas, land claims, and the barren ground caribou season closures.
According to the 2012 Canadian nature survey, NWT residents spent $19 million on hunting, fishing, and trapping activities during the previous 12-month period.
Trapping statistics are hard to come by for the NWT. Trapping is exclusive to aboriginals under current land claims. Trapping is and has always been a traditional activity for many northerners. Trapper numbers have declined since the1980s from about 2,500 active trappers to about 750 active trappers today. Non-aboriginals can be granted special harvesters licences to trap by claimant groups, but today there are very few non-aboriginal trappers in the NWT. Many would like to trap, but do not have the opportunity. Hopefully, this will change over time and more of the abundant fur resource can be utilized.
Non-resident hunting, or outfitted hunting, in the NWT has always been a significant part of the NWT economy, especially in local communities. There has been less revenue from outfitting in the past five years because of a decline in barren ground caribou, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife ban on the importation of polar bear, and new national parks initiatives.
Outfitting was established in the Mackenzie Mountains in 1965, and hunter numbers and harvest levels have been very consistent since then. Eight outfitters in the Mackenzie Mountains contributed $1.8 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the NWT in 1996, according to the Crapo report in 2000, including meat valued at $200,000 contributed to local communities. This would convert to about $6.5 million today and meat valued at $750,000.
The Crapo report emphasized that the revenue generated by the outfitters is “export revenue”.
Outfitters are really the main resource for wildlife population data in the mountains through hunter observation forms and harvest data.
I could not find any current data on outfitting in the rest of the NWT. The big barren-ground caribou outfitting lodges are all shut down today. At one time they were a huge part of the NWT economy.
The guided fishing sector is a multi-million dollar industry in and of itself, but no hard numbers are available. There were as many as 13,000 fishermen coming to the NWT in 2007, but that declined to about 9,000 in 2009, and is now stable.
The Chair: Also, Mr. Grinde, if you care to, in response to some of the questions, you may include some of the rest of your—
No, absolutely not. In the Northwest Territories, you're right; our association, AMMO, has had a scholarship program. We have actually helped send many of those people to school, encouraging them to get involved. I really believe that the system in the Northwest Territories, bringing those people into the programs, is a wonderful part.
There are things that will improve over time. It's the same with the co-management boards. They are a work-in-progress. They're fairly new. They're learning their niche in wildlife management, but it will come full circle. It will become an effective method of wildlife management.
But no, I believe the native peoples, the local peoples, who are going into these programs in the Northwest Territories are wonderful. Sadly, I think their level of education when they enter these programs is.... Part of our scholarship program is an essay. Some of them had not been Word-trained to correct the spelling, and would have been almost hard to follow—
Mr. Dennis Bevington: Well, that's kind of a—
Mr. Harold Grinde: But still, they learn. Once they get in these programs and they see that they have a career, and it's a career that they have an interest in, they do very well.
For aboriginal communities, especially, it would be devastating to their local economies. Our aboriginal communities are trying to learn to live in a modern society. Most of the kids today don't have a really close connection to the land because they live in a village, not on the land. There are a few, in the Northwest Territories, such as Colville Lake.... Almost all of the young people in Colville trap. It is the biggest economic engine they have.
Even where non-aboriginals are allowed to trap, trapping is done in as humane a method as possible today, which is regulated by law in Canada. It is also done under a sustainable management regime. Fur is probably the greenest form of clothing that we can wear, as far as that goes. It is a completely environmentally friendly, renewable resource. I see people who want to ban trapping as animal rights activists. I struggle with that. I know that is the polarization we talked about. How do you balance it?
If we have a sustainable harvest, the populations thrive under a certain amount of use. The economic activity that it brings, the tie that it brings between the people and the land is invaluable. If it weren't for that tie, I don't believe our aboriginal peoples in the north would be so dead set against development. In the Northwest Territories, every big corporation that goes out there to try to do anything struggles to get a permit in place. I think the biggest reason for that is that tie they have to the land.
It's no different for me. The last thing in the world I want is somebody to come out and start some big mine in my hunting area. I love that place. I love that land. I would fight tooth and nail against that to the best of my ability. I don't have much ability, but....
I really believe that it is exactly like the Kenyan example. If we were to outlaw trapping in Canada, then of what value are those animals and that land to the people who occupy the land? Therefore, we would just see more development and animals being totally wasted because they become a nuisance.
Thanks also to you for your presentation, Mr. Grinde.
Thank you for being part of our work and for providing us with your testimony. Unlike my friend Dennis Bevington, I am no expert on the Northwest Territories. So we are lucky that he is one of us, since he knows the region well, including the status of hunting and trapping in that area and in Canada. Although I am not an expert on hunting and trapping, the conversation interests me a great deal.
Earlier, you mentioned the importance that your organization attaches to conservation, both of habitat and of wildlife. You do important work in that area, in my opinion. You mentioned the conservation work of Ducks Unlimited Canada. When people from that organization came to see us, they talked about the conservation plan, specifically with regard to wetlands. They also mentioned the fact that a lot of organizations had submitted applications but that very few of them had been accepted and been able to receive funding from the government.
Do you know what is in the National Conservation Plan? It provides funding to support habitat protection.
Thank you. It's good to be here, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Grinde, I really enjoyed your presentation. You obviously know what you're talking about. As somebody who's had a gun in my hand basically since I was nine or ten, I appreciate that very much. My limit of trapping was live-trapping the odd racoon or squirrel that was getting at my bird feeders, but I appreciate what trapping does in this country and its history.
We were talking about young hunters and schools and what have you. I certainly support that being available to young people who want to understand what hunting and trapping does for the country, but I just want to point out that family traditions are a big part of it as well. I know this from my own, but I also realize that not every family grows up with hunting as I did.
I want to touch on the cariboo in serious decline. Hanging our hat on climate change doesn't get it. Climate has always changed; it always will. I would like your thoughts on....
In my part of the world, rabbits, for example, have a cycle. When the coyote and fox populations are up...and if there's disease, if they get overpopulated, they look after themselves. We haven't seen many fox in our part of the world for a few years; you'd see the odd one. But because the coyote numbers are down, the fox have come back.
Would you agree that in most animal species—in Canada anyway, and maybe in the world—there is that kind of cycle where the populations go up and down?