Madam Speaker, for the first time I find myself in violent agreement with the member for Winnipeg North. This is surely unprecedented. When I first saw the title of the bill, I thought we might be speaking about trained seals, which we have spoken a lot about in recent days, but instead, we are talking about actual seals. I would not want to insult seals by comparing them to any members of this House.
I want to thank my friend from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for bringing this motion forward. We have had a chance to get to know each other quite a bit in recent days with time spent at PROC. I have not always supported initiatives the member has brought forward, as he may recall from some of the brief comments I made at that committee. I am very pleased to be here to support this important proposal from a member who happens to be part of the government, but certainly this is something that all members of the House should be able to get behind. This is a common-sense proposal. It reflects a recognition of our heritage, but also real common-sense when it comes to appreciating what hunters do in this industry and in other industries across the country.
Really, this represents a coming together of Canadian voices in opposition to, sometimes, some of the misinformation that we hear, albeit from celebrities, and voices internationally who do not really understand what the seal hunt is all about, and do not really understand the realities of it. Sometimes, this happens on certain kinds of issues, environmental but other issues as well, where people get a specific image in their mind about it, and it is very hard to remove that image even if that image runs completely contrary to the facts and realities of the issues.
There are a lot of things that we and I think many members of this House know about the positive, effective management of seal products in this country, of seals as a resource, and yet, that information does not always get out there. Therefore, we have an opportunity, through this initiative, to start to push back against that misinformation, to have a vehicle for pushing back against that information.
In that context, I want to make a few comments here about what happens in this industry in general, and first to read a position statement. This is from 2012. It is a comment made by the WWF, the World Wildlife Federation. It said:
WWF recognizes that hunting seals is an important part of the local economy, culture and heritage of many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, the Arctic, and many other maritime nations. Most importantly, from the perspective of a conservation organization such as ours, the harp seal population is at a near record high with more than 5 million individuals and current harvest practices pose no apparent threat.
This is pretty clear from a wildlife organization. It recognizes in that position statement that there are different points of view on this issue, perhaps within its own community, but members of the organization said that clearly it is not a management of the resource issue, and there is no danger to this population. Of course, all of us would recognize that when there is a danger to a population, a risk of endangerment or extinction, that needs to be managed in a completely different way, but that is not the case with this particular resource. Very clearly, there is no reason to be concerned with respect to that when that is very clearly the information and the evidence that we have, and that members have seen.
At the same time, we know, in terms of the hunting methods that are used, that there are humane methods. Recognizing the effective management of the resource and also the humane methods of hunting, there is not really a coherent basis on which to oppose this unless perhaps, as some people do, they take the view that all hunting and all killing of animals is somehow wrong or immoral. Certainly, there are some people who have that perspective, but unless we go to that extreme, there is absolutely no reason to oppose the humane and environmentally effective and efficient, culturally, socially, and economically beneficial use of our seal resources.
In spite of what I have just presented and in spite of what we know to be these realities, we see these challenges come sometimes from people in Canada, but also internationally. It is important that we stand up to that. In 2009, for example, the European Union banned import and trade of seal products other than in cases of hunting by indigenous communities.
As Canada moves forward with our free trade agreement with Europe, certainly an important trade initiative, I hope we will be able to persuade our friends in Europe, recognizing the facts that I have identified, how much they could benefit from being able to import seal products that come from Canada.
Europe does not ban hunting. Europe does not ban livestock. People kill and eat animals in Europe as well as they do here. There is no consistent basis on which to have this limitation in place. I hope, coming forward from this motion, there will be international advocacy from our government's trade representatives around the importance of countries taking a consistent approach with respect to these issues at the very least.
Europe should not ban the importation of products from one kind of animal from one other country in a way that is not consistent with its own domestic approaches to the management and use of animals. There might be a spectrum of opinion philosophically with regard to what ways it is and is not appropriate to use animals, but those distinctions should be coherent. They should not be made on the basis of banning animals from a country that somehow would not apply that same standard in its own country.
As we talk about this legislative initiative, this is about having a national seal products day, and we support that. It is a positive step in recognition. We do this a lot in the House, especially around private members' business. We have these moments of recognition, where we all come together and affirm something that is important, whether it is a heritage month, a day of recognition, sometimes a week, sometimes simply a point of affirmation. These moments are important because they can provide an opportunity for awareness, for recognition, perhaps for particular communities to understand the affirmation and support they receive from legislators. These things are important.
However, it is not good enough to just stop at these points of recognition. If we have a national seal products day and then we close the file at that point, that certainly is not good enough. There is a need for ongoing advocacy, ongoing activities of recognition and to continue that dialogue domestically and internationally, and not shy away from that. Recognition alone does not have that much of an impact on the ground. It is really what we do after that, what we do with a particular day, how we proceed going forward. This is something that all members should take on board. It seems we will move forward with this and support it, so there should be constructive, clear action that comes out of this.
Coming from Alberta, the seal industry is not particularly important for us. However, we deal with questions of weighing out environmental criticisms that may not always be based on fact. Perhaps a comparison would be some of the images of ducks from our oil sands. A couple of images get sent around the world and there is such misinformation that comes out of that. In reality, there are all kinds of reclamation activities that take place, when there are risks to birds associated with many energy alternatives such as wind farms. Yet, we see one image and people run with it. We sometimes see that happen with the seal issue. People look at one image and they draw conclusions from it without looking at the facts. This is an important proposal that calls for us to focus on the facts. Let us move forward on that basis.