moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I know that as a former minister of fisheries and oceans, you spent a lot of time on this issue, and I thank you very much.
The bill for a seal products day was sent to committee for discussion. I noticed during the meeting that it was as much about the culture of my home province of Newfoundland and Labrador as it is about the indigenous community across this country, particularly the Inuit of the north.
I am honoured to have my esteemed colleague from Labrador seconding this bill. She represents the greater part of the province. I want to thank her for her participation at the committee meeting.
I want to thank also the member for Nunavut. He gave a passionate speech at committee about his cultural and traditional ties with seal products in regard to art, food, clothing, and ceremonial purposes.
I recall the unveiling of a memorial in the town of Elliston some time ago. In the town of Elliston, the Sealers Memorial depicted how the massive hunt took place several hundred years ago on a very large ship. It was a large commercial hunt that began for several reasons. It was not just for the skins and the fur to keep warm, but also for the oils for fuel and so on, because in those days petrochemicals were not what they are now, so seal oil played a far greater role in society.
As I mentioned in the first part of my debate, the seal oil was shipped back to the United Kingdom, where it was used to light the street lamps in London. That was one of its first uses. It is ironic, of course, because London is where the genesis of the protests against it started. No offence to Londoners, and no reflection on the beautiful city of London, but nevertheless, it is a reflection on the issue that some people have over there.
Incidentally, the day that we are proposing matches up with the European Union's Maritime Day. I want to thank Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who was the genesis of this particular bill. I give her credit for several reasons, one of which is that she chose the date in line with Maritime Day in the European Union.
Members may recall that around that time, the European Union instituted a ban on seal products because of the cruel nature of how we harvested the seals. At that time, I thought it was fairly ironic. I introduced a motion in the House, which I have not brought back to the House, since my purpose was to make a point, which I think I did. My motion called on the Government of Canada to institute a ban on deer and boar products from Germany.
Why would I do that? The reason was to illustrate the point that the hunting of deer and boar throughout Germany is an unregulated hunt. Why is it unregulated? It is because the politicians do not want to touch it, and the reason they do not want to touch it is that it is tied into their culture and heritage. I have nothing against that, but I wish it was more regulated.
I am sure my ban would not have put the lederhosen industry in jeopardy. My motion illustrated the point that if we are going to talk about the harvesting of one particular animal as being cruel and offensive, then we have to open it up to all animals.
The seal hunt harvest in eastern Canada as well as the north is carried out in a humane manner, despite what people tend to think, and that was illustrated at committee. It is true that a few people disagreed with what we were doing, but we heard some great testimony, including from my colleague from Labrador and others, who talked about how they are tied to this particular culture.
There are two things at play here. There are two areas where we harvest the seals on a commercial basis. They are the gulf and the front. The front concerns my area, the northeastern coast of Newfoundland, up toward the area of my colleague from the Long Range Mountains, and up toward southern Labrador, and my colleague there. However, let us not stop there, because this is a pan-provincial issue. It also sustained the oldest city in North America, St. John's, as my colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl knows full well. He knows the history of the province and what the sealing industry meant to his glorious city, both cities as a matter of fact, and how it sustained us for so many years, probably 300 or 400 years.
Seal products day would be celebrated on the same day the European Union celebrates European Maritime Day. The reason the Europeans have Maritime Day is to celebrate their cultural heritage ties to what they do on the coastline. They have the seafood industry and other industries in Spain, Portugal, the Basque area, Ireland, and Scotland. They celebrate that day each and every year to talk about their ties to the ocean. By the same token, a month later, they protest the seal harvest here, which is why I congratulate Céline Hervieux-Payette for doing what she did. She wanted to point out the ultimate irony, which I think she has done.
It is one particular day, but as far as I am concerned, it is every day when we celebrate this, certainly for people in the north: Baffin Island, Northwest Territories, Yukon, of course, and particularly Nunavut. Again, I congratulate my colleague, the MP for Nunavut, who brought a very passionate speech and each and every day brings seal products into this House.
It bears mentioning again that when my colleague from Nunavut went to the United States of America, he met then president Barrack Obama with a seal tie on. I do not know if many people are aware of this, but many years ago, when Barack Obama was a senator, he actually wrote to the Canadian government protesting the seal harvest. Barack Obama is a great man. His was one of the greatest speeches I have ever heard in this House, but he is not perfect, I realized on that day.
That being said, I like to think that if we illustrate the issue of the harvesting of animals, then we shed more light on this subject. It does not end with the seal products. It is also other products. I mentioned seal oil. I mentioned the seal fur and the meat, of course. We are now hoping to open up markets in China. I have a company in my riding named PhocaLux that is doing some tremendous things in advancing seal products.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that I want to congratulate the provincial fisheries ministry of Newfoundland and Labrador. The ministry has done fabulous work regarding product development for seal products. I also want to congratulate the Government of Quebec, which has also been a fierce defender of seal products and the harvesting of seal products.
I forgot to mention that the gulf is the other area, which is situated toward the Îles de la Madeleine. There they have a thriving industry as well and for centuries have depended on seal products. Those are the mass commercial areas.
What is particularly ironic is that when they introduced the ban on seal products in the European Union, they said that the commercial stuff is what they did not want; it was the indigenous ceremonies we were to protect and the harvesting by the indigenous communities. They said this to my face. Without us in Newfoundland saying a word, the indigenous communities came back and said to them, “That is not fair, because for us to do what you say we can do, we have to have that commercial industry to do it”, to which they were met with complete and utter silence.
Since then, we have had challenges at the World Trade Organization, and we have had a great deal of support for that. In a spirit of good will, I want to compliment the former government for going to the WTO with that. The Conservatives fought fiercely for the rights of sealers, and they also fought for the rights of indigenous seal harvesters, so I want to congratulate them. I thought they did a great job at the time. Nevertheless, we still have some broad misconceptions out there and a lack of understanding.
It was pointed out to members of the European Parliament at the time, if it introduced a seal products ban, what would it do for the harvesting of other animals? I mentioned deer and boar by way of example. It did not have an answer for that at the time. It was the ultimate way of saying that we really have to study something before we step forward, that we should look before we leap, and the EU did not do that within the particular structure of Brussels. That is what happened, and that is why we challenged it at the World Trade Organization. What ended up happening was that the technical group of the committee of the environment that was studying this said that it could not really do this because it would create a slippery slope.
Let us face it, with the seal product ban in the European Union, which started in the member states of the Netherlands, Germany, and U.K., it was one thing to say they would not accept a product ban because of the species itself, the species had to be endangered. For example, bluefin tuna is an endangered species, so in many cases, we would ban these products if we felt they were in danger. We can talk about other products that are endangered, but this was not an endangered species. This was strictly done on the basis of cruel and unusual punishment to a particular animal.
However, steps were taken with the help of the provincial fisheries department. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada created a humane way of harvesting the seals. It was called a three-step process of killing the seals. That was put into place. In the same way that any abattoir, any harvester, any place that harvests domestic animals, like cows, chickens, and that sort of thing, all the same types of restrictions and regulations about the harvesting of such animals was applied to the seals.
Let us go back to what happened. It was far easier to put oneself on a pedestal of what was right for animal rights if one had a good product to sell. It was discovered, back in the 1970s, that it was easy to sell an animal with a very cute way of looking—