National Seal Products Day Act

An Act respecting National Seal Products Day

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

Summary

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”.

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

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.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Mr. Speaker, like the previous speakers, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 to declare May 20 as national seal products day and to also support the work of the chair of the fisheries and oceans committee, the MP for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. He is a good chair of the fisheries committee, which I have the honour to be on, and I see great progress being made.

The bill recognizes the traditions, culture, and economic importance of the seal hunt. The seal hunt began hundreds of years ago and employed thousands of people, and does to this day. These people were and are some of the toughest people on earth who literally risk their lives to provide for their families.

This whole experience was captured in the book, The Greatest Hunt in the World by George Allan England who, in the 1920s, took it up himself to sail with the renowned Captain Kean and be part of a sealing crew. The book, illustrated with photos from the era, showed the men working on the dangerous ice flows harvesting seals to feed their families. Their courage was unbelievable.

I had the good fortune to fish in Labrador this summer, and most of our guides were also seal hunters who described to me the importance of the hunt to them and their families. Quite clearly the tradition lives on.

Bill S-208 should not be looked at by itself. The bill is part of the effort by thousands of groups and individuals to protect and defend a way of life that is very dear to many Canadians. Whether individuals are hunters, trappers, ranchers, anglers, commercial fishermen, or guides, they know that their livelihoods depend on the natural world and the products that mother nature provides.

Accordingly, I was very pleased that the previous government under prime minister Stephen Harper passed a bill presented by then MP Rick Norlock creating National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, which passed with the unanimous support of all parties. I get the sense from the speakers today that Bill S-208 will receive the same level of support, which is very good for the hunting, angling, and animal use community that members from all sides of this Parliament support this way of life. This is a very strong signal that Parliament stands ready to support and defend all legitimate and traditional animal uses. For this, I and my constituents are very grateful.

However, the well-funded and organized animal rights lobby continues its war against rural communities, and this time it comes in the guise of Bill C-246, sponsored by the member for Beaches—East York. It was quite disappointing for me to hear my colleagues from the NDP say that it will be supporting the bill; and yet again, well-funded animal rights groups have mobilized to pass this very bad bill, which will threaten, according to multiple legal opinions, all animal use in Canada.

One of these animal rights groups that supports Bill C-246, Animal Justice Canada, says on its website that it is:

..working to enshrine meaningful animal rights into Canadian law, including the right of animals to have their interests represented in court, and the guarantee of rights and freedoms that make life worth living.

Another group, whose notorious initials I will not say, have said, “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment...”.

So much for medical research. By the way, in terms of medical research, people think that these animal rights bills and issues like those we are talking about are all rural issues. They are not. Sixty per cent of cardiovascular research is conducted on animals; so again, all of the entire animal use community has an interest in all of these bills.

Here is a quote from the Animal Alliance, regarding Bill C-246:

The onus is on humane societies and other groups on the front lines to push this legislation to the limit, to test the parameters of this law and have the courage and the conviction to lay charges.

That is what this is all about; make no mistake about it. The animal rights groups have a deeply hidden agenda to eliminate all animal use.

These groups have made millions of dollars on the backs of poor, remote, and coastal communities, and they continue with their dishonest propaganda to this very day by implying that the commercial hunt for seal pups exists when it has been banned for many years.

The previous government conducted a study on hunting and trapping, and we had a number of witnesses who described the importance of the seal hunt, one of whom was Mr. Dion Dakins, chair of the sealing committee for the Fur Institute of Canada, and he made a number of critical observations. He noted that:

...sealing is important not only for economic purposes but also for non-economic purposes and as part of our cultural fibre, whether in an anglophone, a francophone, or an Inuit community where people rely on the resource and these animals for their very subsistence. It has been described as a time-honoured tradition and a way of life among Inuit, francophones, and anglophones, each group of which demonstrates very individual harvesting techniques and expresses cultural pride in the activity.

Mr. Dakins went on to note:

...for four decades seal populations have grown exponentially. Since the European Union ban on seal products in 2009, the annual Canadian seal harvests have fallen well below the DFO-established total allowable catches. [Seal] populations have risen to new heights.

This is was also described by previous speakers.

The economic contributions to the Canadian economy from sealing can be significant. They were around $70 million in 2005 and 2011. In 2012, Mr. Dakins reports that the seal hunt saved our fisheries approximately $360 million of seafood that otherwise would have been consumed by overabundant seal populations.

Northwest Atlantic harp seal eat 15 times more fish than the entire Canadian fisheries harvest and the true value of the meat of the hunt is not fully understood. A viable commercial sealing industry is an essential tool in a fisheries management conservation regime. Sealing is part of the solution, not part of the problem.

With about 10,000 licensed sealers in Canada, there is the ability to manage this valuable resource. The problem lies in the bans, which are basically dismantling the seal harvest. The behaviour of the EU in this is disgraceful and given what the previous speaker talked about in terms of the seal harvest in parts of the EU, the hypocrisy is almost overwhelming.

The Fur Institute of Canada takes an active role in defending the important role of sealers in our ecosystem. They are out there making a living. Up to 35% of an annual income can come from the seal hunt. The hunt happens during times of year when few other economic activities are possible. With decreased demand for the product because of the bans, times are tough economically for many families who rely on this industry.

It is highly regulated. Canadian sealing has among the highest standards in the world for animal welfare as was described to me by my seal hunting friends in Labrador.

In Canada, seal hunting is also an instrument for conservation. Our fisheries committee is conducting two studies right now on how to recover the severely depleted populations of north Atlantic cod and Atlantic salmon, as seals are implicated in the declines of those two very valuable species. Research is also being done, and I hope it continues, on the very valuable products that can come from seals and be part of a new seal market.

In summary, I am very pleased to support Bill S-208 and the people who make a living and sustain themselves by seal hunting. I encourage all members to show their solidarity with those communities and vote for the bill.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

October 3rd, 2016 / noon
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to what I know is a very important industry. I have had the opportunity to speak with my Atlantic caucus colleagues in particular, but also with caucus colleagues in the province of Quebec. As we know, the industry affects all of us in Canada, but specifically the industry in those communities. I believe it is really important for us to recognize this.

My colleague who introduced this piece of legislation was wearing a wonderful bow tie. That bow tie was made of seal fur. It speaks volumes in terms of the sense of pride that many of my colleagues possess, in particular those from regions that recognize this as an industry that goes far beyond the production of meat and fur. In fact, it is part of Atlantic and other heritages, in particular in the northern regions. This is an industry that has not only provided economic benefits but has also been a very part of the social fabric of many northerners. That is something I think all of us in inside the House should recognize.

Our heritage is who we are and how we want to portray ourselves going forward. It is important that we not forget how important our heritage is. When we listened to many of the discussions today, we heard about the economic impact. We heard about how important it is that individuals get a better understanding of the heritage of the seal hunt and the impact it has on so many of our communities.

I would like to believe, at the end of the day, that this is going to be an industry that will be allowed to grow and foster economic futures for many. We heard about the cost of seal fur and how it has somewhat plummeted, but there is an optimistic attitude. That attitude prevails in many regions, but in particular with respect to this industry. In the minds of individuals from Newfoundland and Labrador, of northerners, this is an industry that will not only continue to grow but will see some of the prices go up, which is also very important for the industry as a whole.

When we talk about economic development and regional issues, this is indeed an important issue. In fact a number of colleagues are wearing seal products.

However, I know people are here to listen to our Prime Minister talk on a very important issue to all Canadians, so I will take my seat.

National Seal Products Day ActRoutine Proceedings

May 12th, 2016 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Liberal

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

moved for leave to introduce Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Senator Hervieux-Payette for providing Bill S-208.

The bill proposes to create May 20 as seal products day in this country.

There is a rich history to this particular legislation that stretches back several hundred years for Atlantic Canada and eastern Quebec. It all started in a major industry that provided seal oil for the lamps of the streets of London, England, and through hundreds of years it has created a mass industry for Newfoundland and Labrador and for eastern Quebec.

We have seen national seal products in their earliest form through seal oil and through the fur itself.

The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans comes in here every day sporting his tie that proudly shows his indigenous heritage.

I would like to quote from the preamble of the bill, “Whereas Canada’s Indigenous peoples and coastal communities [including my own] have developed traditional knowledge of how to use ocean resources;”

Again, the bill proposes to deem May 20 national seal products day in Canada.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time)