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An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Greg Kerr  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Governor in Council to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

May 28, 2014 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2015 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members who have participated in Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), commonly referred as the triple nickel bill. I am pleased that the bill is at this stage, because it shows, first of all, continuing interest in and support of safety in the seal hunt. It also shows the government's recognition of the seal harvest as a legitimate livelihood.

For more than 300 years, Canadians have relied on the sealing industry to support their families, and today I am really pleased that we are continuing the support for this important industry.

Many members may have enjoyed in recent days the Seal Day held on Parliament Hill. A number of aboriginal representatives from northern Canada showed how important sealing is to the culture and the economy of their communities. I am particularly pleased that the Minister of the Environment and the member for Yukon led the way in that. For those who enjoyed it, certainly they saw some great food, entertainment, and wonderful clothing made from seal skins.

I am glad that members from both sides have been supportive of the bill thus far, as most have been. This whole process is to make sure that we look at legitimate safety within a legal industry. The bill would simply create a larger zone of safety around the sealing expedition. It would go from one-half to a full nautical mile.

When we reflect on the need for the bill, an obvious question comes to mind: why is it that some people are prepared to endanger sealers and those around them and those who are protecting the public? One example stands out. In 2008, the Sea Shepherd irresponsibly and illegally endangered not only the sealers but licensed observers, and it caused considerable damage to a Coast Guard vessel.

We think this continues because of three basic misconceptions that keep cropping up. One, of course, is that the seal hunt is inhumane. Many years have gone by. With the 50th anniversary of the Seal Protection Regulations, many changes have taken place. The sealers are very responsible and very much aware of making sure they do things right. We think it is time for that myth to go, because it is a humane industry and a humane harvest that takes place.

The second myth that kicks around is the sense that this is unsustainable, which may have been possibly a concern back in the fifties and sixties, but today there are over seven million harp seals. They have almost exploded in population and indeed have become a threat to other fish, particularly cod. It is way overdue that we let that myth go by, because not only is it sustainable but it is done in a most efficient manner. Maintaining a healthy sea population is to the benefit of all sealers, and certainly it is to their advantage to make sure it continues.

The third myth is that the seal harvest is not thoroughly regulated, and that is absolutely incorrect. Fisheries and Oceans officials have worked hard over the past decades to make sure that sealers are well educated, well informed, and well regulated, and they certainly do their industry in the most productive and most supportive manner. These regulations make sure that in collaboration with the Coast Guard, policing authorities, provincial authorities, and so on, they are followed. It is important that the officials ensure not only safety but that the proper methods are followed.

It is unacceptable to let the critics simply spread misinformation, but it has been part of almost a worldwide effort for some time. It has been easy for some on the sidelines to make these very incorrect accusations. Today we know that we have not only a sustainable and a very well-regulated industry but an industry that remains incredibly important to the Inuit and the northern population and certainly to many communities in Atlantic Canada. Violations are taken very seriously, with fines, and the process is followed very closely by authorities as well.

This bill, as I said, would double the zone of safety. There is a very thorough process with regard to becoming a licensed observer, and the bill would make sure that both observers and sealers are protected. It would ensure that this legal and legitimate industry is allowed to pursue its course of action and harvest in a safe and thoughtful way and that those who simply want to protest and cause disruption are not allowed to interfere with this legal ongoing industry.

The end result of the effort here is to bring about improvements. We realize there will be more to come. There are certainly more things that should be considered and looked at in this very important industry.

I want to end by saying that we in the House, the government, and I think the general population, in taking the time to understand what this bill is about, realize that sealing is very much a part of both the culture, the background, and the economy of many communities. We want to ensure that it becomes a bit safer, and that is what this bill would do. I appreciate the support of the House and I hope we get this bill moved forward.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2015 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here today, speaking on Bill C-555, an act respecting the marine mammal regulations, introduced by my hon. colleague from West Nova. Originally, the member for Cardigan was going to speak on this, but he is stuck in a snowstorm blizzard in P.E.I. He is shovelling snow, and he has sealskin cap on as he is doing it. He would love to be here, but I am taking his place.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague for introducing this bill. He is well aware that I and the Liberal Party of Canada will be fully supportive of the Canadian seal hunt and the sealing industry. It is an industry that is so important to so many rural and coastal communities in our country.

The nature of the bill is to increase the safety of all those who are involved in the seal fishery, whether they are the fishers, the observers, or the enforcement officers. The safety of all those involved in the seal hunt must always be the top priority. We have to do everything we can to help those involved in the seal fishery industry and to keep it secure.

We know that, here in Canada, we practise a sustainable and humane seal fishery. In fact, it is one of the best run and monitored seal fisheries in the entire world. The Canadian seal hunt is a tradition that provides so much value to so many rural, northern, and Atlantic coastal communities.

We have to do everything we can to make sure that everyone involved is safe and secure when they are carrying out their livelihoods. The seal hunt on our shores dates back thousands of years and to this day remains such an important part of our history, culture, and economy of communities right across Atlantic Canada, in Quebec, and in the north, as an hon. member mentioned.

Over those thousands of years, many have lost their lives out there, hunting seals. It is usually in the spring, when people are quite far out on the ice. One of the books that I read left a big impression on me. It is called Death On The Ice: The Great Newfoundland Sealing Disaster Of 1914. It is a true story about the Newfoundland and Labradorian men and their sons who were out. They used to go out on the ships and they would be sent out to get the seals. All of the ships got lost, and they were out on the ice in a storm overnight. Many perished during the couple of nights out there, hunting seals.

As I said, many families in rural and remote communities make between $20,000 and $30,000 a year or less. When they can make between $2,000 and $5,000 more for seals, it is big for their families, especially in these rural areas where there is no other income, and especially during that time of year, March and April.

In addition to the economic and cultural importance of the seal industry, seals provide a wide variety of great products, including meat, pelts, and oil, which is very high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Seals are the biggest consumers of fish. They are very competitive, and with the population explosion that we have seen, they are competing with our commercial fishermen for fish in the water. When I go out on the boat with my friends off of Bird Islands in Cape Breton, I can see all of the seals there. They are really cleaning up on the fish.

My friend from Cape Breton, Robert Courtney, is a sealer. He and some of his buddies from Neil's Harbour in northern Cape Breton go sealing. It is a short season, so it is a very serious issue. My colleagues know that they are fishermen and getting seals to make a living. Their livelihood is being hurt by the massive population explosion off our coasts. These seals are eating a lot of fish, and a lot of them carry parasites that go into other fish.

There is quite an imbalance out there, so it is a great thing if we can get a livelihood and cull these seals at the same time. This is one of the reasons why we need to ensure the safest possible hunt every year. We need the government to do more to open markets, because we can sell more of these products. It is a healthy product.

There is a lot of talk and activity from wealthy people, these Hollywood celebrities and others, who live thousands of miles away from our communities. They do not realize or understand how we live in these rural communities. They do not understand how much fish the seals are eating. They know nothing about the Canadian seal hunt or the sealing industry. They prey on people who believe the misinformation in their campaigns. They raise money and use their efforts to try to disrupt the seal industry with their pictures and propaganda.

It is hard to believe the kind of misinformation that these people use, and it is hard to believe that they would ever try to stop our seal hunt.

If they were successful in stopping our sustainable and humane seal hunt, where else would they go? They would then move on to maybe the slaughtering of our cows, chickens, or pigs. It would not stop there. They just do not believe in this balance we have with nature and the nutritious products we get from it.

That is why I wish the government would take these well-funded campaigns of misinformation more seriously and do more to combat them to fight the spread of this misinformation. We should never bow to the pressure from other countries or interest groups when it comes to this humane and sustainable practice that provides jobs and food in a traditional way for so many people. That is also why the EU ban on our Canadian seal products, and the recent WTO ruling in its favour, is particularly troubling. The reason given was public morals. It is so unfortunate that the Conservative government left those discussions to the WTO, when it knew very well that this would happen.

Only two short years ago, the Prime Minister and the fisheries minister went on a trip to China. Before they left, the Prime Minister was speaking to The Globe and Mail and said that he was going to open up the large Chinese market to help our sealing industry. We have not seen that market open. We have not seen any amount of seal products going to that Chinese market.

In fact, much more needs to be done to promote all our seafood products in China and Asia. We need to let our Asian customers know about the importance and quality of our Canadian fish and seafood products, including, of course, our seal products. I was in Taiwan last year on a trade mission. It is big market. They love the way we manage our fisheries and how good our product is. It is a big market for us, and we have to be on it all the time, or others will take it.

It is also sad to see that the Conservative government has let down our sealing industry by not fighting harder for it.

People in the fishery struggle every day. It is very hard to be out there with the elements. They have to ship their product far away to markets. It is a struggle every day, and I commend them for going out in the springtime and being on the ice. Springtime in Montreal or Ottawa is quite different from springtime off Newfoundland or Cape Breton. It is all ice. It is cold out there. It is still as dangerous as ever, but they go out there for the seal hunt.

The hunters and fishers do not need these outside forces tormenting them and endangering their lives. It is a hard living, and every dollar counts. That is why the government needs to do more for Canadian sealers and the seal industry.

I think the private member's bill is a good start, and I commend the hon. member for doing that. However, the bill comes down to safety, which is so important. The safety of our sealers and those involved in the seal hunt has to be the number one concern. I believe that this is a good bill that would help increase the safety of all those involved in the hunt.

I would like to thank my hon. colleague once again for introducing the bill. We will truly miss him when he does not come back to the House in the next term.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2015 / 7 p.m.
See context

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to speak in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), both as a concerned member of Parliament and also as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Let me begin by commending the member for West Nova for his initiative with this legislation. The bill is quite short, but the member has demonstrated that one does not have to have a long bill to make an important contribution to Canada.

Doubling the safety zone between seal harvesters and unlicensed observers is a sensible proposition that would help improve the safety of many. Given that the bill received all-party support at second reading and passed committee without amendments, clearly my colleagues agree.

On paper, the bill is about protecting seal harvesters from unlicensed observers who may disrupt the seal hunt and put sealers' safety at risk, but on a deeper level the bill is also an opportunity for the House to validate once again the legitimacy of the seal harvest. It is humane, sustainable, and well-regulated, and seal harvesters deserve to carry out their work without being harassed and endangered.

In my time today I would like to begin by putting the issue of the safety of seal harvesters into context.

Harvesting seals has never been for the faint of heart. In the 19th century, for example, sealers ran the risk of having their wooden steamships wedged in the ice while chasing seals. In these conditions the mere movement of the ice could crush the hull. Meanwhile, harvesters working away from the ship could have easily been stranded as well. It would be prudent here to remember the men who were lost in the 1914 sealing disaster on the SS Newfoundland and SS Southern Cross.

In our modern era, better vessel designs and more sophisticated technology have helped protect ships from the ravages of ice, although for the sealers themselves, the job has become more dangerous in some new ways.

Hundreds of years ago, sealers only had to contend with the forces of mother nature. If the ice shifted or cracked beneath their feet, it was largely outside their control. Today, sealers have to be mindful not only of the dynamic environment, but also of onlookers who seek to disrupt their work.

I respect the rights of Canadians to protest the seal harvest even if I do not agree with threatening the livelihoods of hard-working Canadians from rural, coastal, and aboriginal communities. When such dissent puts the very lives of harvesters at risk, we as elected officials must take action.

If a protest ship gets too close to harvesters, it can crack and break up ice flows. Even a mild shift in the ice can disrupt the balance or concentration of a seal harvester. Given that almost all harvesters are using high-powered rifles or shotguns, the result could be fatal.

We have a responsibility to our constituents and to Canadians to ensure that they are able to provide for their families in a safe and secure work environment. Whether they work in an office, in a factory, on a boat, or anywhere else, Canadians deserve to know that all safety risks are at a minimum.

According to existing regulations, unlicensed observers must stay at least one-half nautical mile away from seal harvesters. This legislation proposes to double the distance to a full nautical mile. That would result in a buffer of 6,000 feet, or about 1,800 metres. This extra distance would ensure the integrity of the ice under the sealer's feet and give DFO enforcement personnel more time to react if a protest vessel breaches the distance requirement. This increased buffer would give additional assurance to sealers that DFO and the Coast Guard will be able to intervene if necessary to protect sealers whose safety may be put at risk by such reckless action.

Our seal harvest is humane, sustainable, and well-regulated. Our sealers are trained in the use of the three-step process for humanely dispatching a seal. Sustainability is assured thanks to thorough regulations and good stock management. In fact, the population of the harp seal has more than tripled in size since the early 1970s and the grey seal population has increased by 30 times. Some would say that we have managed the population too well, with the seal population now having a major effect on fish mortality in Atlantic Canada.

The government thoroughly monitors the industry's compliance with regulations to ensure that the harvest continues to meet these five standards.

We recognize that misinformation continues to circulate, provided by radical groups committed to the abolition of this traditional seal hunt. This is particularly true around the type of seals that are harvested. It has been more than 30 years since Canada allowed the commercial harvest of unweaned harp seals, often referred to as whitecoat seals, and young hooded seals, known as bluebacks. However, some critics continue to use outdated photos to malign the nature of today's harvest and to market their campaign against the industry.

Despite the misinformation, Canada seal products are in demand around the world. Between 2005 and 2011, Canada exported $70 million worth of seal pelts, value added garments and edible seal products, such as oil and meat, to more than 35 countries.

There is no denying, however, that the European Union's ban on the import and sale of seal products and other bans which followed it have hurt this proud and historic industry. That is why our government has been relentless in its effort to end this ban, and last fall we had a major breakthrough.

Members may recall the ban exempted certain types of seal products, including those related to indigenous hunts. This is an important recognition of the social, cultural and economic value of the seal hunt to Inuit and aboriginal communities.

However, it was never entirely clear how this exemption would work. For example, in some cases, Inuit rely on suppliers in southern Canada to support them. Some thought the involvement of non-indigenous people should disqualify these products from the exemption.

In October, Canada and the European Union announced a joint statement regarding the operationalization of the indigenous exemption. In includes a provision to allow non-indigenous Canadians and groups to process, manufacture and market seal products harvested by indigenous Canadians. This is good news for Inuit and aboriginal seal harvesters, for their partners and for greater future market access in Europe.

In the meantime, our government continues to vigorously defend the commercial seal industry as humane, sustainable and well-regulated. By approving the bill, the House can complement our government's efforts.

To summarize, the bill demonstrates to both sealers and our trading partners that Canada believes in the legitimacy of the seal harvest. On a practical level, it helps to protect the safety of seal harvesters while they are at work.

An act respecting the marine mammal regulations is strong legislation that received all-party support at second reading, and it deserves the full support of this House at third reading.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

February 17th, 2015 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I begin this speech on one of the most controversial of Canadian topics, the seal hunt, with one of the country's most controversial commentators, Don Cherry.

Don Cherry, who has made his career on and around the ice, recently took a shot at the Newfoundland and Labrador ice industry, our seal hunt. It was a Saturday night earlier this month on Hockey Night in Canada. Don Cherry was doing his usual Coach's Corner, with his CBC sidekick, Ron MacLean. MacLean was actually in St. John's, Newfoundland, for Rogers Hometown Hockey, and he mentioned during the segment how he had eaten a seal burger for lunch that day. The seal burger was prepared by Chef Todd Perrin of Mallard Cottage in Quidi Vidi Village in east end St. John's, one of our finest restaurants. Indeed, we have some of the finest restaurants in Canada.

Don Cherry's immediate reaction to the mention of a seal burger was disgust. That is what I saw in his face. “Imagine eating a baby seal”, Cherry said, before questioning whether McLean was a savage or a barbarian. It was hard to tell whether Don Cherry was serious, or whether he was just ribbing MacLean, which is what he often does. However, the immediate reaction in Newfoundland and Labrador to Don Cherry's comments was not good. To slight the seal hunt is to slight Newfoundland and Labrador, more so than any other slight, from “Newfie” on down. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us and who we are as a people, but also against our forefathers and our very outpoured souls. To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland and Labrador. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. One does not joke about the seal hunt. We are not ready for that yet. The constant attacks on the hunt have left a wound that is still much too raw. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are sensitive, and for good reason.

In the words of Bernie Halloran, the owner of a small outerwear shop in downtown St. John's that has been selling seal products for 30 years, sealing is the most bullied industry on the planet. Bernie Halloran said that in a letter he wrote to Don Cherry.

Don Cherry later issued what was more of a clarification than an apology. He said he had no problem with people who hunt seals and no problem with seal meat, but also said, “I do however find it very unusual, in my world, that a person would go into a restaurant and order a seal burger for lunch.” That may be unusual to Don Cherry in Don Cherry's world, but it is not unusual in my world. Flipper pie is a true Newfoundland and Labrador delicacy, and the best meat by far that I have ever eaten is seal tenderloin fried on a cast iron pan with butter, salt, and pepper and left for 15 minutes. It is heaven on a plate.

Don Cherry may know hockey, but he does not know Newfoundland and Labrador. He does not know our people. He does not know our cultural industry. At what point did Don Cherry become soft? To quote a constituent, “Go buy Rock 'Em Sock 'Em 97, where grown men punch the face off each other for two hours”. Is that not barbaric?

To quote another Newfoundlander, “I wonder what the wings and ribs at Don Cherry's restaurant are made of?” Is that not hypocritical: beef, chicken, seal? The sealing industry has been vilified.

To once again quote Bernie Halloran, owner of that seal shop in downtown St. John's, “...my opinion, if sealing is wrong, the whole world is wrong”.

That brings us to the bill before the House today. Her Majesty's official opposition, the New Democratic Party of Canada, supports Bill C-555, the seal fishery observation licence.

This bill would increase the distance that an unofficial observer—a seal protestor, for example—must keep from sealing. Right now, it is against the law for an unofficial observer to come within a half nautical mile of the hunt. Bill C-555 would increase that buffer zone to a full nautical mile. It would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.

When I spoke on this bill in March 2014, almost a year ago, I called this bill a charade, to make it appear that the Conservative government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. This bill is a sham, to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt. It is an illusion, to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt.

Changing the distance that unofficial seal hunt observers can approach the hunt from a half mile to a full nautical mile means absolutely nothing when the half mile zone that is there now is not enforced.

Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that this is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything. The east coast seal hunt has seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in its history under the Conservative government. That is a fact.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Taiwan, the European Union, and all of its member countries have banned the importation of Canadian seal products while the Conservative government has sat idly by, touting its undying support, for all the good it has done.

The anti-seal hunt groups have been very effective, incredibly effective, in pounding our industry. I recently travelled to Taiwan with a parliamentary delegation. I was curious to ask the Taiwanese first hand why they banned Canadian seal products in 2013, because that is the way it was sold over here: yet another country has lined up against the Canadian seal hunt.

However, what I learned was that the Taiwanese ban on the export or sale of marine mammal products had solely to do with Japanese whaling and the Japanese dolphin hunt. It had nothing to do with Canadian seal products. The seal hunt is not an issue in Taiwan. This is a country where people eat barbequed squid on a stick. Taiwan and Asian countries like it are seafood meccas.

The Conservative government has to do more to educate people around the world about our sustainable and humane seal hunt. The government is not doing enough to spread the word. The Taiwanese quote Greenpeace and the International Fund for Animal Welfare as gospel, as the last word on the seal hunt, when they should not be quoted at all.

To wrap up, my party supports this bill on extending the seal fishery observation licence, but that will not change a thing with the hunt. It will not reopen closed markets. It will not lift the ban on seal products in so many countries around the world. This bill will not stop people like Don Cherry from describing those who eat seal burgers as barbarians or savages. Joking or not, such comments do nothing to promote our sealing industry. The comments sting.

I just attended the 10-day Mount Pearl Frosty Festival in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl. Mount Pearl is a city alongside St. John's, a city that I describe as a land-locked outport. People there are first-, second-, or third-generation baymen. Baymen means that they come from rural Newfoundland and Labrador, meaning sealing is in their blood.

The seal fashion that I took in during the Frosty Festival—the sealskin boots, jackets, and coats, mostly on the women—was absolutely lovely. Besides sending a note to Don Cherry, Bernie Halloran of St. John's mailed him three seal ties, including a blue one in memory of Don Cherry's late dog, Blue. How nice was that? That is who we are.

The best thing that could happen to the seal hunt is if someone like Don Cherry, with his unique fashion sense, embraced our industry, embraced our fine fashion sense and melded it with his own.

Don Cherry in a sealskin jacket and tie would get two minutes for looking so good.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

May 15th, 2014 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia

Conservative

Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, part of being a team is that when one part of the team drops the ball, the other part of the team picks it up and runs into the end zone.

I really want to thank the member for West Nova for picking the ball up on this piece of legislation. I had originally introduced this legislation prior to the last election, before becoming a parliamentary secretary. As members know, parliamentary secretaries cannot introduce private members' legislation.

The member for West Nova, very ably, was able to pick up this legislation and bring it to the House of Commons. Hopefully it will gain the support of all members of the House and go through. It is a very needed piece of legislation.

I do welcome the opportunity to speak in favour of Bill C-555, an act respecting the marine mammal regulations, seal fishery observation licence. The proposed amendments will make the annual seal harvest safer for all concerned. Before highlighting the specifics, however, let me put the safety issues into a larger context.

It is no secret that Canada's seal harvest has drawn the ire of many celebrities over the years. Many B-list and failed actors and actresses have used the seal hunt to try to promote their own careers because they glean some public interest in the issue. I think that is false. I think it is shameful.

They are often the ones who say they support the downtrodden and poor people across the planet. They go on television and say how much they do to support charities. In fact, what they are doing is promoting their own careers at the expense of those who are truly in need, the average sealers and their families who need the seal hunt to provide sustenance and a small amount of money to help make ends meet at the end of the month. Those are the people who are being hurt by these B-list, washed-up actors and actresses who protest the seal hunt.

Members may recall in 2006 when Paul McCartney and his then-wife, Heather Mills, who is a very rich lady now, because she divorced him and took half his money, apparently, appeared on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for a photo op. The seal clearly did not want to play ball with Sir Paul and snapped at the couple. A photograph later appeared in the Sun newspaper in Britain under a headline, “A Hard Day's Bite”.

I wish that seal had had longer teeth, quite frankly. Sir Paul McCartney has not been seen on an ice floe since that unfortunate incident. That photo op gone wrong actually performed a valuable public service. It showed the world that seals are not the cuddly creatures they are often made out to be by the media and by these protestors, but rather wild animals in the same league as beavers and bears.

I am proud that Canada's seal harvest is biologically sustainable, well managed, and carried out humanely. It is an effective marriage of traditional knowledge and modern science, one that we are always ready to improve upon through new techniques and modern methods. Unfortunately, there are those who continue to malign Canada's good name on this issue. I am not only speaking of celebrity activists but also of our trading partners. As we approach the annual seal harvest, it is a good opportunity to remind these partners and our stakeholders that the Government of Canada supports this industry as it engages in this time-honoured tradition.

As members may recall, the European Union has banned the import and sale of seal products since 2010. This was an affront to Canadian sealers and injurious to Canada's coastal, Inuit, and other aboriginal communities, and the Government of Canada quickly challenged the ban through the WTO.

Last November, the dispute panel found that the European Union's import ban did, in fact, violate its international trade obligations. However, at the same time, that panel said the ban on seal products can be justified due to some of the public's concerns regarding the seal harvest, referring to propaganda released by the anti-sealing efforts. These findings show the anti-sealing lobby is having a drastic effect. Through emotionally exploitive images and misinformation about Canada's sealing practices, special interest groups are turning public opinion against the seal harvest, particularly in Europe. That is why the European Union argued that the seal ban was necessary to address so-called public morals.

The acceptance of public morality as a basis for discriminatory bans on seal products is not only of concern to Canada. The panel report undermines a rules-based global trading system that gives consumers the power to make their own purchasing decisions. Indeed, upholding a ban on seal products creates a dangerous precedent for global trade, but they did it anyway.

Of course, this government is appealing the panel's findings through the appellate body of the WTO. We will continue to defend our seal harvest as a humane, sustainable, and well-regulated industry, and confront any contrary views with cold, hard facts. In the short term, however, we recognize that the panel's findings will fuel all those who oppose the seal harvest so zealously.

This brings me back to the current legislation. Many special interest groups, critics, and celebrities are concerned with the management of the seal harvest. Their desire to monitor the harvest up close may involve unnecessary risk, however, and we must not wait for tragedy to occur before we act.

The bill before the House today seeks to reduce that risk. Under proposed attachments and amendments, no person, except under the authority of the seal fishery observation licence issued by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, could approach within one nautical mile of a person fishing for seals.

There would be those who would solve the problem of risk simply by making the seal harvest go away. That is not a practical solution, neither for Canadian sealers nor Canada's coastal, Inuit, or other aboriginal communities that depend on the seal harvest in so many ways. It is a question of respect for culture and a way of life that has continued for generations.

It is also a question of the revenue generated by coastal communities from the seal harvest. For example, each year the sales of meat and skin for garments and arts and crafts generate $1 million for the Nunavut economy.

All that said, we are not debating the continued existence of the seal harvest. Instead, we are looking into how to address the increased risks that are posed by some individuals who observe without a licence. By requiring a few succinct changes to the Marine Mammal Regulations, Bill C-555 proposes an elegant and thoughtful solution to this challenge.

The Canadian sealing industry has evolved over the past several hundred years, or since the early 1700s, when the first organized occurrence of the annual hunt was actually documented. The seal hunt has been going on for well over 500 years and, according to the documented history of our first nations people, well before that.

Over the years, the nature and conditions of the hunt and of the vessels, tools, and methods used by sealers have evolved, and technology has improved. That said, this is not the first change to the Marine Mammal Regulations in recent years. Members may recall, for example, that the regulations were amended in 2009 to ensure more humane harvesting methods. Nor will it likely be the last change to these regulations. New challenges and risks arise that we cannot foresee, and hopefully future governments will act just as responsibly. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through normal regulatory processes, as opposed to having to do it by legislation.

Currently, the Marine Mammal Regulations permit anyone to observe the seal hunt from outside a half nautical mile of a seal harvester at work. That is about 900 metres or only 3,000 feet. It is not far enough. Should unauthorized observers violate the half nautical mile distance, our enforcement officials are left with relatively little time, usually in difficult environmental conditions in the sea, to react and intervene if necessary. Requiring unlicensed observers to stay farther away from the sealers who are doing their work would allow our enforcement officials additional time to intercept a vessel that breaches the distance and keep it from disrupting the harvest and possibly endangering the safety of the sealers, who are just trying to make an honest living.

That is why Bill C-555 proposes to double the safety barrier to one full nautical mile, which is about 1,800 metres or 6,000 feet. As I mentioned, this change would allow for more effective enforcement of the regulations in situations in which non-licensed observers deliberately set out to disrupt the hunt. The added distance would afford fishery officers the additional time they need to react to breaches of the one nautical mile limit and intervene safely and effectively, to prevent disruption of the hunt and to protect the sealers who may be put at risk, while maintaining the current regime in place for licensed observers who have followed the rules.

This may lead to fewer disruptions like the one that took place in 2008 involving the Farley Mowat, in which a vessel approached sealers engaged in the harvest and caused them to fear for their safety. The increased distance proposed in Bill C-555 would help to prevent these types of incidents and ultimately lead to a more orderly harvest.

In conclusion, the seal harvest remains a fixture of life in the coastal communities of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the north. It is embedded in our culture and provides much needed income to strengthen the livelihoods in remote communities. This government stands behind all those sealers who are trying to make an honest living and maintain their quality of life.

I invite all hon. members in the House to please join me in supporting this legislation.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

May 15th, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking my colleagues from around the House for understanding the importance of this bill and showing their support for it. We know there are many industries in the world that are perhaps not universally supported, yet we recognize that different areas have different priorities in the different job-creating industries.

The seal hunt in Canada is an extremely important industry for certain parts of the country. That is why it is important we recognize it as a legitimate, long-standing, and now today a very humane and protected industry. It is one that supports a lot of communities and provides a lot of income to very important family circumstances, and it is one on which many people depend. The fact that it is done humanely and that it has got to be done safely is a concern of our government, of course.

Bill C-555 is a modest bill. I am sure there will be more adjustments down the road, but the real purpose in providing this larger, kilometre-wide area of protection is simply to ensure the safety of the seal hunters and those who observe the seal industry.

Those who do it legitimately and those who have concerns or questions, as long as they are registered, are fine. They have the right to express their opinion. However, there are those who would disrupt the industry, and it has happened before. What the bill says is not only to protect the sealers but the Coast Guard and the rescue and policing efforts as well. It has to be very clear that anybody who gets closer than that kilometre distance is in fact creating a serious danger to all concerned, and they will be dealt with accordingly.

I will not repeat the many very good points made by several members here. However, we have the obligation to ensure that legitimate industries and businesses and people engaged in legitimate activities deserve our full support and recognition. That is why this bill, in a modest way, moves to add to that protection and ensure the industry stays viable, stays sustainable, and stays an important part of our Canadian landscape and economic activity going forward.

I would like to thank everybody for their participation. I look forward to the bill passing.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2014 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence).

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Yukon for seconding this bill. I know he is quite passionate about the topic.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence). I believe that this is a sensible proposition and one that deserves the support of the House.

The proposed change to the Marine Mammal Regulations is straightforward and to the point. Essentially, it seeks to increase the distance unauthorized persons must maintain from seal harvesters. The bill would change the safety distance to a full nautical mile instead of the present half nautical mile.

The House should endorse this bill to show that we support the legitimate economic activities of the sealers. We should provide as safe an environment as possible for them to work in. Each day spent on the ice is a day spent on the ragged edge of safety, and that is without opponents putting the sealers lives in danger by disrupting the seal hunt.

This bill would serve to strengthen the safety aspect of the Marine Mammal Regulations and enhance the government's ability to enforce the requirements set out in the regulations. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation.

For decades now there have been many radical groups that have wanted to disrupt the seal hunt, but there are also those who legitimately want to monitor the hunting up close. Any person can apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a licence to observe the seal harvest, and I want to stress that this is a licence to observe and not a licence to intervene. Any person failing to respect the condition of the licence can indeed be fined or arrested. Thankfully, these incidents have been few and far between.

Indeed, the government can and will refuse to issue licences to anyone who intends to disrupt the seal harvest or otherwise interfere with sealers' activities. Under the regulations, anyone convicted of violating the conditions of a sealing fishery observation licence may not be eligible for another licence in the future.

There are those who do not want to comply and do not want licences. They simply want to disrupt the seal hunt. These are the people we must be concerned with.

It is the safety concerns pointed out by DFO officials that we are working on. The recommendation is to go from a half nautical mile buffer to the full nautical mile to ensure that people will not be able to break up the ice when they approach.

I want to point out that there have actually been recorded incidents in the past when large, unlicensed vessels have been there simply to disrupt the livelihoods of sealers. When these large vessels are out on the ice floes where the sealers legally are, the ice can be broken a long way away. Big ships within a half nautical mile have indeed caused some very dangerous situations in the past. We are not saying that we can stop them forever, but what we can do through this bill is keep them at a safe distance. That is what we are really asking for.

The additional cushion would ensure that seal harvesters could go about their jobs without the fear of disruption from vessels that come too close to the sealing activity.

We fully support the legitimate seal industry. We are steadfast in saying that the seal harvest is a humane, sustainable, and well-regulated activity. This is not an attempt to disguise or hide the seal hunt. This bill would do nothing to change the rules under which legitimate licensed observers must carry themselves. Any attempt to paint this as a way to hide the hunt is more of the same misinformation that has been going on for some time.

Our government fully supports the Canadian sealing industry, as I have said. For over 300 years, it has been in business. It would ensure sealers' safety in carrying on this long-standing and crucial industry.

The Canadian sealing industry has a highly professional workforce committed to upholding high standards in the harvest efforts. Our government is doing what it takes to ensure that the harvest remains as safe as possible. While we respect the right of individuals to form opinions on any matter, we will not accept illegal activities that attempt to disrupt a legitimate industry such as the seal hunt.

The government will continue to defend the seal hunt as an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities. We stand behind the thousands of Canadians who depend on the seal harvest to provide a livelihood for their families. We are defending those Canadians who rely on the harvest to maintain their culture, tradition, and quality of life.

I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and help ensure the safety of our sealers.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this debate and to share our government's perspective on Bill C-555. Let me begin by congratulating the member for West Nova, who represents his constituents so well and is leading the charge to protect the safety of all those involved with the seal hunt.

It is clear that our government is committed to developing regulations that are fair and enforceable. This bill, which proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations, is of great importance, as it concerns the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. That is why our government is supporting this bill.

Marine mammal regulations regulate matters with respect to the management and control of fishing for marine mammals and related activities in Canada or in Canadian waters. The proposed bill would require the Governor in Council to amend the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence. To be clear, the intention is to preserve the authority and discretion of the Governor in Council to modify the regulations in the future through the normal regulatory process, as opposed to having to do it by legislation. The proposed change to the regulations would increase from one-half nautical mile to one nautical mile the distance that an unlicensed observer must keep from a person who is fishing for seals. It is a pretty simple bill.

Every year, the Canadian seal harvest attracts observers. Seal fishery observation licences are provided to people wishing to observe the hunt where the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans determines that issuing the licence will not disrupt the seal fishery. Licensed observers have been and will continue to be able to monitor Canada's commercial seal harvest in accordance with the existing regulations and related licence conditions. Our government strives to ensure that there is a balance between the rights of observers and those of sealers, as well as overall safety for everyone.

What this bill would do is to help address the ongoing concerns about unlicensed observers who may pose a threat to the safety of everyone involved in the seal harvest. Let me be clear that Canadian sealers have nothing to hide from the public. However, in order to respond more quickly to the actions of dangerous activists, like those who have a stated purpose of disrupting the seal hunt and who act accordingly, this bill proposes amendments to the marine mammal regulations to increase the distance that individuals must stay away from sealers engaged in sealing activities. These changes would be made to ensure the safety of everyone involved in the seal hunt: hunters, observers, fisheries officers, and others.

Our government respects the rights of organizations and individuals to voice their opposition to the seal harvest. We will not, however, tolerate reckless activities that risk the safety of sealers, observers, and everyone else involved in the hunt. The proposed amendment is aimed at strengthening the management of the seal hunt to ensure that it can continue in a safe, humane, and orderly manner while further improving the safety of everyone involved. This important change would strengthen enforcement activities and assist in improving the management of the seal fishery observation licensing regime. This bill would afford enforcement officials who are operating in dangerous conditions more time to react when there is an incident such as occurred in 2008.

The Canadian seal harvest is humane, sustainable, and conducted in an open and transparent manner. Our government remains unwavering in its commitment to defend our sealing businesses and to preserve our rural coastal communities. Communities in Atlantic Canada, eastern Quebec, and the north have relied on the seal hunt as a way of life for centuries. Whether it is opening new markets or protecting traditional ones, Canadian sealers know our government is there to fight for them.

The proposed amendments to the regulations come at a time when the communities that rely on our traditional industries, like the seal harvest, need a government that is willing to fight for their rights. Canada's seal hunt has the highest standards of practice for any animal hunt in the world. Yet the European Union has placed a discriminatory ban against our seal products. Our government will continue to fight for the Canadian seal hunt in whatever arena possible, including the World Trade Organization. We are proud to protect a traditional, sustainable, and historic way of life for Canadian sealers across this great country.

The measures taken by the European Union have struck a blow to sealers in the north, in Quebec, and Atlantic Canada, to their families, and to Canada as a whole. Our government has taken decisive action to defend Canadian sealers in light of the European Union's very discouraging ban on seal products.

Our government has made repeated and unrelenting efforts to show the European Union and its member states the value of the seal hunt to Canadians and has challenged the European Union's ban in the World Trade Organization. We were very disappointed in the findings of the World Trade Organization panel last November that the ban could be justified on the basis of public moral concerns, and we have filed an appeal with the World Trade Organization appellate body.

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 is committed to applying the strictest standards in this area. That is why we have sought the best scientific advice on humane harvesting methods and adapted our regulations and licensing criteria based on that advice.

There has been an ongoing campaign put forth against Canadian sealers for a number of decades now, loaded with inaccurate and misleading allegations. It has been alleged that the seal harvest provides few economic benefits. That is false. It has been alleged that Canadians paid millions in subsidies and administrative costs for a seal harvest that is uneconomic. That is also false.

As important as the regulations are, it is also important to note that Fisheries and Oceans Canada also carries out effective monitoring, control, and surveillance programs on the sealing grounds and in coastal communities. Fisheries and Oceans is continually making improvements to its monitoring program to ensure compliance with regulations, which result in a humane and sustainable hunt. These actions should dispel the notion that the hunt is impossible to regulate and manage effectively. The Canadian Coast Guard, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Quebec Provincial Police work in collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans enforcement staff to monitor compliance and to enforce the regulations.

We are standing up in defence of the Canadians sealers' right to earn a living, and we will continue to do so. It is about protecting everyone involved in the seal harvest, and it is the right thing to do. I thus invite all members to join me in supporting Bill C-555.

Marine Mammal RegulationsPrivate Members' Business

March 6th, 2014 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill C-555, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence), but the bill, like so much other lip service the Conservative government pays to the east coast seal hunt, is a charade, a charade to make it appear that the government is actually doing something for the hunt, for sealing. It is a sham to make it appear that the government is defending the seal hunt, an illusion to make it appear that the government is a champion of the seal hunt. All the bill amounts to is Conservative sleight of hand.

Bill C-555 would increase the distance an unofficial observer, in other words, anyone who is not there to hunt, a seal protester, for example, must keep from the sealing. Right now it is against the law for an unofficial observer to come within a half nautical mile of the hunt. Bill C-555 would increase that buffer zone to a full nautical mile, so it would increase from a half nautical mile to a full nautical mile.

However, the half-mile buffer there now is not enforced, so increasing the distance to a full nautical mile is lip service. That is what I mean by lip service. It basically means nothing.

It is a good concept, and it is one my party supports. How could we not? It is about safety, in theory anyway, but for all intents and purposes, it means nothing. Sealers on the ground in my province of Newfoundland and Labrador say that it is a good idea, but they do not see how it would change anything.

Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, says it is frustrating, because as it stands, regulations are not enforced with the half nautical mile zone. Now the Conservatives would increase the buffer zone to a full mile. Who are they trying to fool? It is nobody on this side of the House, nobody back home in Newfoundland and Labrador. They are not fooling us, so what is the purpose of the bill? There is no purpose. It is a nuisance bill.

The Conservatives are trying to divide the New Democratic caucus on the seal hunt, only there is no divide. New Democrats fully support a humane and sustainable hunt. It is our policy, period, end of discussion.

The 1985 report of the Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada quoted a sealer/fisherman, which are one and the same, who described himself back then, 29 years ago, as an endangered species. Let me quote that fisherman/sealer:

I am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity and right to earn a livelihood.

Today's sealer/fisherman is more endangered than ever. Outport Newfoundland and Labrador is more endangered than ever. The commercial fisheries are more endangered than ever. Sealers and fishermen are one and the same. Sealers are fishermen. Fishermen are sealers. Their livelihoods are in jeopardy. Their numbers dwindle every year.

According to the news back home this week, the fishermen's union is raising red flags about the possibility of significant cuts to the total allowable catch for the northern shrimp fishery. Shrimp has been one of the most lucrative fisheries since the collapse of the groundfish stocks, such as cod, in the early 1990s.

Just today the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies released a report on the east coast fishery, a report that slams the Conservative government for failing to reform fisheries management, two decades after the cod moratorium.The northern cod fishery was shut down in 1992, 22 years ago, and there is still no recovery plan. How shocking is that?

Sealers are fishermen. They are one and the same. What does the Conservative government have to offer? It increases the buffer zone for seal hunt observers to one nautical mile from a half nautical mile. It is a charade, a sham, an illusion, a joke.

I attended Seal Day on the Hill back in February, a day when government reaffirmed its support for the seal hunt, but the proof of the government's commitment to the seal hunt is not in the pâté, but in the policy, in the action. The east coast seal hunt has seen the biggest collapse of seal markets in its history under the Conservative government. That is a fact.

Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Taiwan, the European Union and all of its member countries have banned the importation of Canadian seal products while the Conservative government has sat idly by touting its undying support. What happened to China and to the markets there that the Conservative government was poised to tap into? What happened to those markets? Silence.

The Conservative government is on the verge of a free trade deal with the European Union, but if the government were so solidly behind the seal hunt, like it says it is, why did it not make the seal ban a make or break issue during those trade talks? Instead the Conservative government agreed to have the EU ban decided by the World Trade Organization, which upheld the ban last fall. The Conservative government is appealing the WTO's decision, but again, if the government were serious it would have made the EU ban a make or break consideration in trade talks. It did not.

Instead we see empty action, or nuisance bills like this one, to increase the buffer zone around the hunt from half a nautical mile to a full nautical mile when the government cannot even enforce the half nautical mile zone. The sealer today is as endangered as the fishermen. They are one and the same. There is no vision for the fishery or the seal hunt, no blueprint for rebirth.

The Conservative government's latest move regarding the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery is to eliminate minimum processing requirements as part of the EU trade deal. Now the trade deal is a good one. The elimination of seafood tariffs is a fabulous thing. It is being lauded in all quarters of the fishery, but the question must be asked, what will be the impact on our fisheries, on our processing sector, of the lifting of those minimum processing requirements?

The Conservative government does not give up $280 million in compensation for nothing, especially when it has done nothing for our fisheries for decades, other than to cut the guts out of science, cut the guts out of fisheries management, and cut the guts out of enforcement.

To conclude, sealers and fishermen are one and the same. As I mentioned before, we support this bill for what it is worth, but it does not address the underlying problems of our seal hunt or of our fishers. Make no mistake, the fight in us is vicious yet. The seal hunt is a part of Newfoundland and Labrador culture. It is woven in our history. It is who we are. More so than any other slight, Newfie on down, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack, not just against us, who we are as a people, but against our forefathers and our very outport souls.

To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland and Labrador. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. But the government's trying to pull off a charade, a sham, an illusion that it is a defender of the hunt when it is not must also be pointed out. So if they increase the buffer zone around the hunt, fill your boots, Mr. Speaker.

Stand in the House and blow and sputter about all the Conservatives are doing in defence of the hunt, but the proof is in the action and there is none.

Marine Mammal RegulationsRoutine Proceedings

November 27th, 2013 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-555, An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations (seal fishery observation licence).

Mr. Speaker, I rise to introduce a private member's bill, an act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations on seal fishery observation licences.

I want to thank the member for Yukon for seconding the bill. He has a real interest in this topic and definitely supports the seal hunt. The bill requires the Governor in Council to amend the Marine Mammal Regulations to increase the distance that a person must maintain from another person who is fishing for seals, except those with a legitimate observation licence.

The bill is important because it concerns the safety of everyone involved in the seal hunt, including licensed observers.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)