moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I know that as a former minister of fisheries and oceans, you spent a lot of time on this issue, and I thank you very much.
The bill for a seal products day was sent to committee for discussion. I noticed during the meeting that it was as much about the culture of my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador as it is about the indigenous community across this country, particularly the Inuit of the north.
I am honoured to have my esteemed colleague from seconding this bill. She represents the greater part of the province. I want to thank her for her participation at the committee meeting.
I want to thank also the member for . He gave a passionate speech at committee about his cultural and traditional ties with seal products in regard to art, food, clothing, and ceremonial purposes.
I recall the unveiling of a memorial in the town of Elliston some time ago. In the town of Elliston, the Sealers Memorial depicted how the massive hunt took place several hundred years ago on a very large ship. It was a large commercial hunt that began for several reasons. It was not just for the skins and the fur to keep warm, but also for the oils for fuel and so on, because in those days petrochemicals were not what they are now, so seal oil played a far greater role in society.
As I mentioned in the first part of my debate, the seal oil was shipped back to the United Kingdom, where it was used to light the street lamps in London. That was one of its first uses. It is ironic, of course, because London is where the genesis of the protests against it started. No offence to Londoners, and no reflection on the beautiful city of London, but nevertheless, it is a reflection on the issue that some people have over there.
Incidentally, the day that we are proposing matches up with the European Union's Maritime Day. I want to thank Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who was the genesis of this particular bill. I give her credit for several reasons, one of which is that she chose the date in line with Maritime Day in the European Union.
Members may recall that around that time, the European Union instituted a ban on seal products because of the cruel nature of how we harvested the seals. At that time, I thought it was fairly ironic. I introduced a motion in the House, which I have not brought back to the House, since my purpose was to make a point, which I think I did. My motion called on the Government of Canada to institute a ban on deer and boar products from Germany.
Why would I do that? The reason was to illustrate the point that the hunting of deer and boar throughout Germany is an unregulated hunt. Why is it unregulated? It is because the politicians do not want to touch it, and the reason they do not want to touch it is that it is tied into their culture and heritage. I have nothing against that, but I wish it was more regulated.
I am sure my ban would not have put the lederhosen industry in jeopardy. My motion illustrated the point that if we are going to talk about the harvesting of one particular animal as being cruel and offensive, then we have to open it up to all animals.
The seal hunt harvest in eastern Canada as well as the north is carried out in a humane manner, despite what people tend to think, and that was illustrated at committee. It is true that a few people disagreed with what we were doing, but we heard some great testimony, including from my colleague from and others, who talked about how they are tied to this particular culture.
There are two things at play here. There are two areas where we harvest the seals on a commercial basis. They are the gulf and the front. The front concerns my area, the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, up toward the area of my colleague from the , and up toward southern Labrador, and my colleague there. However, let us not stop there, because this is a pan-provincial issue. It also sustained the oldest city in North America, St. John's, as my colleague from knows full well. He knows the history of the province and what the sealing industry meant to his glorious city, both cities as a matter of fact, and how it sustained us for so many years, probably 300 or 400 years.
Seal products day would be celebrated on the same day the European Union celebrates European Maritime Day. The reason the Europeans have Maritime Day is to celebrate their cultural heritage ties to what they do on the coastline. They have the seafood industry and other industries in Spain, Portugal, the Basque area, Ireland, and Scotland. They celebrate that day each and every year to talk about their ties to the ocean. By the same token, a month later, they protest the seal harvest here, which is why I congratulate Céline Hervieux-Payette for doing what she did. She wanted to point out the ultimate irony, which I think she has done.
It is one particular day, but as far as I am concerned, it is every day when we celebrate this, certainly for people in the north: Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Yukon, of course, and particularly Nunavut. Again, I congratulate my colleague, the MP for , who brought a very passionate speech and each and every day brings seal products into this House.
It bears mentioning again that when my colleague from went to the United States of America, he met then president Barrack Obama with a seal tie on. I do not know if many people are aware of this, but many years ago, when Barack Obama was a senator, he actually wrote to the Canadian government protesting the seal harvest. Barack Obama is a great man. His was one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard in this House, but he is not perfect, I realized on that day.
That being said, I like to think that if we illustrate the issue of the harvesting of animals, then we shed more light on this subject. It does not end with the seal products. It is also other products. I mentioned seal oil. I mentioned the seal fur and the meat, of course. We are now hoping to open up markets in China. I have a company in my riding named PhocaLux that is doing some tremendous things in advancing seal products.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I want to congratulate the provincial fisheries ministry of Newfoundland and Labrador. The ministry has done fabulous work regarding product development for seal products. I also want to congratulate the Government of Quebec, which has also been a fierce defender of seal products and the harvesting of seal products.
I forgot to mention that the gulf is the other area, which is situated toward the Îles de la Madeleine. There they have a thriving industry as well and for centuries have depended on seal products. Those are the mass commercial areas.
What is particularly ironic is that when they introduced the ban on seal products in the European Union, they said that the commercial stuff is what they did not want; it was the indigenous ceremonies we were to protect and the harvesting by the indigenous communities. They said this to my face. Without us in Newfoundland saying a word, the indigenous communities came back and said to them, “That is not fair, because for us to do what you say we can do, we have to have that commercial industry to do it”, to which they were met with complete and utter silence.
Since then, we have had challenges at the World Trade Organization, and we have had a great deal of support for that. In a spirit of good will, I want to compliment the former government for going to the WTO with that. The Conservatives fought fiercely for the rights of sealers, and they also fought for the rights of indigenous seal harvesters, so I want to congratulate them. I thought they did a great job at the time. Nevertheless, we still have some broad misconceptions out there and a lack of understanding.
It was pointed out to members of the European Parliament at the time, if it introduced a seal products ban, what would it do for the harvesting of other animals? I mentioned deer and boar by way of example. It did not have an answer for that at the time. It was the ultimate way of saying that we really have to study something before we step forward, that we should look before we leap, and the EU did not do that within the particular structure of Brussels. That is what happened, and that is why we challenged it at the World Trade Organization. What ended up happening was that the technical group of the committee of the environment that was studying this said that it could not really do this because it would create a slippery slope.
Let us face it, with the seal product ban in the European Union, which started in the member states of the Netherlands, Germany, and U.K., it was one thing to say they would not accept a product ban because of the species itself, the species had to be endangered. For example, bluefin tuna is an endangered species, so in many cases, we would ban these products if we felt they were in danger. We can talk about other products that are endangered, but this was not an endangered species. This was strictly done on the basis of cruel and unusual punishment to a particular animal.
However, steps were taken with the help of the provincial fisheries department. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada created a humane way of harvesting the seals. It was called a three-step process of killing the seals. That was put into place. In the same way that any abattoir, any harvester, any place that harvests domestic animals, like cows, chickens, and that sort of thing, all the same types of restrictions and regulations about the harvesting of such animals was applied to the seals.
Let us go back to what happened. It was far easier to put oneself on a pedestal of what was right for animal rights if one had a good product to sell. It was discovered, back in the 1970s, that it was easy to sell an animal with a very cute way of looking—
An hon. member: It makes for a good poster.
Mr. Scott Simms: It makes a for good poster, as my colleague points out, Mr. Speaker.
An hon. member: Rex Murphy.
Mr. Scott Simms: Yes, that's right, Mr. Speaker. Rex Murphy said the same thing, it makes for a good poster.
The seal face in the ocean, on the ice, the harvesting, the red on the white, if everyone knows what I mean, made a good poster, and that is the problem we had, because we never had a fair shake from the very beginning.
I will go back to why we are here, the seal products themselves. We have celebrated so much over the past little while. It is not just the products for wearing or consuming but art as well. We have seen some fabulous art created. My goodness, even in St. John's, there are some great seal products: jackets, hats, and so on and so forth. It is really quite elegant.
My colleague from makes a valid point. Let me return to the point of the seals used for a good poster. What happened back then, in 1987, was that, first, we were condemned for the killing of baby seals and seal pups. We recognized them as whitecoats. They still use them to make a good poster, and as a result of that, since 1987, we stopped harvesting baby seals, and that is where we stand today. That goes to the responsible part of it. My goodness, we have responsibly harvested seals more than so many other species that are consumed every day.
I will never forget the time a former senator went to Europe with us. He stood and said he could not believe Europe was condemning the harvesting of seals. He looked at everyone in the room and said that everyone had just eaten foie gras. If I were to tell members how foie gras is made, they would never eat it again, and they would be sick as we sit here. He brought up a good point. I am not condemning anybody who eats foie gras. I do not really like it myself and would rather sit down with a nice hotdog. It is probably the same kind of texture; it is just that one is pricier. The problem is that the lack of understanding, unfortunately, inhibits our ability to talk about things like fantastic seal products.
I encourage all members of the House to please support us on seal products day.
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise in support of Bill , a bill to designate May 20 of each year as national seal products day.
I am so pleased to speak in this debate that I went to my closet this morning to retrieve one of my several sealskin ties. I realize that my hon. colleague from sported a snappy bow tie when he introduced the bill that was passed in the other place, and is now here for consideration in the House. I have chosen a more substantial piece of neckwear, in square centimetres at least, wonderfully fabricated from the pelt of a harp seal.
I wear it because I am proud that the Conservative Party of Canada is the only party to explicitly state its support of the seal harvest in its official declaration. I recall fondly the first policy conference of our reconstituted party in Montreal in 2005, a conference that I attended as a journalist. The conference so impressed me that barely three weeks later I was a fledgling candidate for the election that followed, which elected the first mandate of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Members will recall that it took me one more try to join my Conservative colleagues in this House, but that is another story for another day.
The point I was making before interrupting myself was the construction of the sound Conservative policy platform I witnessed at that first policy convention in Montreal in 2005. The policy that was passed, now included in section 123 of the Conservative Party's policy declaration, states unequivocally:
|We believe [the Conservative Party of Canada believes] the government must continue to support the Canadian sealing industry by working to eliminate unfair international trade bans on Canadian seal products.
Those unfair international trade practices have taken a terrible toll on Canada's sealing industry, which is a historically important cultural and economic driver in Canada's eastern Arctic and northern communities. It has been, for centuries, an integral part of Canada's rural culture, and a way of life for many thousands of Canadians. Indigenous people have a constitutionally protected right to harvest marine mammals, including seals, as long as the harvest is consistent with responsible conservation practices.
As recently as 2004, seal products in their different forms: meat; oil, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids; pelts, not only sold as neckties but as jackets, coats, boots, slippers and mittens, all of these products accounted for about $18 million in exports to markets around the world.
Today, unfortunately, seal product exports amount to only several hundred thousand dollars, because of ill-informed, misguided, in some cases, blatantly hypocritical, discriminatory regulations, and outright bans.
In 2010, using justifications built on seal harvest practices that were outlawed decades ago, the European Union banned the import and sales of all seal products. The Fur Institute of Canada, along with successive Canadian governments, Conservative and Liberal, have countered the myths and misrepresentations with clear and accurate facts.
Since 1987, seals have not been hunted until they reach maturity. No other young animals receive the same preferred treatment. Lambs, pigs, calves, and chickens all are slaughtered before maturity.
I used the word myth advisedly. Let me offer a few of the classic myths about the seal harvest along with the realities. The most flagrantly argued and propagandized myth is that the Canadian government still allows sealers to harvest whitecoats, seal pups. In fact, that practice has been illegal since 1987, as is the harvest of adult seals during breeding or birthing times of the year.
Another classic myth is that seals are skinned alive. In fact, a 2002 study carried out by independent veterinarians proved that to be false.
Yet another myth is that Canada's traditional and commercial seal fishery is unsustainable and endangering seal populations. Again, this is absolutely false. Scientists and researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada have all the evidence. In fact, the seal population is very healthy and growing, in some cases in overabundant numbers that are seen to be threatening the recovery of overfished, depleted, saltwater, Atlantic groundfish populations, such as the cod.
Harp seals alone, for example, are said to consume more than 12 million tonnes of fish every year, the equivalent of more than 10% of the world's annual commercial wild harvest. As well, the overabundant grey seal population off the Maritimes is also a particular threat to Atlantic cod and salmon, and it is not because they are consuming all that they kill. In fact, the grey seal very often eats only a few bites of an 80 to 100 pound cod, leaving the large wounded fish to die and to waste.
It is also relevant to point out that since the European Union imposed its misguided, misinformed ban on seal product imports and sales, a number of EU member countries have actually authorized the culling of their own seal populations to protect their national fisheries. A spokesman for Canada's fur institute pointed out the cost of those contradictory policies several years ago, saying that the culls in Europe are both hypocritical and wasteful because the killed seals can only be used under EU laws for personal consumption, which is unlikely, and cannot be used as commercial products because of the EU's own ban.
There are two final myths I would like to address. One is that Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which we know well in this House by the acronym, DFO, provides subsidies for the seal hunt. Again, that is outdated. Sealing is, as many of my colleagues have argued, an economically viable industry. All subsidies were ended in 2001, and even that economic assistance was for market and product development. In fact, the Canadian government has provided far less in subsidies to the sealing industry than was recommended by the 1986 Malouf Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada.
The final myth that I would like to dispel this evening is that the Canadian seal hunt is rife with brutality and inhumane practices, and that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not adequately police or punish illegal hunting activities. The reality is quite the opposite. Fisheries enforcement officers conduct surveillance of the hunt by air and by sea, and with dockside inspection of landing vessels returning from the hunt. As well as this close monitoring of the hunt, infractions of the regulations draw severe penalties, which can include not only very significant fines, but the seizure and forfeiting of fishing vessels and their gear, of catches, and of the sealers' licences.
I know my time is short, so to wrap up, I would like to express again that across Canada's remote northern and coastal communities, sealing is an important traditional way of life and a critical source of income for thousands of families. The seal fishery contributes to the often inconsistent range of income sources in remote fishing communities, and in some years, seal hunt revenues offset poor catches in those other fisheries.
Bill would impose no direct cost to the federal government and would not create a legal holiday, but designation of May 20 as national seal products day every year would provide invaluable symbolic support of a legitimate, humane, and sustainable fishery. It would provide an annual opportunity for me and my colleagues to once again wear this tangible evidence of a historic past, a worthy present, and a highly sustainable future.
Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I am honoured to take part in the debate on Bill , particularly because there are people in my riding, especially in Nunavik, who rely heavily on seals.
Over this past week, it has been obvious for us here in the south to feel the changes of spring returning to the land. For indigenous peoples, in our languages, the names marking the passage of time are interconnected with the environment and wildlife surrounding us. Our traditional cycles of yearly activities are closely tied to what the animals and plants are doing.
In Nunavik, for instance, this time of year is called Tirilluliuti, which is the season for bearded seals to have babies. How fitting that we are here at this time recognizing the importance of these animals to northern communities, as the member for just said.
I would like to quote Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who comes from the community of Kuujjuaq in my riding. While writing about the social and cultural importance of the seal hunt, she said:
|| It's hard to describe the excitement that would flash through Kuujjuaq when word came that hunters were returning with a large harvest, like a seal.... Word spread from neighbour to neighbour, from house to house, and everyone headed to the home of the hunter.... Sitting or squatting on the floor, the men and women would begin to cut up the carcass with sharp knives or an ulu.... Everyone else, including the children, would sit circling the seal. Pieces of meat would be passed around...to eat.... The liver was one of my favourites. But the best moment was when we would [all] reach into the...seal and dip our hands, coating our scooped fingers with sweet, rich blood, which we licked off like honey.... Those precious moments, sitting on the floor with my grandmother and mother, my brothers and sister, my uncle and his family, and so many members of my community...were treasured times.
|| But the importance of country food to my community goes far beyond taste.... Country food is the fuel we need to thrive in the Arctic.
That passage comes from her book The Right to be Cold.
Besides her description of sharing with her community the product of a hunt, what I love about this memory is the message she teaches us, which is that Inuit need seal to thrive in the Arctic. Inuit hunt seals for food, clothing, and many other products, and they market the by-products of the sustainable hunt internationally today. Recognizing and honouring the Inuit seal harvest and products with legislation that would mark May 20 as national seal products day also recognizes and honours the traditional Inuit way of life.
Article 20 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the right to maintain and develop indigenous “political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” For many Inuit, this means a continuation of the seal hunt, and the diversification of traditional uses toward commercial markets and new products.
Colonizing society, organizations, and governments violates that inherent right when it attempts to place misinformed restrictions on seal products, restrictions that have caused immeasurable harm to indigenous communities across the north. Inuit originally joined the commercial seal market due to pressures from colonization. They were herded into permanent settled communities and actively prevented from living traditional lifestyles. Sled dogs were shot by the RCMP. The Inuit people turned to the monetary economy to buy fuel for their snowmobiles and to survive.
The banning of products from the Inuit hunt caused economic devastation, and I can attest, personal humiliation among Inuit communities. The seal skin market is so important because it allows Inuit to maintain a piece of their traditional lifestyle, and in doing so, assert autonomy and control over their social systems.
Nunavik Creations is an example of the tremendous entrepreneurship in the north of my riding. The award-winning company employs Inuit women from various communities in Nunavik as seamstresses, designers, creative analysts, sample makers, pattern makers, and in administrative roles promoting Inuit culture through their unique garments.
Creating a day each year when all of Canada supports the inherent right that Inuit have to participate in the economy, take care of their families and communities, and thrive in this millennium would go a long way toward truth-telling and making amends for previous wrongs done to indigenous peoples.
Indigenous peoples, as stewards of their territories, have the obligation to care for the land and waters. For Inuit, the right to maintain and promote spiritual practices is closely connected to hunting seal. Throughout the Arctic, stories are told about an aquatic female character, sometimes called Sanna. She controls the sea mammals and determines the fate of surface dwellers. She is someone to beg when a hunter is hopeful, and someone to blame if a hunter fails. If we are to advance our understanding of Inuit-defined sovereignty, the first important entity we must recognize is the sea. In doing so, we must respect all Inuit practices connected to the sea and Sanna's children, the sea mammals.
The relationship between humans and seals, which has developed over thousands of years through precise observations while out on the sea ice waiting to harpoon a seal, while monitoring seal breathing holes, birthing dens, and migration patterns, is central to Inuit culture.
I am proud to stand in the House and say that I fully support Bill , legislation that supports the inherent rights of the Inuit to maintain their social, cultural, political, and economic relationship to the seals, to Sanna, and to the sea.
Madam Speaker, I believe that the seal hunt is something people will have a better understanding of, in terms of what is being proposed, through education. As was pointed out by a Conservative member across the way, the designation of a day does not necessarily mean it is a holiday. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that there is a higher sense of education in terms of how important this industry is.
We often underestimate why the seal industry is so important. We can talk about heritage and the economic benefits. I would I like to spend a little time on those issues but also bring a bit of a different perspective on how important seals are to the north.
I have had many discussions about wildlife, in particular about polar bears and how they are very much dependent on seals, so there is a wildlife element.
I want to go to the economic and heritage sides. When we look at the communities that have been dependent on the seal hunt, we can get a better appreciation of the remoteness of the industry and what the individuals who are engaged in the industry have to do to sustain themselves.
We often take things for granted, whether it is clothing or food or economic survival. In larger municipalities, or even in rural areas, we can find grocery stores and economic opportunities. Once we get to the more remote areas, it takes a great deal of effort. I made reference to Newfoundland and Labrador, but it affects more than one province.
My colleague made reference to populations of between six million and eight million, minus the one that was possibly killed a little earlier today by the polar bear, as was referenced. There is a healthy population of seals.
We can think of the economic benefits. Without that seal hunt, there would be many communities whose existence would be more challenged. For others, it is their livelihood. Often it provides a supplementary income. Many individuals will be involved not only in the seal hunt but in other aspects of our fishery industry.
It is something that is often driven by heritage. Over the years, indigenous people, and even some non-indigenous people, have taken to heart the importance of the industry and the heritage aspect of it. As has been pointed out, it is something that has been going on for literally hundreds of years.
I look at it in two ways. One is from the heritage point of view and the other is the economics.
I started off by talking about education. Often, whether it is motions or legislation that will ultimately designate a day, and often even a month, we want to recognize something of significance for Canada. That really is what we are debating today. Bill would designate May 20 as a day when we would show appreciation of the importance of the seal hunt and seals to our country.
There are different ways we can deal with those designations. It is really going to be driven by members across the way. The member for talked about his tie. We have seen a number of members around the House wear the seal tie. If we talk to members such as the member for Thornhill, they will express a sense of pride in the tie, because it is a very symbolic yet very important gesture that supports the seal industry. I know there are members of the Liberal caucus who have the same sort of seal tie. I am not part of that club as of yet, but I recognize that there is a very high sense of pride in those seal products.
My colleague from has brought seal meat to the lobby on occasion. I have had the opportunity to try some. I thought it was different, but interesting. I understand there are different ways of cooking it. I would not hesitate to try it again, perhaps cooked a little differently. I understand some people even eat it in the raw form.
The point is that there are ways we can celebrate the importance of the industry. I would like to think that we could even look at ways we could take it into a classroom. We can imagine how a school trustee, an MLA, or a member of Parliament could look at ways to highlight what we believe are important issues to the communities that we represent, even though, as my colleague pointed out, we do not see many seals around Winnipeg North. However, I recognize what it is and the industry as a whole, and I would love to see some class time dedicated by a teacher who has taken an interest in the industry, because it is about education.
There has been misinformation. We have heard that throughout the debate from individuals who really are not necessarily thinking of the well-being of the industry as a whole but are approaching it with a bias. The bias is to stop the seal hunt, not appreciating the heritage and the fact that we have a healthy seal population. There is not only a role for us to recognize the history of the seal hunt and what is happening today, but as has been pointed out, there is also a promising future.
When we talk about the importance of recognizing a single day, I suggest we allow members to appreciate it and recognize it in many different ways, from bringing it into the classroom to debating the issues and bringing them up in future S. O. 31s here in the House to sharing our ideas with members of the media. As with many different industries throughout the country, we need to appreciate and value those industries that have really touched the hearts and souls of so many, not only today but throughout the years. In particular, I focus on how important it is for our indigenous communities in recognizing and supporting the very strong leadership that has come to the table on this particular issue.
Madam Speaker, for the first time I find myself in violent agreement with the member for . This is surely unprecedented. When I first saw the title of the bill, I thought we might be speaking about trained seals, which we have spoken a lot about in recent days, but instead, we are talking about actual seals. I would not want to insult seals by comparing them to any members of this House.
I want to thank my friend from for bringing this motion forward. We have had a chance to get to know each other quite a bit in recent days with time spent at PROC. I have not always supported initiatives the member has brought forward, as he may recall from some of the brief comments I made at that committee. I am very pleased to be here to support this important proposal from a member who happens to be part of the government, but certainly this is something that all members of the House should be able to get behind. This is a common-sense proposal. It reflects a recognition of our heritage, but also real common-sense when it comes to appreciating what hunters do in this industry and in other industries across the country.
Really, this represents a coming together of Canadian voices in opposition to, sometimes, some of the misinformation that we hear, albeit from celebrities, and voices internationally who do not really understand what the seal hunt is all about, and do not really understand the realities of it. Sometimes, this happens on certain kinds of issues, environmental but other issues as well, where people get a specific image in their mind about it, and it is very hard to remove that image even if that image runs completely contrary to the facts and realities of the issues.
There are a lot of things that we and I think many members of this House know about the positive, effective management of seal products in this country, of seals as a resource, and yet, that information does not always get out there. Therefore, we have an opportunity, through this initiative, to start to push back against that misinformation, to have a vehicle for pushing back against that information.
In that context, I want to make a few comments here about what happens in this industry in general, and first to read a position statement. This is from 2012. It is a comment made by the WWF, the World Wildlife Federation. It said:
|| WWF recognizes that hunting seals is an important part of the local economy, culture and heritage of many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, the Arctic, and many other maritime nations. Most importantly, from the perspective of a conservation organization such as ours, the harp seal population is at a near record high with more than 5 million individuals and current harvest practices pose no apparent threat.
This is pretty clear from a wildlife organization. It recognizes in that position statement that there are different points of view on this issue, perhaps within its own community, but members of the organization said that clearly it is not a management of the resource issue, and there is no danger to this population. Of course, all of us would recognize that when there is a danger to a population, a risk of endangerment or extinction, that needs to be managed in a completely different way, but that is not the case with this particular resource. Very clearly, there is no reason to be concerned with respect to that when that is very clearly the information and the evidence that we have, and that members have seen.
At the same time, we know, in terms of the hunting methods that are used, that there are humane methods. Recognizing the effective management of the resource and also the humane methods of hunting, there is not really a coherent basis on which to oppose this unless perhaps, as some people do, they take the view that all hunting and all killing of animals is somehow wrong or immoral. Certainly, there are some people who have that perspective, but unless we go to that extreme, there is absolutely no reason to oppose the humane and environmentally effective and efficient, culturally, socially, and economically beneficial use of our seal resources.
In spite of what I have just presented and in spite of what we know to be these realities, we see these challenges come sometimes from people in Canada, but also internationally. It is important that we stand up to that. In 2009, for example, the European Union banned import and trade of seal products other than in cases of hunting by indigenous communities.
As Canada moves forward with our free trade agreement with Europe, certainly an important trade initiative, I hope we will be able to persuade our friends in Europe, recognizing the facts that I have identified, how much they could benefit from being able to import seal products that come from Canada.
Europe does not ban hunting. Europe does not ban livestock. People kill and eat animals in Europe as well as they do here. There is no consistent basis on which to have this limitation in place. I hope, coming forward from this motion, there will be international advocacy from our government's trade representatives around the importance of countries taking a consistent approach with respect to these issues at the very least.
Europe should not ban the importation of products from one kind of animal from one other country in a way that is not consistent with its own domestic approaches to the management and use of animals. There might be a spectrum of opinion philosophically with regard to what ways it is and is not appropriate to use animals, but those distinctions should be coherent. They should not be made on the basis of banning animals from a country that somehow would not apply that same standard in its own country.
As we talk about this legislative initiative, this is about having a national seal products day, and we support that. It is a positive step in recognition. We do this a lot in the House, especially around private members' business. We have these moments of recognition, where we all come together and affirm something that is important, whether it is a heritage month, a day of recognition, sometimes a week, sometimes simply a point of affirmation. These moments are important because they can provide an opportunity for awareness, for recognition, perhaps for particular communities to understand the affirmation and support they receive from legislators. These things are important.
However, it is not good enough to just stop at these points of recognition. If we have a national seal products day and then we close the file at that point, that certainly is not good enough. There is a need for ongoing advocacy, ongoing activities of recognition and to continue that dialogue domestically and internationally, and not shy away from that. Recognition alone does not have that much of an impact on the ground. It is really what we do after that, what we do with a particular day, how we proceed going forward. This is something that all members should take on board. It seems we will move forward with this and support it, so there should be constructive, clear action that comes out of this.
Coming from Alberta, the seal industry is not particularly important for us. However, we deal with questions of weighing out environmental criticisms that may not always be based on fact. Perhaps a comparison would be some of the images of ducks from our oil sands. A couple of images get sent around the world and there is such misinformation that comes out of that. In reality, there are all kinds of reclamation activities that take place, when there are risks to birds associated with many energy alternatives such as wind farms, yet we see one image and people run with it. We sometimes see that happen with the seal issue. People look at one image and they draw conclusions from it without looking at the facts. This is an important proposal that calls for us to focus on the facts. Let us move forward on that basis.