House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farmers.

Topics

Canada-Israel Relations
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Canada-Israel Relations
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-Israel Relations
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canada-Israel Relations
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-Israel Relations
Routine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

May 11th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, presented on Wednesday, May 6, be concurred in.

Today I will be sharing my time with my hon. friend from New Brunswick and the member of Parliament for Saint John.

I am pleased to rise here today to support the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans on Canada's seal hunt.

One of the main concerns provoking the debate in Europe and the movement to ban seal products has to do with considerations related to the well-being of the animals. Our government has committed to applying the strictest standards in this area. That is why we are seeking the best scientific advice, and adapting our regulations and licensing criteria based on that advice.

This year was no exception. I am grateful for the opportunity to describe the measures we have taken this year to improve hunting methods, monitoring and oversight. Regulating the seal hunt is a very complex activity undertaken in an ever-changing marine environment in which human safety and the well-being of the animals must be taken into consideration.

It is important at this point in time just to talk a little bit about the motion which actually came out of committee. It is important on the wording. It states:

The Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans fully endorses the harp seal hunt, it approves of current regulated killing methods, approves that the harvesting of harp seals is fully acceptable and that the Canadian harp seal hunt is humane, responsible and sustainable and should continue for generations to come and the Committee strongly condemns the ban of Canadian seal products by the European Union.

I also want to say how pleased I am for the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to have passed this motion unanimously, by recorded vote.

What is important also to understand is that to enhance the safeness and humaneness of the harvest, our government recently amended the marine mammal regulations and licence conditions that govern the hunt. Changes were made in consultation with sealers, veterinarians, provincial and territorial representatives and others, and they were quickly put in place before the 2009 harp seal hunt. The regulations now reflect the latest scientific advice and enable us to continue adopting sophisticated technology, which will increase our capacity to monitor sealing activities.

The purpose of the regulations has not changed. The regulations continue to spell out the proper tools and methods required for a humane kill. Changes have been implemented, however, in a number of key areas, including definitions to improve clarity, prohibitions against unacceptable behaviour and new requirements regarding the broadly supported three step process: striking, checking for unconsciousness and bleeding. Getting these changes in place in advance of the 2009 harp seal hunt was a significant accomplishment and reflects the goodwill and cooperation of all those involved.

The department has also worked with sealers to develop conditions of licence that work in tandem with the new regulations. Successfully finalizing the licence conditions well ahead of this year's hunt is further evidence of sealers' willingness to work among themselves and with officials in establishing these detailed rules.

The industry has evolved over the past several hundred years or since the early 1700s when the first organized occurrence of an annual hunt was actually documented. This hunt has been going on for well over 500 years and in documented cases of our first nations people well before that, so our people, our fishers and our seal hunters have had to evolve.

Education and training is an important aspect of a professional workforce, especially one that is formally adopting a new set of practices. Training centres reinforce a two year apprenticeship process, whereby new entrants are licensed as apprentice seal harvesters. As apprentice sealers, they must be accompanied by a professional sealer during the course of their apprenticeship. There is significant support among industry representatives for further education and skills development through a training and certification process focused on humane killing. Discussions with stakeholders to create a joint strategy for training and certification are ongoing.

Commitments are in place and efforts are under way at the regional and provincial levels to develop and pilot enhanced training tools and to ensure this work remains part of a broadly supported strategy.

Significant efforts have been made and will continue to be made to ensure that the new rules are clearly understood by sealers throughout Atlantic Canada.

The department has worked with the Atlantic provinces, the Fur Institute of Canada, the Canadian Sealers Association, veterinarians and others to design and deliver information workshops. These have been extremely well received by all stakeholders. They gave departmental officials a chance to engage sealers and others in a dialogue about implementing the new rules.

The government believes in collaboration, and high collaboration was the key to preparing for the 2009 seal hunt. I want to share just a few examples of the collaboration that took place before the 2009 hunt.

DFO and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade partnered to ensure a focused and effective strategy to counter the threat of trade restrictions.

Hundreds of meetings have been organized by representatives and ministers with member state ministers, members of the European Parliament and commission officials.

The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Quebec Provincial Police are collaborating with Fisheries and Oceans enforcement staff to monitor compliance and to enforce regulations.

Government representatives, veterinarians and seal hunters have been working together to develop new regulations.

The Fur Institute of Canada provided its expertise and helped bring sealing leadership together through its seals and sealing network.

Finally, the Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters, with support from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, developed a process for further training and eventual certification. The hard work and goodwill demonstrated by participating organizations reflect this shared commitment to a well-managed and professional hunt.

As important as regulations are, it is also important to note that DFO also carries out effective monitoring, control and surveillance programs in Atlantic Canada, including some of the enhanced program operations that were implemented in 2009. We continually make improvements to our monitoring program to ensure compliance with regulations, which results in a humane and sustainable hunt. These actions help dispel the notion the seal hunt is impossible to regulate and manage effectively.

Canada's enforcement of the sealing regulations is thorough and comprehensive. Fully trained professional fisheries officers, designated under Canada's Fisheries Act, closely monitor all commercial and recreational fisheries in Canada, including the seal hunt. Fisheries officers conduct monitoring operations of the seal hunt, using a variety of platforms, including aerial surveillance; vessel monitoring systems, also known as satellite tracking; at-sea patrols and inspections; dock-side landing site patrols and inspections; and inspections of buyer processor sites and facilities. The integration of these different tools and methods enables a well-balanced monitoring and enforcement program.

The Canadian Coast Guard is an integral partner in supporting seal hunt monitoring operations through the use of a dedicated icebreaking vessel from which many of the on-site monitoring activities are coordinated and deployed.

As part of Canada's ongoing initiatives to enhance program delivery, DFO has made several modifications to its strategies for 2009 seal hunt monitoring activities. For this year's hunt, monitoring operations were enhanced by deploying additional shipboard fisheries officers on the dedicated icebreaker. The helicopter surveillance capability was also augmented this year, with the leasing of a private long-range helicopter and remote surveillance technologies; that is, a powerful high-resolution video camera.

To enhance the data, we developed a report to augment the standard inspection data. It contains more observations, including more detailed information on the humane aspect of this harvest.

In conclusion, the Government of Canada is mobilizing considerable resources to ensure that the seal hunt remains sustainable and humane.

The Canadian seal industry is supported by a professional workforce committed to upholding a high standard with regard to animal welfare.

We invited the world to watch the 2009 hunt, and this year's hunt has demonstrated Canada's leadership among sealing nations.

We support an industry that is humane and sustainable, a harvest that reflects the best interests of all fishers, a harvest that has officially gone on for over 300 years, a harvest that is so critical to our small rural communities and our Inuit people.

We strongly condemn the ban of Canadian seal products by the European Union.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague, who sits on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, quite rightly pointed out that this motion did indeed flow from that committee during our deliberations and there was indeed a unanimous vote by all committee members in support of this motion.

Would my the hon. member please explain to the House the power and the influence that should have on the European Union community when it explores or tries to understand the position of Canadian parliamentarians on that particular issue?

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, the fisheries and oceans committee is a great committee to work on because, generally, we can get that consensus on reports. I think everybody understands the importance of the fishing industry to all of us. Even though I represent an inland riding, I represent a rural riding, I do understand the importance of these rural ridings and the importance of these types of industries to them.

I do concur with my hon. friend that when all the members of a committee get together and we do not have a dissident report, maybe is the best way to put it, that has tremendous leverage for the government. It is also important because it gives us reinforcements. When we get someone like Norway's foreign minister indicating that the Norwegian government has decided to initiate consultations under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism should the EU take a decision on the lines it now seems to be developing, that is a great thing for us as a government because this is the power that we can all get behind.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my colleague. I think there are many misperceptions out there in terms of the seal hunt, the humanity and the sustainability, and what he has done is clearly articulate the regulations and the number of changes that have been made.

I would ask my colleague to talk a little bit further, because the consultation process that created all those changes was very important and I think it is worth hearing some details around the process by which we have new regulations.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is really great sitting in on the fisheries committee when we get a chance to talk about these issues and about how important this industry is.

As to how that fishery has evolved, I think the first organized hunt was in 1723. It has evolved over almost 300 years. DFO has worked very hard with the fishers and the seal hunters to actually engage them in this process. I think the apprenticeship program is very important. It just underscores how important the consultation process is and how important it is that the government wants to work with the sealers to understand what is going on in these small communities, but also to work hard to make sure that we can sustain this harvest for generations to come.

We all know this harvest is sustainable, and it really has to be developed for all fishers concerned, because at the end of the day, just looking at what the seals eat, they eat other fish. So it is important for a long-range, sustainable hunt, and for all fishers, that we continue to work with the sealers to ensure this harvest for many years to come.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to raise a question of great significance to establishing a strategy for the present and for the future. It concerns an information and awareness program in Europe.

Does the member concur with me and other members that our main challenge, in addition to the demagoguery and disinformation of abolitionists, is to reach the population as a whole? The only means of achieving this is to mount an information and awareness campaign.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member must be brief.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question.

I am working with this member on the fisheries committee, and he is right: At the end of the day, there is a tremendous amount of information out there, wrong as it is, that is against the harvest.

It is interesting what Rebecca Aldworth, no friend of the seal hunt, by the way, as members will know, said in her comments on May 5. She said:

The Canadian government used every trick in the book to try to derail the ban: massive lobbying, misinformation, and even threats of trade reprisals.

I think there has been a tremendous amount of effort from our parliamentarians, and on that front as well, which would suggest that there has been a tremendous amount of lobbying and information put out there. However, I would also say to this member: The information we are putting out there is correct, and hers is wrong.

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Rodney Weston Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague, the member for Tobique—Mactaquac, for sharing his time with me today on this very important issue.

I want again to state unequivocally that I support the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans and the statement that it made:

[T]he Canadian harp seal hunt is humane, responsible and sustainable and should continue for generations to come and the Committee strongly condemns the ban of Canadian seal products by the European Union.

I call on all Canadian parliamentarians to do the same.

Unfortunately, that will not be the case. Liberal Senator Mac Harb has already staked his ground on this issue and it is against the industry and against his fellow Canadians.

Senator Harb has chosen campaigns of fear, misinformation and emotional argument, over his fellow Canadians in the sealing industry. This is very disappointing but not entirely surprising.

Why is it not surprising? It is because this is an issue that the Leader of the Liberal Party has been silent on as well. He has not said a word, not one, none.

While the Leader of the Liberal Party has refused to tell the sealing industry what his position on the seal hunt is, his Liberal senator, Mac Harb, has run amok, working to destroy the sealing industry along with Canada's position and credibility internationally. The only person who can stop Mac Harb is the Leader of the Liberal Party, yet he has not done a thing.

For sealers in Newfoundland and Labrador and in Quebec, this must be tragically disappointing. For generations, sealing has been part of the fabric of Canada's east coast. All that these great men and women can do, who depend on the seal hunt for income, is watch the Liberal senator try to destroy their livelihood to make his European friends happy. After all, Senator Harb called these great Canadians barbaric. Shame on him!

I can tell the House that our government will do everything it can to deny Senator Harb any success on this issue. We are standing with the sealers and their families and we will be resolute in our support.

I am particularly disappointed with this ill-advised decision by the members of the European Union, because they know that it is the wrong decision. European parliamentarians are playing a political game with people's lives, fueled by misinformation and fact twisting by many people, such as Senator Harb. They know perfectly well that public opinion in Europe has been manipulated by radical animal rights organizations to the point where the public believes completely misleading and unfounded claims about Canada's seal hunt.

How do the members of the European Union know deep down that they made a wrong decision? We have told them. Over and over again we have told the European decision-makers that they are wrong to trust the information funnelled to them from Rebecca Aldworth and the Humane Society of the United States. We have repeatedly told them how the Canadian hunt is well managed and well regulated.

Sealers have come with us to talk about the importance of the hunt to their traditions and about how they respect the animals on which they depend for their livelihood and that of their families and their communities.

We have explained further that unilateral measures are not the answer and that the radical animal rights advocates will tell them anything to get this ban in place, whether it is true or not. However, European parliamentarians refuse to listen.

They refuse to listen because the environment has been poisoned by propaganda campaigns mounted by radical animal rights organizations. For over 40 years, radical animal rights organizations have maligned the Canadian sealing industry with vicious propaganda. The worst aspect is their myth about skinning seals alive.

In some circles, this myth is accepted as fact. Their multi-million dollar campaigns against the sealing industry spreads lies and propaganda to a point that no one familiar with the industry knows what is fact and what is fiction.

How do they do this? I will give an example. In 2002 and 2007, two radical animal rights organizations commissioned illegitimate studies on the seal hunt. These studies were in fact no such thing.

The participants went out to find what they were looking for, and lo and behold, they did. One concluded on the basis of an examination of 76--yes, that is right, 76 seals--that the hunt was inhumane.

Other scientists routinely examine thousands of skulls without arriving at such a conclusion. In fact, they conclude the opposite, that the Canadian seal hunt is humane.

The results of these so-called studies are now quoted routinely to perpetuate the myth that the Canadian seal hunt is inhumane. The written declaration of European Union parliamentarians use one of these studies to justify demanding a ban on seal products. Here is where the real irony comes in.

The European Food Safety Authority, which is the organization commissioned by the European commission to study animal welfare aspects of sealing, has said in no uncertain terms that the results of the so-called studies are not reliable. It said:

it is incorrect to conclude that 42% of the seals in the sample were skinned alive....

Further:

it is not appropriate to extrapolate from a small sample of 76 skulls collected in the Gulf of St. Lawrence over two days to all the animals killed during the entire hunt, which is conducted over several weeks....

Still the Europeans persist. They refuse to accept the opinions of their own experts. I do not understand it. It is beyond my comprehension.

At this point, I wish to thank my colleagues, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Trade and the officials who have worked tirelessly to advocate for Canada on this most challenging of issues. I would particularly like to draw to everyone's attention the efforts of the Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation, Loyola Sullivan, whose record of achievement on this file is both extraordinary and commendable.

Our strenuous efforts to communicate with European decision-makers have included letters, telephone calls, delegations, speeches, an article in the European media, position papers and advertisements. We have written letters, and when I say “we”, I mean the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade, the Ambassador for Fisheries Conservation and the 28 ambassadors who represent Canada to the European Union and to the member states of the European Union.

We have written to our European counterparts. We have written to the members of the European Parliament. We invited key members to visit Canada. They did not come. Officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans emailed all 785 members of the European Parliament an advertisement we had placed in the European media. This was followed up by the diplomatic missions in the member states.

We have made telephone calls minister to minister, official to official. We have made interventions in meetings with European counterparts. Most notably, the Prime Minister has spoken to European presidents and prime ministers on several occasions. We have done everything possible to counter the movement to ban seal products in Europe.

I recently read an article containing an accusation made by some members of the European Parliament. They say that intimidation tactics were used in order to secure a vote in favour of a ban. Disturbing, yes; surprising, no. If this is true, it takes this matter to a whole new level.

These radicals and professional campaigners will do anything, and I mean anything, to achieve their misguided goals. They threaten; they intimidate; they use their vast resources to pound on an unsuspecting public their version of the truth.

What I say next I do not say lightly. These radical animal rights advocates, like Paul Watson from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, advocate the use of violence and terrorist-like tactics in their campaigns. For example, Watson said, “The fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture and we all justify violence if it's for what we believe in”.

In my society it does not. That quote goes to show how deluded and out of touch these people are.

Another is Jerry Vlasak, who has been outright banned from several countries. He is a cohort of Watson and is the biggest proponent of violence of any radical. He said, “You can justify, from a political standpoint, any type of violence you want to use”.

That is sick but yet another example of the kind of philosophy that drives these people. The sad thing is that deep down they all believe it to be true.

I read something that I found quite amusing, and I would like to share it with the hon. members today. During an interview—

Fisheries and Oceans
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker Denise Savoie

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. He may be able to add some comments in response to questions and comments.

The hon. member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor.