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National Seal Products Day Act

An Act respecting National Seal Products Day


Report stage (House), as of Feb. 24, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-208.


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

This enactment designates May 20 as “National Seal Products Day”.


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.


Nov. 2, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am going to be fairly brief in my comments, because I know that this is a very important issue for a number of my colleagues, particularly those from the Atlantic region. However, rest assured that Canadians as a whole understand and appreciate the significance of who we are as a nation and how important seal products are.

From my perspective, I applaud the sponsor who has brought this bill into the House today, because I know how genuine he is on such an important issue. This is a very important issue, and as I suggested, it is a part of our Canadian heritage.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:15 p.m.
See context


Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise and speak to the bill.

As the chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus, I first want to pay tribute to my colleagues, the member for Cariboo—Prince George, who has spoken eloquently about this, and of course, my colleague from Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa. I know that my colleague from North Okanagan—Shuswap is about to follow up on this, and we will hear some very enlightened comments, I am sure.

This is an issue that transcends political party boundaries in the House. Therefore, members will see that my remarks will not be partisan, as some remarks can be in this place.

I want to talk about how important this issue is from the perspective of an Albertan.

Why would an Alberta MP want to speak to a bill that deals with national seal products? It is from my perspective of growing up on a farm in rural Alberta. I grew up on a Simmental cow-calf operation. We had milk cows, chickens, and hogs from farrow to finish, in a mixed farming environment. The connection I had with the farm, with the outdoor and rural way of life, led me to my passion, which is hunting and fishing. I love it.

I would ask for a show of hands, but I think it would be completely inappropriate. However, I think most members in the House, especially those from rural areas, love hunting and fishing.

What does that have to do with seal products? It is all about efforts, and there are efforts afoot all around the globe from anti-animal abuse activists who are constantly trying to shut down our rural and outdoor way of life. That is fine. In democracies around the world, everybody has the right to their opinion, the right to express those opinions.

However, I would be horrified if I lost the ability some day to ethically hunt for the food I want to provide my family with, or go fishing and spend time with my son, family members, and friends. We go fly fishing on the North Ram River or catch some beautiful brook trout in Gap Lake. I know that the same thing would be felt in all communities, and the pressure is there for all the coastal communities in our magnificent country to shut down the lawful seal harvest.

I will also come at this from a different angle. It was my privilege, because of my passion, that the good people of Canada paid for 70% of my post-secondary education. I was able to get into the University of Alberta and graduate with a zoology degree in fisheries and aquatic sciences. I furthered my passion by working for Alberta Fish and Wildlife on walleye experiments. I worked as a fishing guide in the north, and I was able to pursue that career. Therefore, I want to let people know how important wildlife management techniques are, from an aspect of governance and management, and one of the most effective wildlife management techniques that any government has is the issuance of hunting licences and hunting permits.

Imagine a situation where we have too much or too little of something. We can simply change the rules a little so that we could allow more wildlife, or more of something, to flourish in a particular area; and where we have a little too much of something, we can sell licences, tags, and permits to people. Not only does this generate a source of revenue for governments to be able to fund all kinds of various services and programs, and most notably these things go back into wildlife conservation efforts, but it also allows the government the ability to get rid of or to manage a problem when it has too much of something.

Most Canadians would be shocked to know—and I do not think that the average Canadian actually does know—that back before the moratorium on the cod fishery on the east coast, there were not nearly as many seals as there are today. There were slightly over one million seals. I spent a number of years on the fisheries committee, natural resources committee, and the environment committee in my 10 years as a parliamentarian. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but today I think we have in the order of six or seven times as many seals on the Atlantic coast of Canada.

At the same time, the cod moratorium in the early 1990s was very controversial and it very much impacted the industry and the way of life because of the inappropriate, some would say, mismanagement of the cod fishery. That stock has had a moratorium on it ever since. I am a fisheries biologist by training. That fishery should have recovered by now, and I know that in some places it actually has, but in the vast majority of areas, it has not.

This has cost so many people on the coast their way of life. I would not want that on anybody. I do not want that on the farmers I represent in central Alberta. I certainly do not want foolish policies affecting the way of life of my energy resource workers in central Alberta. I do not want this to affect the way of life of the people who live in our coastal communities. It is vitally important. This perspective is where I am coming from.

I applaud my colleague and admire his courage in bringing this bill forward, because bringing forward a piece of legislation that deals with this issue is often very divisive. It brings out emotions in people. It defies sometimes even logic when people use arguments one way or the other.

The bill focuses primarily on the traditional culture and heritage of Canada's indigenous peoples in coastal communities respecting the use of ocean resources. Why on earth would we not do that? Why on earth would we not promote seal products here in Canada. Why on earth would we not defend the people who earn a livelihood?

In some communities, the ability to harvest seals might only grant that family an extra $7,000 to $10,000 a year for the seal harvest, but if that family only has a household income of $15,000 or $20,000 a year, we are talking about a significant portion of their earnings. Some people live on those earnings. We should not even have to be defending this; we should be promoting this. The responsible harvest and use of these natural resources in a sustainable and ethical way is something we should be applauding, not admonishing.

We have heard report after report at the fisheries committee, the member who is the sponsor of this piece of legislation and I, saying how much has changed in the practice of seal harvesting over the years and how much more ethically and responsibly done it is today. However, in a world of social media and a world of celebrities, foie-gras-eating celebrities, in some cases, yacht-owning celebrities, in some cases, who take up charges that seem completely hypocritical, what do they say? We have blue sky, white ice, and of course, a harvest going on.

The reality is that it is completely ethical and sustainable to do so, and we should be not only applauding the people who do it but encouraging them and promoting them.

It makes complete sense from a wildlife management perspective. All parties in this House, when they are in government, have a great record of defending it, promoting it, and defending these interests at the European level, at the World Trade Organization, and so on. I think this piece of legislation, if passed, just puts one more feather in our cap as a nation as we promote this.

The bill also builds on the importance of ecological sustainability, through practices like the seal harvest, that help maintain healthy wildlife populations. I have already talked about that. One of my favourite events here on the Hill is Seal Day on the Hill. To have an actual day enshrined, not in a legislative way where we have a legal holiday but just as a day that recognizes the importance of this small but vibrant and necessary industry, is absolutely wonderful.

If we go to these dinners we see amazing products made out of sealskin. We have natural health products with seal oil and omega-3, amazing crafts that are made primarily by first nations and Inuit people. We have beautiful coats and beautiful mitts and boots. They are very beautiful, top-quality products. These products have a demand. There are people who are willing to buy these, and it makes complete sense that we would allow this to happen, and not only allow it to happen but encourage it to happen.

I can only say thanks to my colleague for sponsoring the bill and bringing it forward in the House of Commons. I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House of Commons who stand up against things like animal rights legislation posing as legislation dealing with animal welfare, as we saw with Bill C-246, legislation that would have actually been harmful to these efforts.

I want to thank all of the folks who work in this particular industry and risk their lives sometimes. Seal harvesting is one of the more difficult occupations one can have, but is done in a very safe and responsible manner. I wish them good health and safety as they continue with this.

I encourage all of my colleagues in the House of Commons to support this common-sense piece of legislation.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:25 p.m.
See context


Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that I will be supporting the bill, as I support rural communities across this country. I also support the long history of well-managed traditional wildlife harvest that has been the lifeblood of many communities for centuries and even millennia.

I know that the seal hunt is controversial and that support for it varies widely in different parts of Canada and different parts of the world. I know this. I was born and raised in British Columbia, where there was considerable opposition to the Atlantic coast seal hunt, especially 30 or more years ago when whitecoats were still being harvested.

I lived in Newfoundland for a few years during that time and witnessed first-hand the hard feelings between Newfoundlanders and animal rights activists from away, but I also witnessed the excitement in the spring when the first boats returned from the front and seal flippers appeared in local grocery stores. Yes, I have eaten flipper pie. I also spent a summer in the northern Yukon in the early 1980s and witnessed traditional seal hunting while on Herschel Island with an Inuvialuit family.

While I was born in British Columbia, I have to mention that I have a long family history with the seal hunt. My great-great-great-great-grandfather Azariah Munden came to Brigus, Newfoundland, in 1759 and by 1768, he was a sealing captain out of that beautiful port. In 1798, I know his crew took 10,000 seals.

In 1819, his son, Captain William Munden, built the Four Brothers, the first Newfoundland-made sealing schooner weighing over 100 tons. By then, Brigus was one of the main centres of the seal fishery in Newfoundland and the Mundens and other Brigus masters were world famous for their exploits on the icy seas, including the Bartletts, who captained the ships that took Admiral Peary to the Arctic and eventually the North Pole.

In the middle of the 19th century, the Newfoundland seal fishery harvested between 400,000 and 500,000 seals per year and was a critical part of the annual wages for many men on the island. Today, the fishery is rather different, and not just because the age of sail gave way to steam and then to diesel. There are six species of seals in Atlantic Canada, but only three or four are hunted regularly. Ringed and bearded seals are hunted in the Arctic, primarily for subsistence purposes. A few grey seals are taken on the Atlantic coast.

However, it is the harp seal has always been the main focus of the hunt and is the most abundant marine mammal in the North Atlantic, probably one of the most abundant marine mammals in the world. They are hunted in Atlantic Canada, the Canadian Arctic, and Greenland. The harp seal population right now is around eight million individuals. I hear 7.4 million from some seal experts. I have heard as much as nine million, but that population has been more or less stable for the past decade and more than triple what it was back in the 1970s.

The harp seal hunt is one of the best-managed harvests of wildlife in the world. For one thing, it is relatively easy to count these animals, as the adult females haul out on the ice to give birth to their young in the spring. I have spent my life counting all sorts of animals and can only dream of such an easy census opportunity. I know there are a couple of fisheries biologists in the House today, who can appreciate trying to count fish underwater. These are dark animals hauled out on ice. One could fly over them and count the dots. The population estimates have a good level of confidence.

About 65,000 seals were harvested last year in the Atlantic hunt, well below the quota set by DFO at 400,000 animals per year. This quota is somewhat above the number that would be set for a precautionary approach, but that would only be used if there were some level of concern about the population trend, and there clearly is not. This management policy is considered one of the best in the world and has been copied by other sealing countries, such as Norway.

I would like to finish by commenting on another topic that often comes up in conversations around the seal fishery and seal populations, and that is the effect that seal predation might have on fish populations, particularly the populations of the endangered northern cod and Atlantic salmon.

Both grey seals and harp seals are mentioned in this regard, since their populations have risen as those fish stocks have declined. I know there was an annual cull of grey seals based on this belief until 1990 in an attempt to improve the recovery of cod populations.

However, without going into details here, I would just say that culling one species of animal to improve the numbers of another species, when it has been our actions that created the problem in the first place, is problematic both in terms of biology and logistics. Therefore, I just wanted to say that I would be hesitant to support a seal cull as an effort to improve fish populations, but I do support the commercial harvest of seals on the Atlantic coast and in the Arctic, which in modern times is both well managed and humane.

I support this bill to showcase seal products as I support the rural communities that depend on the traditional seal fishery as a source of income each and every year.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador


Yvonne Jones LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to this bill. Those members in the House who know me know my passion for the sealing industry and my support for Inuit across Canada who depend so heavily upon the sealing industry, as do the people in the my riding and those across Atlantic Canada and in Quebec.

The bill, an act respecting national seal products day, was brought forward by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, a Liberal senator who has since retired from the Senate. It has now made its way to the House of Commons, championed by my colleague the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, another individual who we know is a very passionate supporter of the sealing industry in Canada.

The bill would designate May 20 of each year as national seal products day throughout Canada. National seal products day would not be a legal holiday, however, it would be an opportunity for us to reflect upon the seal, the cultural use of the seal, the sustainability of the seal in our lives, and how it maintains its strength for Canadians as a source of food, as a source for crafts, as a source of economic sustainability in many regions across the country.

It is important that we recognize and honour this occasion. In fact, on several occasions, I have had the opportunity to host seal day on the Hill. This past year, I hosted seal day for my colleagues, the members of Parliament, but also for others who were supporters of the seal industry across the country. It was an opportunity for advocates and promoters, for artists and crafters, for Inuit and others, to talk about this industry and how it sustained them as individuals and also their communities. It is important we continue to do that.

Those members who know me know I am strong promoter of the seal industry. I wear seal nearly every day, in one way, shape, or form.

I grew up in a small Inuit community in the north. My father was a hunter and a fisherman. Seal was such a large part of the diet of our family. It was our main source of protein as we grew up, but it brought so much more value besides food sustainability.

The seal itself became one of the main products that was used in making clothing, in making things that we would need for use outdoors or indoors every day. To this day, my mother is still a crafter of seal products. She makes beautiful designs of product. We do not waste anything. We have full utilization of seal.

I do not know if I have ever seen a more sustainable harvest in my entire life as exists in the sealing industry. Back 30 or 40 years ago, there was exploitation of the industry by those who were non-supporters, whose only goal was to set out to sabotage the lifeblood and lifestyle of the Inuit and northerners. They were successful, which was unfortunate.

However, as Canadians, we are also resilient and those of us who depend upon this resource to sustain our families continue to fight back.

I watched many times, as a young girl, as my father, my uncles, and my brothers all fought those great protestors who thought they were barbarians, that they were less than everyone else in the country because they were trying to provide for their family in a very sustainable way.

The sealing industry is one of the most humane industries in Canada today. Everything about the seal is humane: the way that it is harvested, the way that it is cured, the way that it is utilized. There is no waste.

In fact, as my colleague spoke to earlier, it has probably become one of the greatest impediments to fish stock rebuilding in Canada, of all the arguments one could make. As we know, we have an overpopulation of seal because of those protesters, because of the way they have tried to erode the lifestyle of Canadians who depend upon this sustainable animal. Our ecosystem is in complete imbalance, an imbalance that has affected the livelihood of other Canadians, especially in Atlantic Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador in particular.

The imbalance in the ecosystem is a tremendous impediment to the rebuilding of our cod stocks. Indeed, I live in a region where I watch seals go in the rivers and fish for salmon, something we would never have heard of 20 years ago. That is because they are starving, because their population is so large. They have nothing in the ocean left to eat. We have allowed the ecosystem in the ocean to become imbalanced, and that is affecting the rest of the food supply and the fish we depend upon.

Is that wise? Of course it is not wise, but that imbalance was created by people who did not understand the importance of the seal industry to the people who utilize it. When we fish from the ocean or harvest from the land, we do so leaving it in a sustainable way. We do not waste; we utilize. We do not do it for fun; we do it because we need to, and as a cultural part of our lives.

The Magdalen Islands, Bona Vista, St. Anthony, Nain, Kuujjuaq, these are all places around Canada where both Inuit and non-Inuit have used the seal all their lives to sustain their families. It is such an important part of our culture. It is unfortunate that we have seen the seal ban by the European Union, but I want to say that as devastating as impact has been on indigenous and coastal communities that depend on the seal harvest, we have been working hard to find a way to get our products back into the EU.

I want to recognize and commend the Inuit artists and the Inuit Art Council for the work they have done in building that relationship with the Europeans. I want to commend them for the show they did on indigenous art and seal products in the European Union just recently. They have made some progress and now all seal products from Nunavut will have access to the European market. We are now also working with the Government of the Northwest Territories to ensure that it too will have that access.

I wanted to point that out, because when most people hear about the seal industry, they hear it from well-funded protest groups that have their own ideology about how the ecosystem and society should work. Their ideology is not based upon the cultural values of people who live in Canada. We are a country where people respect each other. We respect the cultures of each other. In our culture, seal is a very important part. It is a part that not only feeds our body and nourishes us, but it is also the part that sustains us economically, and has for a long time. To be able to raise the profile of that is important.

I remember doing about five different shows promoting the seal industry in Montreal, Toronto, and Ottawa. We promoted the seal products of Inuit people and talked about the seal industry and how it works. Many people wanted to know more about what was happening.

I will be supporting the motion. I think it is a good motion and I would ask my colleagues to recognize the cultural importance of seal and to mark this occasion with my constituents and all Inuit and others in Canada.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:40 p.m.
See context


Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day.

This bill is important in its purpose, in affirming the traditions and the heritage of peoples, especially our first nations peoples who inhabit Canadian coastal communities and seek to preserve a way of life and identity. If we examine the fabric of the identity of these people, we will find, interwoven in that fabric, the hard work and enterprising spirit, and many threads of tradition and culture that bring colour and distinction to their identity, and ours too as Canadians.

The bill affords the houses of this Parliament an opportunity to issue respect and stand with our fellow Canadians, the women and men in coastal communities, members of first nations determined to preserve their traditional way of life, to stand with Canadians with pride in the face of those who oppose the utility of the seal.

We need to stand up against those who would deny our fellow Canadians their way of life, those who would deny our fellow Canadians their cultural traditions, and those who would deny our fellow Canadians their identity.

As such, I stand in my place in the House today in support of not only this bill, but of our fellow Canadians who depend on seals the same way others depend on salmon or wheat or vegetables to pay their bills, the same way others depend on trees to feed their families, and the same way many other Canadians rely on our sustainable and natural resources to maintain their ways of life.

Our fellow Canadians deserve our support, and I sincerely hope our Parliament possesses the fortitude to afford this support. Now, more than ever, we must demonstrate solidarity with our fellow Canadians who seek to recover from the ill-conceived European Union ban of seal products in 2009. The EU ban was not based on science and it was not based on principles of sustainability. The EU ban was the result of a high-profile lobby campaign, fuelled by celebrities who took a few hours away from their lavish lives to denigrate and prejudice the lives of our fellow Canadians.

Sadly, their campaign was fed by biased information based on emotion, not science. The lobby campaign succeeded in undermining a sustainable industry based on seal hunts that were an important part of Canada's management of fisheries and oceans. What the EU did not see, through the smoke and mirrors of the celebrity campaigns, was that the Royal Commission of 1986 brought Canada's seal hunt into the 21st century.

The Royal Commission provided a foundation to ensure Canada's seal hunt was sustainable, sustainable for our seal population and sustainable for the complex ecosystems they inhabited. The Royal Commission also precipitated a modernizing of regulations to ensure the hunt would be carried out humanely.

Unfortunately, the EU has not only injured economies in our coastal and first nations communities, the EU's infantile ban has also harmed our oceans. Over time, we have learned that harvesting or not harvesting one species has impacts on other species and indeed the entire ecosystem in which we exist.

One might ask what an MP from the interior of British Columbia would know about seals or seal products. Well, in my former roles dealing with fish and wildlife management, and now as deputy critic for Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard, I speak with an understanding of how important it is to manage on an ecosystem basis, managing all species holistically, not just on a species-by-species approach.

In my home province of British Columbia, I have been witness to the reluctance to manage predator species and the devastating impacts this reluctance has had on prey and other species. This reluctance to manage predator species was born from similar campaigns based on emotion and vacant of scientific reason. Much like the campaign that led to the EU ban, these campaigns were supported by foreign funds and blatantly ignored the traditions, cultures and ways of life of our fellow Canadians.

I have also had the honour of travelling to Atlantic Canada for numerous meetings over the past few months, where I connected with many Atlantic Canadians who depend on the ocean for subsistence. The ocean and its bounty are their livelihood.

A fisherman friend from Newfoundland recently relayed to me that there was a time when the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador relied completely on the bounty of the sea, that the island of Newfoundland was founded on fishing and sealing, industries that supported the very survival of the inhabitants of Newfoundland. This was their way of life for hundreds of years, solidifying the importance of sealing in Canada's history as a heritage activity.

It has been over 24 years since the cod moratorium was announced, an announcement that precipitated the largest layoffs in Canada's history.

This fisherman also told me that the sealing industry is without a doubt a crucial element in helping the cod stocks of the northwest Atlantic Ocean recover from the devastating collapse in the 20th century. To ensure that the fisheries in Atlantic Canada will have a future, we need to protect them from an ever-increasing seal population, which is severely limiting their recovery. Population control is an essential tool that is needed to ensure that a balanced ecosystem can exist.

Hunters and fishers are able to harvest seals humanely, and they ought to be able to do that and be supported in this, as it is a means for them to provide for themselves and for others. By passing this bill, we would be helping to restore the way of life that existed in Newfoundland and other coastal communities that has been so drastically impacted.

We would also be building a stronger case for the EU to overturn its ban. By undercutting Canada's seal hunt, the EU ban has undercut an industry that has had an important role in maintaining a delicate balance in our ocean ecosystem.

A reduction in the number of seals being harvested has wreaked havoc on our fisheries. Canada's Atlantic salmon fishery continues to struggle, and we know that predation and a booming seal population is a factor. The same can be said for Canada's northern cod fishery and the snow crab fishery in Atlantic Canada, and the list goes on.

The EU ban has hurt the economies of our coastal and first nations communities, especially in our northern communities. In fact, I recently learned of a correlation between the imposition of the EU ban on seal products and an increase in the suicide rate in Canada's northern communities.

The EU ban has undermined a legitimate industry that was part of a broader system of maintaining a sustainable balance in the ocean food chains and ecosystems. Enough is enough. The European Union may close its market to our seal products and undermine our system, but the European Union and its chaos cannot and will not impinge on the pride and dignity of our fellow Canadians.

I applaud the sponsor of this bill for the fortitude to take on a challenging issue and bring it to the forefront, but I would be remiss if I did not mention a previous and similar bill that was introduced and passed in the previous Parliament. Bill C-501, passed in 2014, recognized National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day. We now have one day of the year that officially recognizes a fundamental part of our Canadian heritage that not only helped build this great nation but continues to provide food and sustenance for people across this land.

Bills S-208 and C-501 have very much in common. Both bills recognize the importance of our Canadian heritage, history, and way of life. Both bills seek respect for those people who make their living from our renewable and sustainable resources of fish, wildlife, and marine species.

If we fail to recognize and defend that which has made us Canadian, we open the door to exterior forces that would erode our identity, forces and voices that would detach Canadians from our heritage, our land, and our oceans and sever our connection to the earth.

The human race evolved by learning how to harvest and utilize the natural resources around us. In doing so, we are now learning that we must manage those natural resources around us in a way that finds balance. The people, including the first nations, who live on the front line of harvesting and who depend on natural resources such as seals understand this balance.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
See context


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to rise today to defend Senate Bill S-208, an act respecting national seal products day.

The issues in the industry have been well-explained by the many speakers we have heard, so I will not repeat what they have said. I agree with them. Their speeches were very good.

I seconded this bill sponsored by my friend, colleague, and mentor, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. When he asked me if I would do it, there was no hesitation on my part, for while the seal population in the Laurentians is decidedly low, it is an important issue close to my heart, one I have been passionate about going all the way back to high school. There is a back story to this that members probably will not hear very often.

I grew up in a political but not partisan family, political in the sense of getting involved in the community, in issues, in nation-building in our own little corner of the nation. For reasons of opportunity not germane to this debate, I attended high school at a boarding school in Massachusetts. I received the maximum financial assistance from the school available to foreign students. There, at an institution founded in the latter half of the 19th century, called Northfield Mount Hermon School, I met students from dozens of countries, and as a teenager learned how to swear in many languages. Never did I swear so loudly as I did after the school invited a guest speaker on an issue that to that point I knew nothing about and had not even heard of. Therefore, when Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society spoke to the entire assembled student body about the need to destroy the sealing industry in Canada, and how he had sunk two ships through his activities, more than the Canadian navy itself had sunk since the Second World War, he said at the time, I twigged to its being a fundamental injustice.

As a 15-year old from rather far inland in rural Quebec, I did not yet know what the seal hunt was. Google did not yet exist, websites were often turned off at the end of the business day, Wikipedia was five years away, people still used the gopher protocol and had RFC 742, or finger, profiles, and so information had to be gleaned in more traditional ways. However, my instinct in listening to this energetic and very well-received speech, according to my fellow students, was that it did not add up. The seal hunt no doubt was an important part of Canadian culture in a part of my country I knew nothing about. It felt like an attack not only on a people or an industry but on my country. I took it as an attack on Canada itself.

I was never shy in school to identify myself as Canadian. Of over 1,100 students from around 75 countries, there were never more than about a dozen of us from here. Most of my classmates referred to me by the nickname they gave me, “Canada'”, and I can say that upon returning to Canada, it was a bit of a disappointment to lose that nickname, though in a similar way, in the years I lived in Ontario, I was just as proud to identify myself as a Quebecker, which I consider to be an integral part of my identity and who I am.

At NMH, we were early adopters of technology. Jonas Reed Klein had graduated in the class of 1993, two years before my arrival. A very promising technologist, he went on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that autumn, but was tragically killed in an unusual small plane crash in November of that year, the plane being knocked out of the sky in a collision with a skydiver. I never met Jonas, but my brother Jonah, who attended NMH before me, did know him, and one of my most important mentors in technology, my classmate Seth Schoen, who is now at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, met him, learned from him, and passed on a lot of that knowledge and his passion. As a result of Jonas' very promising career, and strong and, by all accounts, contagious interest in technology, his family set up a memorial fund at my school to promote the use of and education about technology. Had that series of events not happened, I would not be standing in the House today.

The technology fund created two things: one was the technology package needed to create a campus club called GEECS, a recursive acronym for Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, which had a 386 running Slackware Linux on a 1.2 kernel, where I got my first Linux experience, which directly resulted in my first career as a technology journalist and news editor at, under the mentorship of Robin Miller, known in the technology world simply as Roblimo, and made me probably one of the few people ever to use Lynx, the text-mode web browser, professionally. The other was a system years ahead of its time called SWIS, the School-Wide Information System, based on the first-class collaboration suite. By the end of my ninth grade in 1995, every student in the school had an email address, which we could use on the Mac LC 475s and Mac LC 520s in the Cutler computer lab. Somewhere between a BBS and a social network, the system allowed students and faculty to interact electronically with message groups on arbitrary topics in what was then a very novel way.

One of these groups was on food. Frequently, vegan advocates would argue for veganism, something they are well-known to do. Their argument, which was not unfair, was that people should not eat meat without knowing where it came from, that it was not justifiable to eat meat if one was not part of the process of how that meat ended up on one's plate. Being a life-long homesteader, my parents Joe and Sheila—any nearby Australians may want to take note of their names—were among the runners up for Mother Earth News' Homesteaders of the Year back in 2012, so I knew a thing or two about where meat came from.

My whole life, we have raised our own meat, vegetables, eggs, and so forth. Today, in our multi-generational household, we produce around 80% of the food we eat, when we are not here in Ottawa, of course.

My argument, therefore, back to these vegan activists was always, “Here's my connection to meat”, and then I would go into detail, “Here's how to raise a chicken. Here's how to slaughter a chicken. Here's how to clean a chicken. Here's how to store a chicken and here's how to prepare a chicken.” Of course, this put the vegan activists in a really awkward spot. The general consensus and response from them on the SWIS message board was, “Nobody should eat meat, except David.”

There is the trouble. When a vegan, an activist, or someone who is against the seal hunt but will happily go eat a hamburger tells me, or you, Madam Speaker, or any of our colleagues here, or our families, or our fellow citizens, what we can and cannot eat, what we can and cannot produce, and what we should or should not do, they are making assumptions about who we are, what our experiences are, and what our realities are.

In my years since, it has been important to me to learn about other people's experiences and realities, to become that much more worldly, and among many other things, to understand what the seal hunt actually is, beyond my baseline high school instincts. I would invite others to do the same.

When people all over the world tell our communities, who for over millennia have become very much part of the ecosystem in our coastal regions, where managing the seal population does not only serve to feed a population directly but also ensures fish stocks can survive the voracious appetites of our fellow predators, that this particular hunt is wrong and must result in a social and economic stigma that has nothing to do with reality, I believe it is important that we use our technology to post on our worldwide information-sharing systems what our reality actually is.

The stigma has made it so that buying seal meat in a grocery store, or through a fishmonger, which should be possible, is not possible. I believe it is incumbent on people like us, parliamentarians, in our position of protecting the interests of our society and of our future, to respond in kind, to say, no, we do not accept that social and economic stigma based on no facts whatsoever but only on a perception and on a quick political whim, where there is no real need to worry about the realities over there in Canada. No, we do not buy the argument that sinking warships in the Canadian navy as a protest against the livelihoods of our people is productive, fair, or justified. We will not put up with these attacks on a Canadian way of life, which goes back far longer than Canada as we know it.

It is very important for us to pass Bill S-208 and make May 20 national seal products day to make a statement that we defend our people and their way of life, that we defend the livelihood of our people, that we will celebrate our culture, and that we want to see our products succeed.

The bill does not make a holiday. It makes a statement. It is a statement I am proud to make, proud to shout from the rooftops, and one I hope my colleagues will be proud to make as well.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 27th, 2016 / 6 p.m.
See context


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Madam Speaker, I first want to thank my former employee and colleague. I did not even write the speech for him. With all the technical words in it, I am just not capable of doing it, quite frankly.

I want to thank him for that, because he illustrates a very important point. It is not just a holiday; it is a statement. That is absolutely correct. Here is someone who has no connection to any of the communities that have been mentioned, whether they are in the north, on the coast of British Columbia, or in Atlantic Canada, and he managed to make a connection as a Canadian, to all Canadians, over 30 million of us, to look at seal products day as a necessary thing.

I also want to thank my other colleagues, and I would like to mention some of them. Someone who did not get a chance to speak was the member for Nunavut, but I want to thank him. He has supplied many of the seal ties we see here today. He has truly been an advocate. As a matter of fact, when he greeted the President of the United States, he was wearing a seal tie. I think that is probably the first time that has ever happened with an American president, and hopefully not the last.

I want to thank the member for Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa very much, because he brought forward the argument of wildlife management. I want to share a story with him. One of my predecessors, the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Trinity—Conception, was Captain Morrissey Johnson. He captained a boat himself and then became a politician. He was on Front Page Challenge, a television show on CBC, as a guest about the seal hunt. He was asked what made him so convinced that seals were eating fish. His response was that they were in the ocean and they were certainly not eating turnips, which was a very illustrative point. I thought it was pretty good. I want to thank the member for that, and his vast experience with wildlife management certainly was educational.

I would like to thank the member for Red Deer—Lacombe, who pointed out that seals provide extra money for people with low incomes. That is very true. He compared it to when Europeans say they do not like the seal hunt and the cruelty it represents, and then eat foie gras. I do not have to illustrate how foie gras is made. I probably should not or we would not eat supper, but I do support that industry as well.

I want to thank the member for South Okanagan—West Kootenay. He talked about the coast-to-coast connection, his family being from Brigus, Newfoundland, sealers themselves, and then on the west coast with the Inuvialuit.

I want to thank my colleague from Labrador. She hosts seal day here. She has been an extremely passionate advocate for it, and I thank her greatly for all she has done. She is certainly a champion for this, more so than I am, quite frankly.

I also want to thank the member for North Okanagan—Shuswap for his comments. He talked about the EU ban and how unjust and unfair it is, which goes back to the point that was made by my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle about the fact that there are people who look at this as being extremely cruel, but have no problem wearing or eating other animal products without any idea where they come from, how they are slaughtered, or how they are raised.

Of course, I also want to thank my colleagues who questioned me during my first speech. I want to thank them for that, but again I remind them that this day, as my colleague pointed out, is not just a day of celebration. It is a strong statement for our communities. There are exemptions in place in places like the European Union for cultural reasons—aboriginal, first nations, Inuit—but quite frankly, they still do not understand how this works because they have to sell this commercially in order to make things viable, as well as the Atlantic communities.

All that being said, I want to thank all of my colleagues in the House for allowing me to bring this forward. I want to thank Céline Hervieux-Payette, a former senator, for being the genesis of this particular bill. It was my honour to bring it forward. I also want to thank the former member for Yukon, who also made a go at this and it did not quite work. However, it is now in the House for a vote. Let us hope this happens.

I will stand here to vote for Bill S-208 in the same way and in the same spirit that I voted for Bill C-501, and that is to protect our culture tied to wildlife, how we manage it, and how we champion it as Canadians.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:05 a.m.
See context


Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

moved that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, before I start, I want to say that in 2004-05, when I was first elected, the minister of fisheries and oceans at that time was one of the strongest, most powerful advocates for the sealing industry that this country has ever seen. That, sir, was you, and I thank you very much for that. We all thank you for your service in that cause. That was not just a way of trying to win favour with the Speaker. I am serious about the issue.

This is a very important day for us, and also for a wonderful person, the former Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette. She was the champion of this in the Senate in 2014. The bill died on the Order Paper, and then it came back, of course, moved successfully through the Senate, and now it sits here in the House of Commons. I am honoured to move this.

We are proposing to vote for May 20 to be national seal products day. First of all, why May 20? That is a good question. May 20 coincides with European Maritime Day. The reason we are doing this, and it is not in jest, is because in the European Union, they spend a full day celebrating the culture of the marine industry, including fishing, harvesting of animals, and all fisheries around the European Union and the entire continent.

Senator Hervieux-Payette thought to have this day coincide with that day as a way of celebrating what we do in the way of harvesting this animal. As we all know, a few years ago, the European Union introduced a ban on seal products, which we vehemently opposed at the time. We challenged it through the WTO, rather unsuccessfully, but nevertheless it exists. There was an exemption for indigenous persons. I will talk about that in my speech a little later. I understand the member for Cariboo—Prince George will be talking about the indigenous factor for seal products. I thank him in advance for doing that.

I also want to thank the seconder of this bill, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, who worked on this when he used to work for me. He worked on this quite a bit. I am happy to say that he is seconding the bill. It is also very fitting that the mover of this today is from Newfoundland and Labrador, and the seconder is from Quebec. These are the two provinces that have harvested seals the most in the commercial industry.

The gulf seal fishery—because we call it a fishery even though they are mammals—in Quebec, and the other seal fishery, primarily in Newfoundland and Labrador, in an area called “The Front”, takes place in April and May.

As we go into this right now, I want to talk about the industry itself and what it has done for the commercial side in the coastal communities. Certainly over the last 10 years, there has been a decline in a major way. By way of illustration, in 2004, $18 million of seal products were exported, primarily in meat, oil, and, of course, pelts, which was the most at the time. The pelts constitute the garment industry. These are garments such as boots, mittens, slippers, and bow ties.

This one, incidentally, was given to me by the Hon. John Crosbie of Newfoundland and Labrador. I wear it very proudly. He was a true advocate for the industry. Recently, he set up a sealers memorial in the town of Elliston, Newfoundland and Labrador. I thank him for this, and I wear it today as such. If anyone has seal products, I suggest they wear them over the next while. I see that some members are wearing them, and I thank them for that.

Let us look at 2004 again. There was $18 million in exports around the world, primarily in nations such as Norway, Russia, throughout the European Union, some at that point in Asia, not a lot, like we have now, and China, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong. However, that point was the peak of the industry. One pelt would get just over $100. Today's pelt price is just under $20. That gives us an idea of how devastating it has been.

There are a couple of other factors as well. Several years of the strong dollar did not help. Also, there has been a substantial amount of ice cover, both east of Quebec, Îles de la Madeleine in particular, and also in Newfoundland and Labrador. That did not help the situation.

It was some $18 million that was the value back then. Today, the exports are just over $300,000. It has taken a downturn. I mentioned earlier the ban on seal products in the European Union. Russia has also banned seal products. I am not sure about that one, simply because it was a major importer of seal products. President Putin felt, in his infinite wisdom, that banning seal products was a good thing to do, and it put a lot of people out of work.

Here in Canada, of course, we do not have a ban, but we have an industry that is being recognized for a humane hunt and harvest of these animals. In 2009, through the marine mammal regulations, we put through a three-step process for a kill of a particular seal. It is mandatory training now for commercial licence holders to do this. An independent group of veterinarians, an international group by the way, said a while ago that it represented a humane harvest, more humane than in many cases of domesticated animals, and certainly more humane than other hunts that have taken place throughout Europe.

I will give an example. Several years ago, I put a motion in the House to ban lederhosen. I am not kidding. The reason I did that is there is an unregulated hunt that takes place with deer and boar animals in Germany. The Germans harvest it primarily through Bavaria, but basically it is not as regulated as the seal hunt is here. The harvesting of seals is very regulated, but their wild hunts are not so much. I put a motion in the House. Since they were going to ban seal products, it made sense. They were killing all these animals to create lederhosen. It never got to a vote. I did it in jest. Nevertheless, I wanted to make the point that if they were going to say that the harvesting of seals is inhumane, then they have to open up the debate to all animals being harvested.

How do we harvest our animals? We know about cruelty to animals in domesticated ways; we know about cruelty to animals in general. However, let us look at the situation we have here. We have a highly regulated harvest of a mammal that represents a great commercial value. We do not get as much from it as we used to. It has a value of $34 million in one year as far as landed value is concerned, and these are primarily harp seals. However, we understand that by doing the steps, such as mandatory training in the three-step process for the harvesting of the animal, that makes it humane. These are all international standards that are looked upon by international animal welfare groups. Some of them said “yes”, most of them said “no”, but the problem is that the ones who said no did it, in my opinion, in a very selfish manner.

I mentioned earlier about deer and boar that are harvested in Germany and it being less regulated than our hunt. The reason it is not highlighted as much is because putting a deer or a boar animal on the front of a pamphlet to raise money does not work as well as putting a seal pup on there, now does it? Therein lies the problem that we have had for many, many years.

If we look at the seal pup when it is born, it has white fur. Protesters use that as a way of putting forward their mission to raise money for their individual groups. It is demagoguery at its worst. What we have is a situation where we do not harvest that animal; it is much older than that. Therefore, the most frustrating part is the myths that we keep battling against. We keep getting pushed back because those myths keep circulating about how we harvest an animal. It is no different than any other animal harvests around the world.

I had an argument with a British member of parliament one day. He said he did not like the seal hunt because he did not like the way we harvested the animal, the way it is done. I did not want to be too angry. I wanted to try to be intelligent about it, and I pointed out his leather shoes. He shook his head and said he knew what I was going to say, that he was wearing leather that came from a cow, but he said that it is a domesticated animal. I am sure the cow did not really care whether it was domesticated or not; it was about to face its ultimate demise.

Nevertheless, I asked him how the cow was slaughtered, and he could not tell me. Therein lies the mistruths that have been put out there.

The point of this is to say that our national seal products are tied to culture, going way back. I will give members an idea how far it goes back. Several hundred years ago, when the mass harvesting of seals took place, the oil from these seals was transported to London. It was excellent fuel for the street lamps. It is kind of ironic. In a way, the British started the anti-seal hunt campaign with groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Greenpeace and others.

Many of these groups have come around to understanding how this harvest takes place. Some have not, however. We have suffered the wrath of many mistruths by them, and unfortunately that continues to this very day.

However, there is an exemption in Europe now for indigenous communities. We have invested a bit of money as did the former government. We invested around $5.7 million, which is a good investment, to allow indigenous groups to market their products within Europe and other places. This is essential because the marketing help certainly will bring a level of understanding as to how we harvest animals in a humane way and how we respect this as being the culture of indigenous communities. Nunavut is now doing that and soon the Northwest Territories will embark on the same. That is ideal.

I know my colleague, the member for Labrador, speaks about this quite a bit.

We can do many things to increase the level of understanding as to how we can get around these lies and myths about seal harvesting, with which people around the world have painted us. We have heard it all. My ancestors were called barbarians for what they did. Someone asked me once why my grandfather had taken part in killing seals. I believe I said that it had something to do with supporting his family.

We need to increase this understanding. A short time ago, when the member for Nunavut was the minister, he went to the United States and met President Obama. He had his seal tie on when he met him. I thought that was a very touching moment. We are going to turn the corner. We are going to increase the level of understanding through the indigenous communities, and all coastal communities, for that matter. I have many coastal communities that rely on this.

There was a time when up to half a person's income was created from the seal harvest, up until about 2010 when the market started suffering.

However, I believe the markets will come back for many reason: first, seal oil is rich in omega-3; second the fur is high-quality; and third, the meat is also good. We are making efforts to increase market awareness in Asia, such as China. Hopefully, it will turn out to be a big market. However, we need to stay away from the bans of seal products based upon myths, not conservation.

Back in the seventies, there were less than two million harp seals on the east coast. Now there are 7.4 million of them. They are plentiful, indeed, to the point where some nations kill seals because they get in the way of the ecosystem. What is their excuse?

Nevertheless, I want to thank the House for hearing me on this. I look forward to the debate and any questions. I look forward to the support of all members of the House for Bill S-208. Finally, I again would like to thank Senator Hervieux-Payette for bringing this forward.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:15 a.m.
See context


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. I was happy to hear his speech, which clearly showed how passionate he is about this extremely important issue.

I wonder if he would care to comment on one aspect he did not mention in his speech: harp and grey seal population control with respect to cod stocks. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the cod stock is taking a long time to recover. According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, cod recovery is slow because of the expanding grey seal population, which has grown from about 10,000 to nearly a million in 50 years.

Both cultural and economic issues are in play here, but the fishery is also a factor. We have to consider the species' impact on the ecosystem and the importance of controlling the population. Can he comment on this important issue?

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member brings up a valid point. I did not get around to the conservation aspect vis-à-vis other species and the crowded ecosystem with respect to both harp seals and grey seals. He is absolutely right and I thank him. Some of the most passionate advocates for the commercial seal hunt have come from the province of Quebec, much like my own province.

Nevertheless, with respect to the recovery of cod, seals play a factor in the ecosystem. Obviously, overfishing is a major factor as well. There may come a time when we have to curb the population measures, just like we do with other species, which could create many problems. Some countries do this. They condemn us and part of the seal ban. Sweden is one of them. It does have a cull on seals that affect its shores. Because of that, Scotland and other places with seals are talking about culls. This has to be addressed.

The member is right about the fact that how the 7.4 million harp seals mix with the ecosystem has not been fully addressed yet. We know a lot, but we will need to know more. The seals will play a major factor in the recovery of cod on the east coast, and we have to get to that.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend for bringing this issue forward, and for wearing his charming bow tie.

Could the member comment about the troubling issue of people sometimes judging a practice or a cultural element of a society, such as the seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador, without having even appreciated, visited or gotten to know the people who engage in that traditional practice, whether that be first nations or Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. We all remember the case of celebrities coming onto ice floes and not being sure what province or part of the country they were in, yet condemning this practice that had been a livelihood for people for generations?

Would the member care to comment on how debates like this in the chamber can allow for a thoughtful discussion of how a diverse country like Canada has these unique traditions and heritages that should not be condemned by people who do not even know the people involved or the practice at issue?

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Durham for his comment about my charming bow tie, as I stand here blushing shamelessly. That is very sweet.

The member is correct. Paul McCartney was the celebrity who did not know where he was. He was in Prince Edward Island but claimed to be in Newfoundland and Labrador.

All that aside, as the member pointed out, the lack of understanding is part of the problem. These celebrities witness the actual harvest but do not witness the cultural aspect that follows the harvest. That is the problem. If they did, they would probably go back with a greater appreciation. I think of a former governor general who took part in the ceremony of eating the seal meat. It was really something at the time. I wish those celebrities would do that.

A lot of people will say that it is easy for politicians from Quebec or Newfoundland and Labrador to be in favour of the seal harvest because it is a popular thing. However, in Europe, it is a popular thing to be on the other side of the argument. At least I can say that the vast majority of politicians from Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador, and across the country, have a better understanding of the seal harvest than the protesters.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:20 a.m.
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Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for hosting our parliamentary fisheries committee tour last week. I and others on the committee toured Newfoundland and Labrador, beautiful St. John's and Gander, as well as Miramichi in New Brunswick.

It is an honour to rise in the House today to speak to Bill S-208. Bill S-208 would mark May 20 as a national seal products day each year. This would allow for the celebration of Canada's rich heritage where for hundreds of years our indigenous peoples and coastal communities have respected the seal harvest in order to maintain healthy wildlife populations and deep cultural traditions.

The Conservative Party is the only major federal political party to explicitly state its support for the seal harvest and its official policy declaration. For my colleagues on all sides, let me just reiterate this policy:

We believe the government must continue to support the Canadian sealing industry by working to eliminate unfair international trade bans on Canadian seal products.

The Conservatives' statement of support has been in the party's policy declaration since it was adopted at the party's very first policy conference in Montreal in 2005. This policy has been featured in virtually every party platform since that time. However, this is not merely a symbolic gesture.

The previous Conservative government pursued legal challenges at the WTO and then the European Court of Justice against the European Union ban on seal products. In fact, our previous government invested millions of dollars in the promotion of seal products and the opening of new markets for these products, as our hon. colleague mentioned earlier.

The seal harvest goes beyond just wildlife management. Archaeological evidence suggests that native Americans and first nations peoples have been hunting seals for thousands of years. Seal meat was, and is today, an important source of fat, protein, and vitamins, and seal products hold significant and traditional values to northern communities and our first nations. In fact, not only did seal meat help meet dietary needs, seal pelts were also vital for warmth when it came to long, cold winters. As was mentioned earlier and a couple of times today, they make great ties as well.

Although much has changed in the 21st century, the fact remains that sealing is still very much an important source of revenue for Inuit and northern communities. Thousands of Canadian families in remote coastal communities depend on the seal hunt as a source of income and food. Sealing in Nunavut alone represents between $4 million and $6 million of food source each year. Before the European Union placed an unfair ban on sealing, the income from seal pelts generated close to $1 million annually.

However, seals are not just used for their fur. As mentioned earlier, seal oil can be used for its omega-3 oils, which have been sold in capsule formula in Europe, Asia, and Canada for over 10 years. This is significant, especially for northern communities that are often limited in the commodities they are able to produce and sell.

Sealing has generated part-time employment for thousands of people. A conservative estimate puts the value of the hunt at $35 million to $45 million annually. Unfortunately, though, anti-sealing campaigns have severely damaged the market for seal products. Rural economies, such as Newfoundland and Labrador and parts of the maritime provinces are already fragile, and they have been further weakened as a result.

Just last week, as the fisheries and oceans parliamentary committee conducted our tour in Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick, we heard testimony from Chief George Ginnish of the Eel Ground First Nation on how their communities lived and relied on the lands, the waters, and the resources for their way of life. Their fishery was very much a matter of the physical, cultural, and spiritual survival of their communities. However, because of the downfall of the Atlantic salmon and conditions outside their control, we heard how five of their communities were now among the 10 poorest in Canada, how a commercial seal harvest could provide and boost their local economy, and how it would raise their community.

Sealing is an important cultural and economic driver in Canada's eastern, Arctic, and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada's rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.

Indigenous people in Canada have a constitutionally protected right to harvest marine mammals, including seals, as long as the harvest is consistent with conservation needs and other requirements.

Promoting the sealing industry by recognizing a national seal products day would have a positive impact on the promotion and education of Canadians and, indeed, the world on this important industry day.

During our visits last week, we heard of the generational loss of culture in our fishing communities. As members know, I come from the beautiful Cariboo, and we see this as well in our farming communities. We are losing that next generation of farmers, and our traditional sport of rodeo is increasingly coming under fire from those who do not understand it and are using their celebrity status against it.

We have to do everything we can to promote our longstanding traditional industries, including by sharing and teaching the culture and traditions that are unique to each industry before it is lost. We need to celebrate these industries, engaging and educating our community, our nation, and indeed the world along the way that Canada's sealing is humane, well managed, with rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure that the seal hunt is in compliance with internationally recognized animal welfare principles.

Moreover, we know that the seal hunt is sustainable in the long term. The Atlantic harp seal population is in good shape, as we heard earlier today. It is in the millions, and has more than tripled in size since the 1970s.

Aerial patrols, vessel-monitoring systems, and at-sea and dock-side vessel inspections, and processing-facility inspections all ensure that the Canadian seal hunt is ethical and in compliance. The amount of seals harvested is always within the number established by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans under the total allowable catch. In fact, if I could point to one example, the quota for 2011 was 335,000 seals, but only 40,000 were taken.

There will always be vocal opposition to the seal hunt by celebrities and animal rights activists. However, it is our job as parliamentarians to disseminate the facts against the fiction.

I have a quote from Denis Longuépée, a sealer in Quebec:

In Canada’s remote coastal and northern communities, sealing is an important part of the way of life and a much needed source of income for thousands of families...The revenues generated from this activity are an integral and vital component of the annual income earned by sealers.

Let us embrace sealing as a rich part of Canadian history and a part of the essential way of life for many.

Again, the promotion of the sealing industry will help bring facts to the table to educate people about it, and will possibly provide a well-intended economic impact for those in our northern and indigenous communities. The promotion of this important industry and education of Canadians about it will have a positive impact.

I will be supporting Bill S-208, and I hope all of my hon. colleagues will join me in doing so.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:30 a.m.
See context


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the New Democratic Party's critic for fisheries, oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard critic, as well as the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, I rise in the House to announce that I will support Bill S-208, which would designate May 20 as national seal products day.

As I am sure other speakers will point out, this is a symbolic day. It is symbolic because it is also the date the European Union has designated as European Maritime Day. The two are closely related because the day we want to promote is essentially the flip side of the one the European Union celebrates. The European Union is deeply unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of commercial seal products.

Our political party has long supported a commercial seal harvest, as long as it is humane and free of cruelty. A large part of the problem with how Europeans perceive the seal hunt is that it dates back to the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Major campaigns were organized in those days to denounce how seals, and especially white coats, were hunted. Many people will vividly recall some of the images circulated by a number of environmental groups and animal welfare groups. This was not necessarily groundless, for there were in fact some aspects that meant that the seal hunt was not being properly monitored, which led to some abusive practices. However, that is no longer the case today.

We have learned a great deal since then, and the seal hunt is an absolutely essential commercial activity. As my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame pointed out in his speech, we need to talk about this from a cultural perspective. A large portion of the subsistence incomes, and now the commercial revenues, of Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the Magdalen Islands comes from the seal hunt. This hunt takes place off those two coasts, in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence, and in Canada's Inuit regions, including Nunavut, Nunavik, Nunatsiavut, and the Inuvialuit region. In addition, the killing of white coats has been outlawed since 1987, so that is no longer a problem.

It is extremely unfortunate that the European Union has taken this position, and I am pleased that Senator Hervieux-Payette has brought this bill forward so it can, in some way, lead the European Union to review this issue.

An embargo has been in place since 2014. I get the impression that there is a type of pervasive protectionism going on and that is really too bad. This decision is driven more by politics and far less by protecting the environment or the animals. According to European Union's definition, seal-derived products are authorized provided they are derived from traditional forms of hunting practised by the Inuit communities or other indigenous communities for purposes of subsistence, or derived from forms of hunting practised solely for the sustainable and not-for-profit management of marine resources. Small quantities can be imported for personal use.

Why are these restrictions imposed on seal hunting? There are no such restrictions for other types of slaughter that do not necessarily involve livestock. I am thinking about deer hunting or moose hunting, or even what we in Quebec commonly refer to as wild game meat. This meat is no longer just the product of a hunt. Commercial zones have been established to market this meat. No one is talking about excluding that meat from the export market, but people are still talking about banning the export of seal-derived products. That is a double standard that the European Union has never successfully explained or justified.

The NDP believes that the first nations, Inuit peoples, and other groups, especially those who have traditionally relied on the hunt for their livelihood, have a right to continue hunting, whether as a tradition or a commercial enterprise. The seal hunt is a way of life and an essential source of food and income for the Inuit peoples and thousands of Canadian families in coastal communities.

In Nunavut alone, the seal hunt yields between four million and six million food products every year. Moreover, before the European Union ban, revenue generated by the sale of seal pelts amounted to as much as $1 million annually.

Seals are hunted not just for their pelts, but also for meat, oil, and derived health products. In addition, there is an emerging market for the oil, now that scientific studies have found it to be very rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This is very interesting from a scientific perspective.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, 5,000 to 6,000 people, representing 1% of the total population of the province and 2% of the labour force, earn income from the seal hunt. Therefore, this activity is an extremely important part of the economy.

However, there is also the issue of controlling the seal population, which is necessary to ensure the balance of the marine ecosystem, especially as it relates to the cod population. I mentioned this in the question I posed to my colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.

In 30 years, the harp seal population has tripled. Today there are between eight million and nine million harp seals, which is the most hunted species. According to forecasts for 2030, this population will almost double and reach between 10 million and 16 million individuals. The grey seal population has increased from 10,000 to half a million in 50 years. This indicates the importance of a traditional and commercial hunt, and one that also considers the importance of protecting ecological balance.

This view is reinforced by a very recent study, from January 2015, which was conducted by researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada over a period of three years. These researchers conclusively demonstrated that there is a direct link between seal herd growth and the increased mortality rate of cod in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The lack of cod recovery in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence appears to be due to high mortality among larger cod. This study also showed that predation by grey seals may account for up to 50% of the mortality of the cod.

We know that cod is an extremely important resource for fishers and the economic future of these regions. We know the difficulties that the moratorium on cod fishing in some regions off the coast of Newfoundland has caused. What is more, it has been very difficult to significantly increase cod stocks, particularly because of the growing seal population, so population control is necessary.

For a long time, the NDP has been in favour of a truly sustainable Canada and the protection of the Canadian Species at Risk Act. We want to strengthen that legislation and we are fighting for stricter animal cruelty laws. That is why many of us are going to support the Liberal member's bill to combat animal cruelty.

However, it is clear that the seal hunt is well regulated in order to ensure that it is sustainable and humane, for traditional, economic, and commercial reasons, as well as for reasons related to population control and ecosystem sustainability.

That is why I am pleased to personally support Senator Hervieux-Payette's bill, which was introduced here in the House of Commons by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. The seal hunt must be preserved because it is extremely important to Quebec, in particular the Magdalen Islands, to Newfoundland and Labrador, and to the entire country.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick


Serge Cormier LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries

Mr. Speaker, as the member for Acadie—Bathurst and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, I too am pleased to support Bill S-208.

First, I would like to congratulate the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for sponsoring this bill, for his passionate speech, and I will also add, for his beautiful bow tie that he is wearing today. It is very beautiful. I also want to thank other members of the House who will speak or have spoken earlier on this bill.

The designation of a national seal products day would send an important message about Canada's commitment to supporting the sustainability of Canada's coastal and indigenous communities. I believe it is a message that, increasingly, needs to be heard.

The harp seal population has tripled since the 1970s and now stands at 7.4 million. This is irrefutable evidence of Canada's sound management practices and our commitment to sustainability. It is consistent with the Government of Canada's approach, including our commitment to conservation and sustainable development goals.

We can achieve sustainability by balancing the synergies of our economy, our environment, and our cultural and social traditions.

I would like to delve into how this bill addresses each of those priorities, beginning with the economy.

In 2006, the landed value of commercially harvested seals peaked and reached approximately $34.1 million, which had a trickle-down effect to other sectors of the industry, including processing, manufacturing, and retail. However, in 2010, we will recall, the European Union banned the import and sales of seal products. This ban had a significant impact on our sealing industry. Indeed, between 2006 and 2015, global exports dropped from a high of $18 million to a low of $366,000.

In principle, products harvested by indigenous peoples for subsistence are exempt from the ban. In practice, however, the ban has an impact on all seal hunters whether they are indigenous or they hunt commercially.

The government challenged this ban before the World Trade Organization. The WTO's final decision was published in May 2015. It led to the general ban on seal products derived from a commercial harvest. Nonetheless, seal products from the indigenous harvest remain unaffected by the ban.

However, the result of the WTO challenge closed the door to the European market for seal products derived from the harvest. More importantly, this had a negative impact on the global market for all seal products, including those derived from the indigenous harvest.

The Government of Canada has since worked with the European Commission and the Government of Nunavut in order to ensure that products derived from seals hunted in that region can continue to have access to this important market.

We are currently working with the Northwest Territories so that the Inuit and the Inuvialuit peoples of northern Canada can continue to have access in practice to the European Union markets.

In addition to working with the communities in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, the government is continuing to work with all the hunting communities, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, as well as with the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, in order to promote seal products derived from the indigenous and commercial harvest and to deal with the challenges of accessing the market.

However, we can do more. Canada must seek other public opportunities to make the case for seal products, and that is why declaring a national seal products day is so important. Such a designation would help us draw global attention to the economic impact of the seal harvest and how the ban on seal products is hurting the economies of communities.

A national seal products day could also help expand the appeal of seal products in new markets. Economic arguments alone, however, are not enough to effectively advocate for these important products. Potential customers may, in fact, be sympathetic to the plight of our sealers, but if they remain uninformed of the traditions behind the seal harvest and continue to believe that harvesting is unsustainable, then they may avoid seal products.

A national seal products day could become a rallying point. By promoting the social, cultural, and environmental issues related to the seal hunt, we can set the record straight and emphasize that the seal hunt is humane, well-regulated, and sustainable, and that some communities with no other means of earning a living depend on it for their livelihoods.

Indigenous peoples have depended on marine mammals, especially seals, as a food source for thousands of years. They have lived in harmony with the ocean and its resources for millennia. In doing so, they have come to perceive the seal hunt as a natural part of the life cycle in the north.

This knowledge continues to be passed down from generation to generation. In Canada's Far North today, children learn at a young age how to hunt seal, how to cut up the meat, and what to do with the pelt. They learn to appreciate how the seal hunt sustains their communities. In other words, for them, hunting seal is not a weekend pastime. It is deeply rooted in the culture of Inuit and Inuvialuit peoples and continues to sustain their communities, both culturally and economically.

No part of the animal harvested by aboriginal hunters is wasted. The meat is prized for its high protein content, and the pelt is used to make warm and waterproof boots, mittens and parkas. Artisans also make arts and crafts out of seal pelts for the tourist industry.

The seal hunt clearly has cultural and economic significance. However, what about the environment? Does this ancient tradition upset the balance of nature? Is it detrimental to biodiversity? Not at all. The seal hunt, whether that of the Inuit or other coastal communities, is sustainable. In fact, through prudent management, the harp seal population is estimated to be 7.4 million. In other words, the population has more than tripled since the early 1970s, as I mentioned earlier.

As the bill indicates, Canada's seal hunt is designed and managed to ensure the sustainable management and preservation of the species, pursuant to the Convention on Biological Diversity's objectives and the principle of sustainable use approved by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

A national seal products day could help us raise awareness about Canada's commitment to a sustainable hunt, one that strikes a balance between economic and environmental needs and our cultural and social traditions.

The Canadian sealing industry has long been a target of misinformation campaigns by vocal and well-funded activists. By supporting Bill S-208 the government is standing up for the seal harvest and for the rural communities that rely on it. I encourage all members of Parliament to do the same.

In closing, I would like to emphasize that Bill S-208 does not create a legal holiday or a non-juridical day. However, the designation is much more than simple symbolism and would carry a great significance. Designating May 20 as national seal products day is a tangible way to defend the traditions of Canada's indigenous people and coastal communities.

By raising awareness of the cultural, economic and environmental importance of the seal harvest, we can help continue the fight against misconceptions and prejudice, help preserve this ancient tradition, and help it to thrive.