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.

May 16th, 2017 / 5:25 p.m.
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NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

May 16, 2017

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 16th day of May, 2017.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates that the bills assented to were Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, and Bill C-30, An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to follow my colleague from British Columbia in support of Bill S-208, put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, the illustrious chair of the fisheries committee.

I, too, serve on that committee. In fact, I have been on the fisheries committee ever since I became a member of Parliament, nearly seven years ago, and it has been a great committee to be on. Not that long ago, the chair talked about how many reports the committee had put out, 10 reports so far since this Parliament began. We have a very productive, interesting, and significant committee.

I very strongly support this bill. I represent a large rural area in Manitoba, and Manitoba is a coastal province. There are seals in Churchill in Hudson Bay. We do not seal hunt, but it is a coastal province.

For a prairie boy who grew up hunting, fishing and being the ultimate romantic when it comes to the outdoors, many years ago I got my hands on a book by George Allan England called, The Greatest Hunt in the World. He was on Captain Kean's boat in the 1920s and went on a seal hunt himself. As I read this direct account of the seal hunt, I could not imagine the toughness, the bravery, and the sheer guts it took for those men to go out on the ice every spring to harvest seals.

Canada's seal hunt is sustainable, and previous speakers have talked about the sustainability of it. Unfortunately, Canada's seal hunt has been the target of very unfair and fraudulent campaigns by the animal rights movement, led by groups like Animal Justice Canada, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and so on. It is clear that the sole purpose of these anti-sealing groups is to raise funds for themselves, and the collateral damage to coastal communities has simply been staggering.

A witness at the aboriginal affairs committee not that long ago talked about the increase in suicide rates in some Inuit communities, partly attributed to the collapse of the seal hunt. These people do not want to save cuddly animals. These people are a danger to rural and remote communities. The seal hunt is the canary in the coal mine. As somebody who has fought the animal rights movement and the people who want to shut down communities like the one I represent, the seal hunt, the canary in the coal mine, the tip of the iceberg, pick a metaphor, whether it is anti-logging, anti-trapping, anti-hunting, anti-mining, and, quite frankly, anti-oil and gas, it is the rural communities that bear the brunt of these campaigns. One of the reasons I became a member of Parliament was to protect and defend rural communities. I have had experiences fighting the good fight on all these issues.

Interestingly enough, again going back to the animal rights movement and the animal rights groups, these people do not care about cuddly animals. They want an end to all animal use, farming, ranching, trapping, and sealing of course, and sealing is the easiest target. However, if we look at all their websites, they also want an end to animal-based medical research. I do not know if members in the House realize it, but when I met with the Heart and Stroke Foundation some time ago, I asked point blank how much of the cardiac research was done on animals and it was 60%. Again, these anti-animal use campaigns can be extremely harmful.

I will also talk about the unfairness of countries that ban seal products. The European ban was completely uncalled for. It is easy for another country to point fingers at another jurisdiction and pay no political price for it, while being made to look like people who care about the environment. The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act prevents seal products from entering the U.S., no matter how abundant seals are.

The animal rights movement caused a decrease in the seal harvest, and as colleagues talked about a minute ago, the number of harp seals has increased dramatically, from 1.8 million in 1970 to about 7.4 million now; and grey seals, from 13,000 in 1970 to 505,000 now. There are varying estimates, but the seals consume between 10 and 15 times what the east coast fleet harvests. It is quite clearly established that the high grey seal populations are preventing a recovery of the gulf cod.

Not that long ago, our fisheries committee submitted two reports to Parliament, one on Atlantic salmon and one on northern cod. In both studies, the seals were implicated in the decline of the Atlantic salmon in particular, and in the prevention of the recovery of the cod as well. Both committee reports recommended an expanded seal harvest, done humanely but expanded, to reduce the numbers of these seal species to improve the populations of Atlantic salmon and cod.

Nobody wants to wipe out the seals. However, I think it is our duty as human stewards of this earth to restore a balance that is completely out of whack right now.

I had the honour many years ago of doing work in the eastern Arctic, around Southampton Island, on Arctic char, and I had the honour of living with an Inuit family. I participated in a seal hunt and a walrus hunt. I have had a lot of experience in the outdoors, but I have had some Arctic experience. I do know what it is like to plunge one's hand into a freshly killed walrus and experience the joy and exuberance of the hunt when one is successful. It was an experience that I will cherish. I have eaten raw seal, raw walrus, and I found the tastes interesting, to say the least. It can be good.

I am very pleased, as well, to see an increase in demand for seal products, the seal oil, the high levels of omega 3. We have companies that are exploiting this. I applaud my colleague and the colleagues from all parties who support our traditions of sealing, hunting, trapping, and fishing. Many of us belong to an organization called the outdoor caucus, and I see a number of members wearing an outdoor caucus pin.

I want to finish up with the tale of Bill C-246. As we know, a Liberal member of Parliament introduced a private member's bill that many of us viewed as a closet animal rights bill. I was very pleased to see that many Liberal members of Parliament, and almost all Conservative members of Parliament, worked very hard to defeat that particular bill. We motivated people from all across the country to build a coalition of sealers, trappers, hunters, anglers, and medical researchers, who realized the implications of that particular bill.

While I must thank the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his speech, and I listened with great interest to it, I would note that almost all of the NDP caucus voted for Bill C-246, except for one, the member for Kootenay—Columbia. I do not say this to be mean, in any sense of the word, but it is very important that we, as members of Parliament, stand on principle to protect our communities and the people who hunt, trap, fish, and harvest seals.

I must also say that sealing is largely a rural industry, but we have a lot of people who live in cities who love to hunt, fish, and trap. Again, I want to compliment my colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, a Montreal area member of Parliament, who has chosen to throw his support behind the bill for a national seal products day.

In conclusion, I am very proud to support the bill. I am proud to serve with my colleague on the fisheries committee. I look forward to the bill being passed and being a very great help to the sealing industry, now and into the future.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Mel Arnold Conservative North Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to the private member's bill put forward by the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame. It is also an honour to work with the member on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

I want to recognize the message the member for Labrador just spoke to, that being the importance of the seal harvest and seal products to those communities and their traditions and heritage.

I appreciate this opportunity to support the member and Bill S-208, which seeks to designate May 20 as national seal products day.

Canada is known as a melting pot for cultures from around the world. This is something we can be proud of. While we Canadians can be proud of how that melting pot is always changing, we should also be proud of how we developed as a country, a country that is continuing to grow and prosper from the ability to sustainably harvest and market our natural resources, resources such as our wood products, although that market is somewhat hindered right now; our minerals; our fisheries; and of course, the resource that was originally responsible for Canada's early development, our fur products. Those fur products included beaver, muskrat, marten, and of course, seal. All of these species have been harvested sustainably, and we continue to have healthy, viable populations. In fact, some seal populations are now at historic levels.

Seal products are much more than fur or pelts. They are a high protein product for our tables, and they provide top omega 3 oils for health care products, which many remote maritime communities rely on for their livelihoods. Without them, many of those coastal communities would dwindle and perhaps die.

What is really significant is that with the loss of those communities would be the loss of a big part of our Canadian heritage, a heritage we need not be ashamed of, a heritage that has continued for hundreds of years, sustainably and continuously. It allowed the early residents of this continent to live here. It allowed early European settlers to immigrate and build better lives for their families than they might have had in their homelands. It is a heritage that is truly part of Canada.

In considering this legislation, I reflected on another bill, a successful bill that recognized how important our outdoor- oriented heritage is in Canada, and that was Bill C-501, which passed in 2014. It was introduced by Rick Norlock, the member from Northumberland--Quinte West. That legislation established the third Saturday in September as National Hunting Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day, a day to recognize, as this bill would, the importance of these activities in the development and survival of this great nation of ours.

While many members of the House may never have had the opportunity, and I might say enlightenment, of taking part in any of these amazing activities, I believe that all members can see how these activities and the products derived from them have played an important role and should be recognized nationally. Without that recognition, we risk losing not only the significance of hunting, trapping, fishing, and sealing but we risk losing those communities on our coasts and in our hinterlands that are so dependent on the products that can be obtained in a sustainable way.

I would like to take a few minutes to share some of my thoughts and my experiences in participating in some of these heritage activities. Although I have not participated in a seal harvest, I have had the incredible experience of being out in the wild pitting myself against the elements, pitting myself against the instincts and senses of the fish and game species that are so abundant in Canada.

Anti-use groups will try to diminish what we do and how we survive as Canadians because they want to end our legal activities. However, because of my participation in these activities, I will put myself up against them any day. These activities have enabled me to experience what really goes on out there. They have allowed me to put food on my table and to do so sustainably. I have learned that the best way to value and build appreciation and continued recognition of our fish and wildlife resources is to be immersed in it, partaking in the activities of fishing, hunting, trapping, and sealing, something many opponents will never get the chance to experience and will never understand the value of being there, touching it, and experiencing it first-hand.

I admire the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame for his initiative in asking for recognition of the value and the importance of seal products to our indigenous communities, our coastal communities, and the individuals who retain their sustenance and livelihood from seal products. We need to continue these roles and the importance of this. I truly admire him for putting this forward, not just on behalf of the residents of his area on the east coast, but for the importance of similar activities such as hunting, trapping, and fishing across the country.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make special mention today. I would like to take the opportunity to wish my loving wife Linda a happy 38th anniversary.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Labrador Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am happy to rise today and support a bill that has been put forward in the House of Commons by my colleague, the member for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, which is, in essence, central coastal Newfoundland.

Bill S-208 is an important bill for all of us who have lived a traditional life, both commercially and non-commercially, around the sealing industry. The people in my riding of Labrador, both indigenous and non-indigenous, have engaged in the seal industry for centuries. Throughout my family, right back to my great-great grandfather's day, the seal was a very important part of survival, both from a cultural perspective and an earning value perspective, for the family. It is a way of life for us still today, as we eat seal and wear seal.

We feel that the federal government has an obligation to protect and support Canadian heritage activities, whether that be farming, fishing, or in this case, seal harvesting. We are asking members of the House of Commons to support that position.

Bill S-208 is just one way for the federal government to stand by its commitment to indigenous people and non-indigenous people and to those whose economies are affiliated with the seal industry.

While foreign governments and well-funded activist groups from away, and at home in Canada, have dealt a significant blow to this industry over the years and have created a terrible image of the Canadian seal harvest, we have an obligation to ensure that we make things right and point out the unfair publicity that has surrounded the industry.

It has been more than 30 years since regulations started to change in the seal industry. The images today of white coats and baby seals are still used by those who are trying to make a cash grab on the backs of those in the industry. However, it has been more than 30 years since that has occurred in the sealing industry in Canada. It is one of the most humane industries one could ever partake in, and the people who perpetuate a different image are indeed, as my colleague said, fraudulent in their intentions and fraudulent in their information.

What is happening in the industry today is that their negative propaganda has done harm. It has done harm to the Inuit people, who are dependant on seals for food security in their communities, and it has done harm to the rural and coastal communities of Canada.

For Labradorians, and for Inuit all over Canada, the seal harvest is part of our lives. It is the cultural core of who we are as people, and it is the mainstay of our diet.

It is really hard to explain to Canadians who have not been part of the north shore of Quebec and the Magdalen Islands' cultural industry, or that of Nunavut, Nunavik, Labrador, or coastal Newfoundland, what it means from a cultural and industry perspective, but I am going to attempt to do that. I will attempt to do it through my own story, as one person.

I grew up in a small, remote, rural community of predominantly indigenous Inuit people. When I grew up in the community, our clothes back then were all of seal. They were all hand sewn and handmade by my mother, my grandmothers, and my aunts. It was made from the seals my dad and my grandfather would catch. Not only was it the main source of food and protein for our family but it was a main source of clothing as well. Still today we continue in that vein, despite the negative publicity toward us.

We are not a society of people that judge others based on their culture. We do not judge them based on what they eat or what their cultural practices are, nor should they judge us, as northern and coastal people.

We know that sealing is more than a cultural industry and significant industry to the people of the north and coastal regions in Canada. It is also a species which is impacting the entire fisheries ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. Those who ignore the impact of the seal on other species are blinding themselves in a cloud; they do not want to be peeping out at the real story.

The real story is that in coastal areas like in Newfoundland and Labrador, we have seen the seal population growing at a rapid rate. We are no longer harvesting at the levels we once did because the commercial industry has been eroded, and because the international markets have been buying into the fraud and the negative propaganda of money-grabbing socialite groups. It is because of those things that our whole ecosystem is out of balance.

We hear it from those who work in the fishing industry. They are seeing a huge depopulation of capelin and cod. I live in a community that has a river running through it, where I fish for salmon with a rod from the rock just down the lane from my house. I can look out and see seals in that river, something my grandfather never saw. The animals are starving. They are looking for a food supply. They are starving, and they are going wherever they can to find food.

Seals have become overpopulated. They have become a huge predator to every other fish species in the ocean. Seals today are eating more fish in the Atlantic waters around the coastal communities and the ridings like the one I represent than any fishery could take in 10 years, based on the quota levels we currently have.

The seal industry is important in many ways. It is important to the people who live there and who have culturally used this animal for survival, and continue to do so today, as a main source of food and clothing. It is important to the ecosystem of the fisheries habitat that we continue to harvest, to ensure that balance is there and that communities are able to have sustainable fisheries, in seal, cod, salmon, shrimp, crab, and capelin. Right now the seal is overpopulated and has become a predator to every other species.

It is not uncommon for any of us in those communities to get emails and photos from fishermen, who, in just cleaning a seal, are opening it up to find its stomach filled with baby crab. This is in areas where the crab population is declining at huge rates year over year.

However, through this bill, we do want to point out the importance of seal products in Canada, in all of our communities, and what that means as a supplement to the income of people who live there. When we look at traditional crafts from northern and Arctic regions, especially in Nunavut—I think my colleague from Nunavut spoke on this bill a couple of weeks ago in the House of Commons—we can see the tremendous dependence on seal products to be able to run small businesses, to earn a living, and to build on investments in those communities. It has been a way of life for them, as harvesting, farming, and fishing have been a way of life for anyone else in this country.

We feel that this bill is consistent with our commitment to renewing our relationship with indigenous people who depend on this industry, as I have outlined. I would like to remind everyone in this House, and anyone who will listen, that Canada's seal harvest is one of the most humane industries. It is well regulated and sustainable. Seals are overly abundant and healthy in Canada; there is absolutely no doubt about that.

I want to assure all my colleagues of the importance of supporting this bill, and of the importance of marketing seal, as a product and as an industry, for Canadians who have depended upon it traditionally for many years.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

May 5th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak to this private member's bill. I want to begin by acknowledging the excellent work of my NPD colleague, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, who is our critic on this file.

Bill S-208 seeks to designate May 20 as national seal products day. I will get into why that date was chosen a bit later. Beyond its symbolic nature, this bill seeks to provide significant support to certain communities, especially to people who earn their income from the seal hunt and for whom this might be a traditional practice.

People watching us on television might be wondering why on earth a member from east-central Montreal is rising to talk about the seal hunt. I must admit that there are not a lot of seals or seal hunting in my riding.

The House resumed from April 5 consideration of the motion that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the third time and passed.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2017 / 7:10 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I believe that the seal hunt is something people will have a better understanding of, in terms of what is being proposed, through education. As was pointed out by a Conservative member across the way, the designation of a day does not necessarily mean it is a holiday. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that there is a higher sense of education in terms of how important this industry is.

We often underestimate why the seal industry is so important. We can talk about heritage and the economic benefits. I would I like to spend a little time on those issues but also bring a bit of a different perspective on how important seals are to the north.

I have had many discussions about wildlife, in particular about polar bears and how they are very much dependent on seals, so there is a wildlife element.

I want to go to the economic and heritage sides. When we look at the communities that have been dependent on the seal hunt, we can get a better appreciation of the remoteness of the industry and what the individuals who are engaged in the industry have to do to sustain themselves.

We often take things for granted, whether it is clothing or food or economic survival. In larger municipalities, or even in rural areas, we can find grocery stores and economic opportunities. Once we get to the more remote areas, it takes a great deal of effort. I made reference to Newfoundland and Labrador, but it affects more than one province.

My colleague made reference to populations of between six million and eight million, minus the one that was possibly killed a little earlier today by the polar bear, as was referenced. There is a healthy population of seals.

We can think of the economic benefits. Without that seal hunt, there would be many communities whose existence would be more challenged. For others, it is their livelihood. Often it provides a supplementary income. Many individuals will be involved not only in the seal hunt but in other aspects of our fishery industry.

It is something that is often driven by heritage. Over the years, indigenous people, and even some non-indigenous people, have taken to heart the importance of the industry and the heritage aspect of it. As has been pointed out, it is something that has been going on for literally hundreds of years.

I look at it in two ways. One is from the heritage point of view and the other is the economics.

I started off by talking about education. Often, whether it is motions or legislation that will ultimately designate a day, and often even a month, we want to recognize something of significance for Canada. That really is what we are debating today. Bill S-208 would designate May 20 as a day when we would show appreciation of the importance of the seal hunt and seals to our country.

There are different ways we can deal with those designations. It is really going to be driven by members across the way. The member for Thornhill talked about his tie. We have seen a number of members around the House wear the seal tie. If we talk to members such as the member for Thornhill, they will express a sense of pride in the tie, because it is a very symbolic yet very important gesture that supports the seal industry. I know there are members of the Liberal caucus who have the same sort of seal tie. I am not part of that club as of yet, but I recognize that there is a very high sense of pride in those seal products.

My colleague from Labrador has brought seal meat to the lobby on occasion. I have had the opportunity to try some. I thought it was different, but interesting. I understand there are different ways of cooking it. I would not hesitate to try it again, perhaps cooked a little differently. I understand some people even eat it in the raw form.

The point is that there are ways we can celebrate the importance of the industry. I would like to think that we could even look at ways we could take it into a classroom. We can imagine how a school trustee, an MLA, or a member of Parliament could look at ways to highlight what we believe are important issues to the communities that we represent, even though, as my colleague pointed out, we do not see many seals around Winnipeg North. However, I recognize what it is and the industry as a whole, and I would love to see some class time dedicated by a teacher who has taken an interest in the industry, because it is about education.

There has been misinformation. We have heard that throughout the debate from individuals who really are not necessarily thinking of the well-being of the industry as a whole but are approaching it with a bias. The bias is to stop the seal hunt, not appreciating the heritage and the fact that we have a healthy seal population. There is not only a role for us to recognize the history of the seal hunt and what is happening today, but as has been pointed out, there is also a promising future.

When we talk about the importance of recognizing a single day, I suggest we allow members to appreciate it and recognize it in many different ways, from bringing it into the classroom to debating the issues and bringing them up in future S. O. 31s here in the House to sharing our ideas with members of the media. As with many different industries throughout the country, we need to appreciate and value those industries that have really touched the hearts and souls of so many, not only today but throughout the years. In particular, I focus on how important it is for our indigenous communities in recognizing and supporting the very strong leadership that has come to the table on this particular issue.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2017 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I am honoured to take part in the debate on Bill S-208, particularly because there are people in my riding, especially in Nunavik, who rely heavily on seals.

Over this past week, it has been obvious for us here in the south to feel the changes of spring returning to the land. For indigenous peoples, in our languages, the names marking the passage of time are interconnected with the environment and wildlife surrounding us. Our traditional cycles of yearly activities are closely tied to what the animals and plants are doing.

In Nunavik, for instance, this time of year is called Tirilluliuti, which is the season for bearded seals to have babies. How fitting that we are here at this time recognizing the importance of these animals to northern communities, as the member for Thornhill just said.

I would like to quote Sheila Watt-Cloutier, who comes from the community of Kuujjuaq in my riding. While writing about the social and cultural importance of the seal hunt, she said:

It's hard to describe the excitement that would flash through Kuujjuaq when word came that hunters were returning with a large harvest, like a seal.... Word spread from neighbour to neighbour, from house to house, and everyone headed to the home of the hunter.... Sitting or squatting on the floor, the men and women would begin to cut up the carcass with sharp knives or an ulu.... Everyone else, including the children, would sit circling the seal. Pieces of meat would be passed around...to eat.... The liver was one of my favourites. But the best moment was when we would [all] reach into the...seal and dip our hands, coating our scooped fingers with sweet, rich blood, which we licked off like honey.... Those precious moments, sitting on the floor with my grandmother and mother, my brothers and sister, my uncle and his family, and so many members of my community...were treasured times.

But the importance of country food to my community goes far beyond taste.... Country food is the fuel we need to thrive in the Arctic.

That passage comes from her book The Right to be Cold.

Besides her description of sharing with her community the product of a hunt, what I love about this memory is the message she teaches us, which is that Inuit need seal to thrive in the Arctic. Inuit hunt seals for food, clothing, and many other products, and they market the by-products of the sustainable hunt internationally today. Recognizing and honouring the Inuit seal harvest and products with legislation that would mark May 20 as national seal products day also recognizes and honours the traditional Inuit way of life.

Article 20 of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples affirms the right to maintain and develop indigenous “political, economic and social systems or institutions, to be secure in the enjoyment of their own means of subsistence and development, and to engage freely in all their traditional and other economic activities.” For many Inuit, this means a continuation of the seal hunt, and the diversification of traditional uses toward commercial markets and new products.

Colonizing society, organizations, and governments violates that inherent right when it attempts to place misinformed restrictions on seal products, restrictions that have caused immeasurable harm to indigenous communities across the north. Inuit originally joined the commercial seal market due to pressures from colonization. They were herded into permanent settled communities and actively prevented from living traditional lifestyles. Sled dogs were shot by the RCMP. The Inuit people turned to the monetary economy to buy fuel for their snowmobiles and to survive.

The banning of products from the Inuit hunt caused economic devastation, and I can attest, personal humiliation among Inuit communities. The seal skin market is so important because it allows Inuit to maintain a piece of their traditional lifestyle, and in doing so, assert autonomy and control over their social systems.

Nunavik Creations is an example of the tremendous entrepreneurship in the north of my riding. The award-winning company employs Inuit women from various communities in Nunavik as seamstresses, designers, creative analysts, sample makers, pattern makers, and in administrative roles promoting Inuit culture through their unique garments.

Creating a day each year when all of Canada supports the inherent right that Inuit have to participate in the economy, take care of their families and communities, and thrive in this millennium would go a long way toward truth-telling and making amends for previous wrongs done to indigenous peoples.

Indigenous peoples, as stewards of their territories, have the obligation to care for the land and waters. For Inuit, the right to maintain and promote spiritual practices is closely connected to hunting seal. Throughout the Arctic, stories are told about an aquatic female character, sometimes called Sanna. She controls the sea mammals and determines the fate of surface dwellers. She is someone to beg when a hunter is hopeful, and someone to blame if a hunter fails. If we are to advance our understanding of Inuit-defined sovereignty, the first important entity we must recognize is the sea. In doing so, we must respect all Inuit practices connected to the sea and Sanna's children, the sea mammals.

The relationship between humans and seals, which has developed over thousands of years through precise observations while out on the sea ice waiting to harpoon a seal, while monitoring seal breathing holes, birthing dens, and migration patterns, is central to Inuit culture.

I am proud to stand in the House and say that I fully support Bill S-208, legislation that supports the inherent rights of the Inuit to maintain their social, cultural, political, and economic relationship to the seals, to Sanna, and to the sea.

National Seal Products Day ActPrivate Members' Business

April 5th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise in support of Bill S-208, a bill to designate May 20 of each year as national seal products day.

I am so pleased to speak in this debate that I went to my closet this morning to retrieve one of my several sealskin ties. I realize that my hon. colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame sported a snappy bow tie when he introduced the bill that was passed in the other place, and is now here for consideration in the House. I have chosen a more substantial piece of neckwear, in square centimetres at least, wonderfully fabricated from the pelt of a harp seal.

I wear it because I am proud that the Conservative Party of Canada is the only party to explicitly state its support of the seal harvest in its official declaration. I recall fondly the first policy conference of our reconstituted party in Montreal in 2005, a conference that I attended as a journalist. The conference so impressed me that barely three weeks later I was a fledgling candidate for the election that followed, which elected the first mandate of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. Members will recall that it took me one more try to join my Conservative colleagues in this House, but that is another story for another day.

The point I was making before interrupting myself was the construction of the sound Conservative policy platform I witnessed at that first policy convention in Montreal in 2005. The policy that was passed, now included in section 123 of the Conservative Party's policy declaration, states unequivocally:

We believe [the Conservative Party of Canada believes] the government must continue to support the Canadian sealing industry by working to eliminate unfair international trade bans on Canadian seal products.

Those unfair international trade practices have taken a terrible toll on Canada's sealing industry, which is a historically important cultural and economic driver in Canada's eastern Arctic and northern communities. It has been, for centuries, an integral part of Canada's rural culture, and a way of life for many thousands of Canadians. Indigenous people have a constitutionally protected right to harvest marine mammals, including seals, as long as the harvest is consistent with responsible conservation practices.

As recently as 2004, seal products in their different forms: meat; oil, which is rich in omega 3 fatty acids; pelts, not only sold as neckties but as jackets, coats, boots, slippers and mittens, all of these products accounted for about $18 million in exports to markets around the world.

Today, unfortunately, seal product exports amount to only several hundred thousand dollars, because of ill-informed, misguided, in some cases, blatantly hypocritical, discriminatory regulations, and outright bans.

In 2010, using justifications built on seal harvest practices that were outlawed decades ago, the European Union banned the import and sales of all seal products. The Fur Institute of Canada, along with successive Canadian governments, Conservative and Liberal, have countered the myths and misrepresentations with clear and accurate facts.

Since 1987, seals have not been hunted until they reach maturity. No other young animals receive the same preferred treatment. Lambs, pigs, calves, and chickens all are slaughtered before maturity.

I used the word myth advisedly. Let me offer a few of the classic myths about the seal harvest along with the realities. The most flagrantly argued and propagandized myth is that the Canadian government still allows sealers to harvest whitecoats, seal pups. In fact, that practice has been illegal since 1987, as is the harvest of adult seals during breeding or birthing times of the year.

Another classic myth is that seals are skinned alive. In fact, a 2002 study carried out by independent veterinarians proved that to be false.

Yet another myth is that Canada's traditional and commercial seal fishery is unsustainable and endangering seal populations. Again, this is absolutely false. Scientists and researchers at Fisheries and Oceans Canada have all the evidence. In fact, the seal population is very healthy and growing, in some cases in overabundant numbers that are seen to be threatening the recovery of overfished, depleted, saltwater, Atlantic groundfish populations, such as the cod.

Harp seals alone, for example, are said to consume more than 12 million tonnes of fish every year, the equivalent of more than 10% of the world's annual commercial wild harvest. As well, the overabundant grey seal population off the Maritimes is also a particular threat to Atlantic cod and salmon, and it is not because they are consuming all that they kill. In fact, the grey seal very often eats only a few bites of an 80 to 100 pound cod, leaving the large wounded fish to die and to waste.

It is also relevant to point out that since the European Union imposed its misguided, misinformed ban on seal product imports and sales, a number of EU member countries have actually authorized the culling of their own seal populations to protect their national fisheries. A spokesman for Canada's fur institute pointed out the cost of those contradictory policies several years ago, saying that the culls in Europe are both hypocritical and wasteful because the killed seals can only be used under EU laws for personal consumption, which is unlikely, and cannot be used as commercial products because of the EU's own ban.

There are two final myths I would like to address. One is that Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which we know well in this House by the acronym, DFO, provides subsidies for the seal hunt. Again, that is outdated. Sealing is, as many of my colleagues have argued, an economically viable industry. All subsidies were ended in 2001, and even that economic assistance was for market and product development. In fact, the Canadian government has provided far less in subsidies to the sealing industry than was recommended by the 1986 Malouf Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada.

The final myth that I would like to dispel this evening is that the Canadian seal hunt is rife with brutality and inhumane practices, and that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not adequately police or punish illegal hunting activities. The reality is quite the opposite. Fisheries enforcement officers conduct surveillance of the hunt by air and by sea, and with dockside inspection of landing vessels returning from the hunt. As well as this close monitoring of the hunt, infractions of the regulations draw severe penalties, which can include not only very significant fines, but the seizure and forfeiting of fishing vessels and their gear, of catches, and of the sealers' licences.

I know my time is short, so to wrap up, I would like to express again that across Canada's remote northern and coastal communities, sealing is an important traditional way of life and a critical source of income for thousands of families. The seal fishery contributes to the often inconsistent range of income sources in remote fishing communities, and in some years, seal hunt revenues offset poor catches in those other fisheries.

Bill S-208 would impose no direct cost to the federal government and would not create a legal holiday, but designation of May 20 as national seal products day every year would provide invaluable symbolic support of a legitimate, humane, and sustainable fishery. It would provide an annual opportunity for me and my colleagues to once again wear this tangible evidence of a historic past, a worthy present, and a highly sustainable future.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 24th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans entitled, “Review of Changes made in 2012 to the Fisheries Act: Enhancing the Protection of Fish and Fish Habitat and the Management of Canadian Fisheries”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

I would also add that the committee heard from many groups, including indigenous communities and inshore fishers, primarily in eastern Canada, in relation to this study. While the majority of the committee felt that some of the feedback from these groups fell outside the scope of the committee's study, the committee will be providing this information to the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard by way of letter.

Yesterday we had the honour of discussing private member's bill, Bill S-208. I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in relation to Bill S-208, an act respecting national seal products day. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

February 23rd, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.
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Independent

Hunter Tootoo Independent Nunavut, NU

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll start off by saying that this is a little less nerve-racking than the last time I appeared before this committee.

[Witness speaks in Inuktitut]

Good morning. Thank you for allowing me to speak about the seal harvest, and in particular about the act respecting national seal products day

I would personally like to thank committee members, and Mr. Simms for his work in supporting this act, and for inviting me to be here to speak with you today. I would also like to take this time to thank the many members of Parliament, including some who are on this committee, who have spoken out continually in support of this act in the House of Commons.

Last, but definitely not least, I would like to thank former senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who championed this initiative in the Senate in 2014, and whose hard work has led us here to this stage of the process today. Thank you.

The seal harvest is a crucial aspect of Canada's Inuit culture and livelihood, and it has been for thousands of years. The sad truth is that very few people truly understand the importance of this issue to Inuit. Many southern Canadians are aware of the seal fur market, and can understand how this could be beneficial from an economic standpoint. What people have difficulty grasping is the necessity of this harvest for sustenance for our communities.

Although the nutrition north program is well-intentioned, it's insufficient, and broken by the way. On that, I would like to say that I look forward to some positive changes coming soon.

Food insecurity is one of the biggest issues in Nunavut, where nearly 50% of the households experience it. What's worse than that, and deeply concerning, is that 60% of children are living in food-insecure households. Inuit rely on the seal for food. When a hunter returns to his community with a harvested seal, the food feeds his family and several others members of the community. It provides much-needed protein and vitamins, and allows the communities to survive. It also brings the community together, and this is the way it has always been.

Beyond the immediate use of seal as a food source, seal furs have traditionally been used as clothing to keep us warm in the winter months. Over the years, furs have become a commodity used to trade with merchants who travel the north, generating much-needed income for northern communities. The sale of seal products like fur, and the international commercialization of seal products led over time to economic sustainability, which allowed Inuit to continue to harvest seals and enjoy food security.

However, with the United States' Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted in 1972, and later, the European Union's ban on seal products, the market for seal products has slowly declined. As a result, the cost of and demand for our products has been driven down, diminishing profits from trade, and making the market non-viable.

This industry is small. It's important that we work together to ensure its success.

There are exemptions in the European Union ban that allow for the trade of seal products produced by Inuit in Nunavut. However, Inuit in several other regions of Canada, particularly those in northern Quebec and Labrador, are so far not part of this exemption. I would really encourage new partnering approaches from sealing organizations with those in these regions, in an effort to include them as well in taking advantage of and maximizing the indigenous exemption in the ban.

By limiting our ability to trade and sell products in an international market, a crucial revenue stream has been diminished, and Inuit now struggle to afford being able to go harvest seals. Harvesting seals is expensive. You have to buy equipment, fuel for snowmobiles and boats, and ammunition for your firearms. It's not cheap, especially in the north. With these harvesting costs and the increased costs of living in Nunavut, the need to generate income from the seal fur industry is needed now more than ever.

European animal activists groups initiated the mission to end the seal fur trade, and in doing so, a major source of economic growth was lost. To this day, they present false information regarding seal populations and the harvesting of baby seals.

This is very upsetting because this fraudulent sales pitch is done in an effort to gain monthly donations and is currently being used now even in China, a potential market for seal products. In reality, the seal population, as we've heard, has tripled over the last 30 years, and the current population of between eight and nine million could double by 2030. Also, the harvesting of baby whitecoat seals, as we all know, is illegal and hasn't been practised for almost 30 years.

There is also a European seal cull that surprisingly continues. They like to keep that one quiet. Over several years thousands of seals have been killed off the coast of the United Kingdom in an attempt to protect their fish stocks. This cull is much different than what Inuit and Canadian harvesters practise because the seals are not harvested. They're just killed, left in the water, and wasted. As you can imagine, this is frustrating for Inuit and Canadian harvesters to hear as European activists, some from Britain, initiated the anti-sealing hunt movement. I find it somewhat ironic and completely hypocritical that this cull is done with the intention of preserving a food source.

On this topic, I feel it's important that government continue to conduct research on aquatic populations, and science-based approaches must be practised to ensure that an increasing seal population doesn't deplete cod, salmon, and shrimp populations in Canadian waters.

To close, I think it's extremely important that Canada support this bill to promote seal products and reverse the current negative mentality towards this market. Enacting national seal products day will reinforce Canada's support for its cultural coastal communities. Speaking on behalf of the people of Nunavut and as a person who is aware of the industry in eastern Canada, this recognition is extremely important. It will strengthen the relationship between Canada and Inuit. It can contribute to the revival of a much-needed source of income for the Inuvialuit and those who have relied on it on the east coast.

With that, thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.

February 23rd, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Fin Donnelly

I call the meeting to order.

This is fisheries and oceans committee meeting number 49, on Thursday, February 23. My name is Fin Donnelly. I'm in the chair for Mr. Simms today.

Welcome to our guests.

Good morning, everyone.

At the table, we have Mr. Long in for Mr. McDonald. We have the parliamentary secretary with us, Mr. Terry Beech. We have a full crew of helpful clerks and analysts here ready to go.

I'd like to welcome our guests.

We have the Honourable Céline Hervieux-Payette. We have MP Yvonne Jones from Labrador, and the very capable Mr. Scott Simms from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame.

I believe the Honourable Hunter Tootoo will be joining us shortly.

Just as a quick outline for the meeting today, we'll be reviewing Bill S-208, an act respecting national seal products day. We'll begin with witness testimony and then proceed clause by clause. Once we've dealt with this bill, we'll suspend for a few minutes and move to committee business, if that makes sense.

Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, November 2, 2016, the committee commences consideration of Bill S-208, an act respecting national seal products day. The summary of the bill is as follows:

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

We'll move to clause-by-clause after we hear from our witnesses. Witnesses will have 10 minutes.

Senator, I give the floor to you for your opening remarks.

December 5th, 2016 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

The Chair Liberal Scott Simms

Next week we have, obviously, the discussion, all in camera. We're discussing this study, the Fisheries Act review, for the first hour. For the second hour we will do the salmon study. On Wednesday, the first hour will be the Fisheries Act review. The second hour will be the cod study.

There was some talk of discussing Bill S-208, which was passed in the House of Commons. I'll put on my other hat now. As the mover of that bill, I'm electing to bring that to committee in February. It's not immediate, of course. The deadline is still out to April.

Mr. Donnelly.

The House resumed from October 27, consideration of the motion that Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.