I call the meeting to order.
This is fisheries and oceans committee meeting number 49, on Thursday, February 23. My name is Fin Donnelly. I'm in the chair for Mr. Simms today.
Welcome to our guests.
Good morning, everyone.
At the table, we have Mr. Long in for Mr. McDonald. We have the parliamentary secretary with us, Mr. Terry Beech. We have a full crew of helpful clerks and analysts here ready to go.
I'd like to welcome our guests.
We have the Honourable Céline Hervieux-Payette. We have MP Yvonne Jones from Labrador, and the very capable Mr. Scott Simms from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.
I believe the Honourable Hunter Tootoo will be joining us shortly.
Just as a quick outline for the meeting today, we'll be reviewing Bill , an act respecting national seal products day. We'll begin with witness testimony and then proceed clause by clause. Once we've dealt with this bill, we'll suspend for a few minutes and move to committee business, if that makes sense.
Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 2, 2016, the committee commences consideration of Bill , an act respecting national seal products day. The summary of the bill is as follows:
||This enactment designates May 20 as “National Seal Products Day”.
We'll move to clause-by-clause after we hear from our witnesses. Witnesses will have 10 minutes.
Senator, I give the floor to you for your opening remarks.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I was expecting to wrap this up, but I'm willing to start.
I would like to thank you and the clerk for inviting me, and the members for accepting my participation. Of course, this is a great day for me. I've been involved with this matter for quite a long time. I think we did everything, with both Conservative and Liberal governments, to fight to defend what is in fact a very legitimate activity of our people on the coast. Thank you for inviting me. I'm happy to sit with the other witnesses.
For all of you, as to how it started that somebody from Quebec, a senator, would fight for the seal hunters, I received a letter from an American woman—in fact, all the senators received that letter—who said that she would not holiday in Canada because we had seal hunting. To punish us, she was refusing to come to Canada. I said to her that if she had some spare time for a great cause, I would urge her on her side of the frontier to fight for the black people and to fight on other great causes, such as the death penalty, the gun question, and so on.
I replied to her, and Senator Prud'homme, who died recently, phoned me and said, “Do you mind if I give your letter to the media?” I told him that since I had sent it to 100 senators, it wasn't very confidential, so yes, he could do it. That letter made the front page of the papers, of course, since I was defending this activity.
Maybe you don't know, but in Quebec we have a very soft spot for the Magdalen Islands. For us, it's almost a little corner of paradise. If you ever go to those islands, you will see that you find yourself not in heaven, but in a place close to paradise. I've been there very often, and the population there is very warm.
Like any small island, they have fewer activities, so seal hunting is an essential component for them to make a living, after lobster fishing. They start their season with the seal hunt.
With that fact, I then realized that of course this was very important also on the coast of Newfoundland. I studied the matter. I took that very seriously. With an Inuit, I had my own experience of seal harvesting on Frobisher Bay—40 kilometres on the ice in -40°C temperatures. I can tell you that I really did what I would say was a very thorough study of the question, and of course I had meetings with the local populations up north. I had the feeling that, like in the Magdalen Islands, the seal hunt, wherever it was taking place, was, I would say, not only an important but a vital part of their activities during the year in making a living. For me, it was not about somebody who has a sport such as deer hunting There are not many people who live off deer hunting in this country, but for seal hunting I can tell you that it's an activity that is essential for the people on the coast and up north.
Then I was trying to find a way.... Then, of course, I had a reply from the animal rights groups, which in fact were using pictures that we had when I was a member of Parliament at the beginning of the 1980s, when we had a special commission studying this and of course banning the hunting of the white baby seals. They were using these pictures to raise millions of dollars. For one of the groups, the president of that organization was getting paid half a million dollars a year in salary. That's just to tell you how much money these people were making out of this question. After discussion with Premier Williams at that time, I thought that we could challenge the use of pictures that were 40 years old.
We were told by the lawyers in New York that there was no way we would win a case like that in the United States. It was not worth spending millions of dollars, because this would have cost millions of dollars. With sadness, we had to stop this activity.
Then these animal rights groups started to move around and go to Europe, Mexico, to Russia, to China with their campaign, trying to get all the other countries to side with the Americans in banning the seal hunting. As far as I'm concerned, the weight was very strong on their side in terms of publicity and advertising. Of course, they were using advertisements but they were using also some very well-known people, like Paul McCartney, Brigitte Bardot, who wrote to me a very bad, very hateful letter. That person, of course, never took care of her children, but she took care of the donkey that was living next to her. I was not very impressed with her intervention.
After that, the case was submitted to the World Trade Organization. We went there. The government went there twice, and at the end of the day, the World Trade Organization decided the ruling that nobody ever expected. It was almost a decision based on morality or ethics, saying that it was not ethical. As if it is ethical in Germany, where the hunting, mostly of deer, is an over $1-billion industry. People in Europe are big hunters in the various regions and so on. That's moral. But in terms of the seal hunting, from which people make a living, it was declared not to be an activity that could be done legally. Of course, they continued the ban of the selling of these products.
The idea of coming to ask for a day for the seal hunters is to at least give ourselves the possibility to recognize them, recognize them publicly with everybody in Canada. Luckily, Canadians are supporting this cause.
Since they have in Europe, on May 20, a day that they celebrate the sea and all of the products related to the sea, I thought, why don't we have our day? At the beginning, in my first draft, I had the words “sea and seal hunting”, but there was an amendment to my bill, which I did not oppose, because for me seal hunting was the main driving force of that bill. I just decided to support it.
I also thank my fellow colleague senators who approved the bill, and I thank Mr. Simms for becoming the sponsor on the House side. I hope that the House side will have the same, I would say, maturity as the Senate when it comes to studying a bill like this one to celebrate this small population who have a very tough life. It's a very tough activity. Not many of us would do that for a living. It's to salute their courage, and especially for the northern ones. Even though I know that Newfoundland and Magdalen Islands sealers are working hard, we have to remember that those who live in the north are in fact the guardians of the territory of Canada in making sure that we keep our presence there. This is an activity that is sustaining their presence in the north.
I urge you to support the bill. I am extremely happy to be at this point with the bill, and you can be sure that I will come to celebrate on May 20 or around that date, so that all Canadians can be proud of these citizens of our country.
I spoke to you in English because there are not many people from Quebec, or others whose first language is French, here this morning. I would have spoken to you in French if there had been a few more francophones. I wanted to talk to the new members who are studying this matter.
Mr. Simms is very familiar with that, but maybe not all of you are. As far as I'm concerned, I'm very proud that this came from the Senate, and that we made it to the House. I hope you will adopt the bill.
I don't know if I'll take that much time.
First of all, thank you, Chair.
There's not much I can add to the eloquent words of Ms. Hervieux-Payette. If you recall, I think we started this around the mid-2000s, 2004 or 2005, when I first came here. I was sent to Europe to combat what was then a Europe-wide ban on seal products. It was the Council of Europe; it wasn't the European Union at the time. Senator Hervieux-Payette was also involved in that, plus we had many discussions.
I want to acknowledge the people who fought that battle way back then, including the Honourable Loyola Hearn. He was a big part of that. We also had Raynald Blais, who was a Bloc MP from les Îles-de-la-Madeleine. He was a fabulous speaker on this, and of course, Senator, as you mentioned, Senator Prud'homme. God love him. He just passed away. God rest his soul. He had such a wonderful way of expression and a wonderful way of arguing. He stood in the Council of Europe in the chambers in Strasbourg, France, and basically lambasted everybody in the room who was against seal hunting and harvesting, because prior to that we had all sat down to a big meal and were eating foie gras.
Senator Prud'homme stood up in the chambers and started to describe how foie gras is made. I won't go into detail, to spare everybody, because lunch is approaching, but if you know anything about it, it's not really a particularly fun scene. Because of the way he described it, everybody there was in shock and horror about what they had just eaten. There was a great deal of irony, but this was something that we were frustrated with over time, and still. Unfortunately, that initiative came to fruition in the European Union.
Around that same time, I introduced a motion in the House to ban products from Germany. Let me explain. When the motion came to the legislature in France.... This was before the EU vote. They had wanted to ban all seal products. By doing that, it then went to Germany, and when Germany decided to go through with it, we had had enough and decided to play along and try to give back what was given to us.
You can understand a ban on products that are close to being extinct, but at the time, the harp seal population—and this is what they had focused on—was nowhere near extinct. It was a flourishing population, to the point where it had become a nuisance species, for lack of a better term, as part of the ecosystem. They put a ban in place based on the practice of harvesting the animal, which was the seal on the ice. It didn't look good. You get the idea. We've been through this before.
We decided to put a ban on German deer and boar products. By way of explanation, in Germany they harvest deer and boar for lederhosen, but it's an unregulated hunt. It's not as regulated as the seal hunt is in this country. Anyway, we put a motion in the House. The government of the day did not accept it. Foreign Affairs, I'm assuming, just went berserk over what we were doing, but we got our point across.
But that's not why I'm here today. I just thought I would give you that bit of background, because in the same spirit that May 20 is European Maritime Day, we're saying that we're celebrating the same principles as European Maritime Day, but with something that has been banned by the European Union, just to point that out once again.
I know, Senator Hervieux-Payette, we had great discussions, not just about seal products but about the harvesting of animals, period. I don't have an argument with someone who does not eat or wear animals. What can we argue about? They just do not believe in the killing of animals for consumption or for wearing, and so on. The irony is when someone complains about the cruel act of killing seals for consumption, and then turns around and goes through the drive-through at McDonald's and chews on a cow carcass. How did that animal die? That's what it comes down to.
I wanted to start with that because I wanted to illustrate the frustrations. This is where it comes from and that's what May 20 is about. But there's also history here. I'll go to my colleagues from the first nations, especially the Inuit, about how important it is to them. I want to also acknowledge my two colleagues here, especially Yvonne Jones, as we team up for the Newfoundland and Labrador component of this. Her family has a far greater history than mine but we certainly have a history.
As a reminder, one of the first reasons seals were harvested hundreds of years ago was to supply oil to the lamps in the streets of London, England. It's a true story. The irony of it is that they were one of the first places in the world to condemn the seal hunt. I'll leave it at that.
In Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador, there's a huge memorial to sealers. If you ever get a chance, you can google the Sealers Memorial statue. John Crosbie was a big part of that and also a great warrior for this cause.
There's a statue there of Reuben Crewe and his son, Albert Crewe. I congratulate Morgan MacDonald who created the statue. There's a young man and his father is surrounding him with a blanket, trying to keep him warm. These were two sealers from the SS Newfoundland who were caught offshore. There were two boats, the Newfoundland and the Southern Cross. One was stranded in the fog and couldn't get back.
Many of these sealers froze to death. When the weather cleared and they finally got out there, they found Mr. Crewe trying to keep his son warm and that's how they died. They perished right there. There is a statue there in their honour. It gives you an idea of what it means to our province.
We are next to what's called the front. There are two main areas for seal harvesting. The front has been there for hundreds of years. It's been a part of our tradition, not just for first nations and indigenous people but for the entire province. It's been a huge part of our history for so long that it's ingrained in us as a society, and it's a big part of our school.
Thank you for hearing us out. Thank you to Senator Hervieux-Payette for starting this, and for supporting us. Like her, I am not a sealer. I've been out there when sealing was done. I was too young for them to let me be involved because most of it is firearms now. They're much bigger than me. I'm not too efficient with firearms when it comes to hunting, so I let the experts deal with it.
I'll leave it at that and hear from my colleagues.
Thank you very much.
Thank you all very much. I thank you for the invitation to be here. I'm very happy to see Senator Hervieux-Payette here. I got to know her during her term at the Senate of Canada, and I certainly want to thank her for bringing forward this bill to the House.
I'm here to say that I support the bill and to ask all of you, through your connections in the House of Commons, to support it as well. We are recognizing not only the cultural significance of the sealing industry but also the economic importance of the harvest to the indigenous and rural coastal communities across Canada who depend upon it. I think the bill is very consistent with our government's commitment to renewing its relationship with indigenous people, as was outlined in the throne speech and by the current government.
I want to remind everyone here that the seal industry and the harvest itself is humane. It is a well-regulated and sustainable industry. Regardless of the “anti” propaganda campaigns that have been espoused very actively since 1970, this industry has always been a sustainable industry for indigenous people and for rural and coastal people in Atlantic Canada and on the Quebec shore.
I also want to say that this industry has become a sustainable industry not only for indigenous communities in past decades and generations. It continues to be a sustainable and very necessary industry for us in northern Canada, especially in the eastern Arctic and northern regions. Here I refer to Labrador and all of the Inuit Nunangat regions, which I'm sure my colleague MP Tootoo will speak to as well.
Today I want to focus on three main pieces. One is the cultural aspect of the industry. I will talk a little bit about the experience of my family and I, and the people I represent today, as it relates to this industry. The second piece I'd like to talk about is the havoc that our ignorance of the sealing industry is having on our ocean ecosystem in rural, northern, and Inuit communities across Canada, and the reasons that we should support a sustainable seal industry from an ecosystem perspective. Third, I'll speak very briefly about promoting this sustainable, humane, and cultural industry to the world, and the role of Canada in doing that. I will make some recommendations for your consideration.
First of all, I want to acknowledge and say thank you to your committee. I know that when you did the study on the recovery and the abundance of the Atlantic salmon, you did recommend a cull of the grey seal. That was a very smart, very wise decision on your part. It was not the first time limits were set around the harvest of grey seals, but I will tell you that past recommendations around the grey seal failed. One in particular involved 70,000 grey seals that were designated to be taken in the Maritimes. It never happened, simply because the Sable Island area became a sanctuary—where the seal population is growing rapidly and spreading—and the harvest never got implemented.
I just hope your recommendations at a political level will not fall on deaf ears at a bureaucratic level. In my experience of dealing with recommendations in the seal industry—I go back more than 20 years in politics, including as a former fisheries minister for Newfoundland and Labrador—I can honestly tell you that politicians can have the greatest intentions and the best recommendations, but once it leaves here, it takes an awful lot of hard work to penetrate a bureaucratic system that in my opinion has really bought into the messaging of the IFAW and the animal rights groups across Canada.
Remember, these are anti-use groups. They're not animal rights groups.
Their whole campaigns are built around reasons why we should not use species such as seals. It's not about protecting; it's about discouraging, fearmongering, and promoting false information. That's what we have seen from the Humane Society internationally, from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, and from PETA, whom we just had to deal with on another resolution in the House of Commons that once again would have been a direct attack upon the aboriginal people and the sealing industry in Canada.
We have to be very careful that we don't look at these groups as being animal welfare groups. They are really groups that are anti-use of animals. It doesn't matter how significant or culturally attached or historically attached that animal may be to our culture, their goal is to raise lots of money to pay themselves those half-million dollar salaries and to be able to fund a major wagon that spreads propaganda.
How do we counteract that? Most of us are small, rural, indigenous, isolated, northern communities that are trying to survive. We don't have the champions in governments to do this and to be a part of it. We are never going to be able to fight back.
I come from a family with a long history in the sealing industry. My grandfathers and my great-grandfathers were all part of the sealing industry. It was the one industry that sustained all of us. Today to have to grow up seeing that industry attacked has not been easy. I've been on the front lines of many protests against the IFAW, the Sea Shepherd, and all of those groups, both in Quebec and in Newfoundland and Labrador, because you do whatever you can to try to protect what is an inherent and cultural industry.
My father and my brothers continue—well, not my father; he has passed—but throughout their lives they continued to participate in the seal hunt as did generations of our family before, so did my mom and my grandparents. You can see the collar I'm wearing today. It was made by my mother, like all of her family members before her.
We had full utilization of the seal. Long before my time and Hunter's time, we burned oil in lamps. We know about that. Today the oil is here. We're not throwing away product. We wear the product. We use it. We market the seal oil. We eat the meat. Seal meat has become more and more a part of our diet as we've seen the loss of other animals like caribou, for instance. It has really taken over in our communities as the main source of protein. We're not going to change our diet because someone else tells us that we should not be killing seals.
These are the same people who will walk into the four o'clock cocktail reception and eat the hors d'oeuvres of chicken, veal, lamb, beef, and pork, and they think they just showed up on a tray. Well, they came from somewhere before they got on that tray. Those are the things that really bother me.
When I walk down the street, and I see a sign outside a store, as I did in Vancouver one day.... It was the Lush soap company, which I loved so much but which I boycott and will never shop at again. They had a sign outside that said, “Stop the seal hunt”, but the people walking in and out of that store were wearing leather shoes. They weren't all going in with runners. By the way, most runners are being made with leather too now, a lot of them. They were going in with leather shoes on, and this was the sign outside.
We used seal oil to make all of our soap for a very long time in our lives. We don't use it anymore because the oil is more valuable now in the capsule. By the way, these capsules—this is not just a product made in Hunter's riding or my riding or Scott Simms' riding. This product is made right across the country. The primary processing for seal is in Newfoundland and Labrador, and some of it is in Montreal, but the bleaching and deodorizing of all of it is done in Saskatchewan, and the capsulation is done in British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec, and Ontario.
One of these oils is rendered in Montreal, by the way, and the other one is rendered in Ontario. Most all of them are capsuled in British Columbia now.
Am I running out of time already, because I haven't even started?
Anyway, let me cut right to the chase.
On the ecosystem piece, I think what you have to remember about seal is this. Seals eat fish and they eat a lot of fish. Every year seals are consuming—and these are statistics from 1970—4,000 dollars' worth of fish every year. Since then, the Atlantic harp seal has grown to a population of 7.4 million animals, and today it eats 15 more times the fish than the entire east coast fishing fleet catches in shrimp, crab, and cod alone. In addition, right now it's estimated the seals are eating about $4.1 billion in Atlantic and northern fish stocks because of the overabundance out there. That's not fish that we're taking; that's fish being consumed by seals.
I think that there are a lot of changes that have to be made, and a lot of that direction has to come from the Government of Canada in supporting the industry, supporting the people who are in there, and ensuring that what is a great, sustainable, economic industry and cultural practice for Canadians is protected against all of this false information. We are not doing enough to protect the industry. Evidence will show that.
Even with the best intentions, if you go back to the last time the standing committee studied the seal in Parliament and recommendations went forward, I challenge you to find me one of those recommendations that actually got enhanced, because I believe to this day that not one of them got done. That's the problem that I have with a lot of this.
I know we're here to talk about holding a celebration and respect for the industry, but there has to be a lot more respect shown for the people who engage in this industry from a local perspective, and we have to do more to promote it internationally. When I hear of places like Russia and the United States banning seal products, it's absolutely amazing because they have mink farms and fox farms and they wear it every day. They're wearing leather shoes to work, but all of a sudden the seal has become taboo. It's become taboo because of those anti-use groups that are using it to make millions of dollars. Hollywood has done well by this industry. Our people have suffered.
I'll start off by saying that this is a little less nerve-racking than the last time I appeared before this committee.
[Witness speaks in Inuktitut]
Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to speak about the seal harvest, and in particular about the
I would personally like to thank committee members, and Mr. Simms for his work in supporting this act, and for inviting me to be here to speak with you today. I would also like to take this time to thank the many members of Parliament, including some who are on this committee, who have spoken out continually in support of this act in the House of Commons.
Last, but definitely not least, I would like to thank former senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who championed this initiative in the Senate in 2014, and whose hard work has led us here to this stage of the process today. Thank you.
The seal harvest is a crucial aspect of Canada's Inuit culture and livelihood, and it has been for thousands of years. The sad truth is that very few people truly understand the importance of this issue to Inuit. Many southern Canadians are aware of the seal fur market, and can understand how this could be beneficial from an economic standpoint. What people have difficulty grasping is the necessity of this harvest for sustenance for our communities.
Although the nutrition north program is well-intentioned, it's insufficient, and broken by the way. On that, I would like to say that I look forward to some positive changes coming soon.
Food insecurity is one of the biggest issues in Nunavut, where nearly 50% of the households experience it. What's worse than that, and deeply concerning, is that 60% of children are living in food-insecure households. Inuit rely on the seal for food. When a hunter returns to his community with a harvested seal, the food feeds his family and several others members of the community. It provides much-needed protein and vitamins, and allows the communities to survive. It also brings the community together, and this is the way it has always been.
Beyond the immediate use of seal as a food source, seal furs have traditionally been used as clothing to keep us warm in the winter months. Over the years, furs have become a commodity used to trade with merchants who travel the north, generating much-needed income for northern communities. The sale of seal products like fur, and the international commercialization of seal products led over time to economic sustainability, which allowed Inuit to continue to harvest seals and enjoy food security.
However, with the United States' Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted in 1972, and later, the European Union's ban on seal products, the market for seal products has slowly declined. As a result, the cost of and demand for our products has been driven down, diminishing profits from trade, and making the market non-viable.
This industry is small. It's important that we work together to ensure its success.
There are exemptions in the European Union ban that allow for the trade of seal products produced by Inuit in Nunavut. However, Inuit in several other regions of Canada, particularly those in northern Quebec and Labrador, are so far not part of this exemption. I would really encourage new partnering approaches from sealing organizations with those in these regions, in an effort to include them as well in taking advantage of and maximizing the indigenous exemption in the ban.
By limiting our ability to trade and sell products in an international market, a crucial revenue stream has been diminished, and Inuit now struggle to afford being able to go harvest seals. Harvesting seals is expensive. You have to buy equipment, fuel for snowmobiles and boats, and ammunition for your firearms. It's not cheap, especially in the north. With these harvesting costs and the increased costs of living in Nunavut, the need to generate income from the seal fur industry is needed now more than ever.
European animal activists groups initiated the mission to end the seal fur trade, and in doing so, a major source of economic growth was lost. To this day, they present false information regarding seal populations and the harvesting of baby seals.
This is very upsetting because this fraudulent sales pitch is done in an effort to gain monthly donations and is currently being used now even in China, a potential market for seal products. In reality, the seal population, as we've heard, has tripled over the last 30 years, and the current population of between eight and nine million could double by 2030. Also, the harvesting of baby whitecoat seals, as we all know, is illegal and hasn't been practised for almost 30 years.
There is also a European seal cull that surprisingly continues. They like to keep that one quiet. Over several years thousands of seals have been killed off the coast of the United Kingdom in an attempt to protect their fish stocks. This cull is much different than what Inuit and Canadian harvesters practise because the seals are not harvested. They're just killed, left in the water, and wasted. As you can imagine, this is frustrating for Inuit and Canadian harvesters to hear as European activists, some from Britain, initiated the anti-sealing hunt movement. I find it somewhat ironic and completely hypocritical that this cull is done with the intention of preserving a food source.
On this topic, I feel it's important that government continue to conduct research on aquatic populations, and science-based approaches must be practised to ensure that an increasing seal population doesn't deplete cod, salmon, and shrimp populations in Canadian waters.
To close, I think it's extremely important that Canada support this bill to promote seal products and reverse the current negative mentality towards this market. Enacting national seal products day will reinforce Canada's support for its cultural coastal communities. Speaking on behalf of the people of Nunavut and as a person who is aware of the industry in eastern Canada, this recognition is extremely important. It will strengthen the relationship between Canada and Inuit. It can contribute to the revival of a much-needed source of income for the Inuvialuit and those who have relied on it on the east coast.
With that, thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.
In honour of Mme Céline Hervieux-Payette, I will make my comments in French. Like our cousins on the Magdalen Islands, I speak Acadian French.
First, I am going to reveal something big to you: I am a vegetarian. I have been for 20 years, but it has nothing to do with raising or using animals. I was brought up on a farm, but I had to make some choices 25 years ago for health reasons. I have absolutely nothing against raising or using animals. I wear leather shoes and a leather belt. My car has leather everywhere. I am not opposed in any way to humans raising animals.
As Ms. Jones indicated, Atlantic salmon is in sharp decline in our home on Miramichi Bay. One of the reasons—and it is likely not the only one—is because of the grey seal population in the bay. We have an entrepreneur who is preparing to hunt that entire grey seal population, but he is facing a lot of resistance.
I wonder how that differs from the situations we were dealing with earlier, such as the Europeans who hunted foxes for pleasure and our American friends who love trophy hunting so much. Really, how does it differ from raising cattle on a ranch?
Why is there opposition, even today, to an entrepreneur wanting to work together with the First Nations in my region to hunt the entire grey seal population?
I would like to hear your comments about the matter.
It's a great honour for me to be part of this process. I strongly support this bill. As my Liberal colleagues on the witness list know, we all worked together to defeat Bill .
Many years ago, probably 30 years ago, I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called The Greatest Hunt in the World. It is a 1920s account of the seal hunt in Newfoundland, complete with photographs from an actual seal hunt. The hardships that the people put up with in order to hunt seals is staggering to me.
I've had my own experiences in the Arctic—for a prairie boy—on a seal hunt and on a walrus hunt. For Mr. Tootoo's benefit, I do know what an ujjuk is. Also, when I helped butcher a walrus, not only did I get the tusks, I got the oosik as well. Anyway, that will just be between Mr. Tootoo and I.
Mr. Tootoo was right on when he talked about the importance of the seal hunt. There was testimony to the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago, by Mr. Williamson, who talked about higher suicide rates in Inuit communities when the seal hunt was curtailed. This is not merely a game. This is very serious for people.
I come from a hunting community in the prairie region of Canada. Hunting is very much a part of my culture and way of life. Were I not able to hunt anymore, I'm not sure how I would be able to carry on. It is such an important spiritual activity for me and my constituents and my family.
The comments about the animal rights movement are spot on here, but I think we don't take them seriously enough, from the standpoint of them being deadly serious people. They're not funny. They're not nice. Ms. Jones made a very wise distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. We have to be very clear. One only needs to look at the websites of the animal rights groups, especially the ones who were supporting Bill . They want to see all animal use banned—all of it.
Again, from our side of the caucus anyway, I led the charge against Bill . One of the ways we were able to fight the animal rights movement was to build a coalition of all animal-use groups, and I strongly recommend that the seal industry be part of that. There is a group in the United Kingdom called the Countryside Alliance that protects and defends all animal use of all kinds.
One of the methods that we used as well in the fight against Bill , in order to bring the rest of society into this fight, was to point out that these animal rights groups want to see all animal-based medical research banned. The average Canadian may not be part of the seal hunt, but everybody knows somebody who has been saved by animal-based research. For instance, 60% of cardiovascular research is done on animals.
Again, my strong recommendation, from a strategic standpoint, regarding the sealing industry, is to protect and defend all animal use, and then the rest of the animal users will come to your aid as well. The seal hunt is not an isolated thing. Our colleague, gave a terrific speech in the House in support of this bill, and brought in the entirety of the movement to curtail all animal use.
I'm going to ask a bit of an uncomfortable question here, knowing that my Liberal friends, as witnesses, are truly friends. Recently, a Liberal animal welfare caucus has been announced, and that has some great concern for us. I guess it's a concern for you as well. Also, the said that animal welfare laws will be reviewed in the review of the Criminal Code.
I'll ask Mr. Simms this question. Do you see this Liberal animal welfare caucus as a source of trouble for us, those of us who want to protect and defend animal use? There are no guarantees, but can you assure us that the review of the Criminal Code will not in any way, shape, or form, affect traditional and accepted animal use?
I apologize for the long preamble.
It's all right. I'm guilty of it myself on occasion.
From my own point of view, I am concerned. Of course I am. Every time there is an animal rights or animal welfare group, no matter if it's our party or some other party, it always concerns me, given the fact that in my riding, as described by you, has a lot of hunting and not just as sustenance. There's also a cultural aspect to it.
I've been here 14 years, Mr. Sopuck, and I've been dealing with it. I'm always alarmed by some of the....
I understand if there are some Criminal Code changes that they may want in order to deal with domestic animals, domestic pets, and so on and so forth. If that's how they want to address that, that's fine. But I'm always the one to throw up the guard at the beginning and say let's not delve into what's perceived to be bad practices by people who for commercial reasons harvest animals and for cultural reasons harvest animals. My voice is only one of many, but it's a voice that I always put out there to defend, from a cultural aspect and a commercial aspect, the harvesting of any animals.
I'd like to point out that when I was in Europe, we successfully convinced rural politicians in Europe that when they brought it in that they would not want to harvest animals such as seals with firearms, they made a change, because all of a sudden they realized that back home, 90% of the hunt was done by firearms. We pointed out to them that if they outlaw the harvesting of animals, based on what they feel is cruel, with firearms, it will be all of these hunts for all animals. We overturned the vote. A lot of these of politicians turned back.
This deserves a lot of understanding on both sides, just going back to your animal welfare point.
I just want to say thank you to our guests today. I really enjoyed the testimony.
Obviously, as our colleague Mr. Sopuck mentioned, we are supporting this. I've already spoken on it as well. I support it wholeheartedly. We're a hunting and fishing family, always have been. We're first nations as well. Our freezer is filled with what we call “jumper”—a lot of deer, moose, and salmon. I'm not back there enough to actually get it, but I'm still trying to find a good source out here.
There are things that I wanted to bring up because there are concerns on this side with respect to our Liberal friends. Ms. Jones, you spoke very elegantly and passionately about the third party, the animal welfare groups that are there. We're seeing them increasingly have an impact on some of the decisions being made. Let's make no bones about it; they're the same groups. Regardless of the name, they're the same groups that are standing beside our government officials when we're making announcements about MPAs and how that impacts our coastal communities.
Both of you, and Mr. Simms, and the senator, would know how that impacts the livelihoods of our coastal communities, our first nations communities. There are decisions that have been made in Nunavut, recently, regarding, perhaps, the limiting of economic opportunities in Nunavut. We have a parliamentary secretary now who voted in favour of Bill , and I'm hoping that our Liberal colleagues who are here testifying had the conversation regarding the importance of this. Mr. Sopuck has mentioned the Liberal welfare caucus.
I want to know where your voice is when these groups are not just talking about the seal cull or stopping or banning seal products. Is your voice still as strong when they're talking about the MPAs, when they're putting forth the same groups that are influencing some of our government decisions?
Thank you for the question.
You know that old saying, “ignorance is bliss”. In this case, with these groups, it's not. Mr. Sopuck said they're not nice people; they're not funny. They're not. One thing they are, though, is ignorant. One thing that I always detest is people taking advantage of other people's ignorance, and that's what these organizations are doing in putting false, fraudulent information out there to get money from them, to take advantage of them, to take money. To me, that's fraud.
If you look at the Europeans, you see that they killed off everything over there in Europe. Now, they'll say, “Well, we have to save something so we'll come over here where there's still something to save”, without realizing the impact of it. It's the same with the Americans, with the whalers. They're the ones who came up and they were big on whaling, and they left garbage behind. They just took the oil; they left the bones. In 1999, if you remember, there were some whalebone marionettes that were sent to the States to get looked at by a professional puppeteer. They were confiscated at the border. Stuff that they would leave behind as garbage wouldn't even be let back into this country. I think it's important.
It's bills like this and folks like us that educate people to the reality of it, and not the myth that's being portrayed out there.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here in support of this bill today.
My colleague, Mr. Doherty, briefly touched on this, and I'd like to further the issue a little more. It's about who you choose to stand beside you in announcements or in support of things. I've witnessed this in my former role in a volunteer organization protecting hunters' and anglers' rights, and so on, with signing onto letters of support or in position of one thing. I found out that it only gave credibility to an organization that, on the next move, would be opposing your activities or trying to curtail your activities as a hunter and angler. I would encourage the government members here, as witnesses, to be very careful about who you have stand beside you on things such as the MPAs. We have concerns over the recent Pacific north coast integrated management area, PNCIMA, announcement.
I agree with Ms. Jones' statements that anti-use groups, as you call them, do have some purpose, but be very cautious about giving them credibility by having them stand beside you on issues you think you can agree on. They will only turn around to bite you, you know where, the next time you want to protect hunting, harvesting rights, angling rights, and so on.
The reason I bring this up is that I come from British Columbia, and we've had major opposition against bear hunts in B.C. I'd like to ask the members, Mr. Simms, Ms. Jones, and Mr. Tootoo, if you would be willing to stand beside our B.C. members who might be supporting our bear hunt in B.C. in the same way we are supporting your traditional seal hunt?
Let's break it down for a moment.
First of all, I can't comment on the bear issue to be quite honest with you. I don't feel I know enough about the issue, but if it goes against some cultural rights, I'd have great concerns about it—or what we feel would be cultural rights. We know we have many on the east coast, and therefore we always like to support them where we can.
Where it runs up against curtailing a hunt, it's probably more to do with conservation. That's where I get into that, which is why the seal harvesting issue is a frustrating one because it has nothing to do with the conservation of the species in a critical way, as it does in, for instance, the recreational cod fishery or the food fishery, as we like to call it. There are limitations on it, but those limitations have nothing to do with cruelty or anything of that matter. It's just a matter of conserving the species.
There are certain groups that I do not appear with. I'm going to be quite honest with you. The International Fund for Animal Welfare may say something that I agree with on occasion, but I will not pose with them because of the way they described the practice of what we believe is historically and culturally referenced as an act of barbarism. PETA, I don't know if I'd ever want to come within 50 feet of PETA because of the absolutely ridiculous methods by which they get the word out there. Dealing with fraud is what the Honourable Mr. Tootoo pointed out.
There are some groups, however, that I've had discussions about seal harvesting with. The World Wildlife Fund, I've had some good conversations with them. Greenpeace, there are some issues that we agree upon, such as the conservation of fish species that are at a critical stage, but I certainly wouldn't want to be a member of Greenpeace, given their history of what they've said and done regarding my region.
Let's get back to the review of the bill. In order to do this we have the very esteemed help of our legislative clerk, Mr. Philippe Méla.
We'll move through the clauses. We have to go to the title at the end, so we'll move through to clause 2.
Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of clause 1, the short title, and the preamble, are postponed.
(Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to)
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): Shall the preamble carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): Shall the short title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): Shall the bill carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): Shall the chair report the bill as we have just carried it to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): There we have it. Well done.
An hon. member: Do we know when it will be tabled?
The Vice-Chair (Mr. Fin Donnelly): My understanding is that it could be tabled as early as tomorrow.
Thank you again to our co-sponsors and to our committee.
We'll suspend for a few minutes, and then we'll come back to committee business.