Evidence of meeting #47 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was wildlife.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Ward Samson  Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation
Tony Rodgers  Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters
Charles LeBlanc  President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to order. This is meeting 47. We're continuing our study today on the licensed hunting and trapping in Canada.

We have appearing by video conference from Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation, Mr. Ward Samson.

Mr. Samson, welcome.

8:45 a.m.

Ward Samson Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation

Thank you.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Okay, thank you.

From the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Mr. Tony Rodgers, executive director.

Welcome, Mr. Rodgers.

8:45 a.m.

Tony Rodgers Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Good morning and thank you.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Just appearing now from the New Brunswick Wildlife Federation by video conference as well, Mr. Charles LeBlanc, president.

Welcome to our conference.

8:45 a.m.

Charles LeBlanc President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Good morning.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

We're going to start with Mr. Samson for his opening 10-minute statement, and we'll proceed after Mr. Samson with Mr. LeBlanc and Mr. Rodgers. Each has a 10-minute opening statement followed by questions from the committee members, alternating between government and opposition.

With that, Mr. Samson, please proceed.

8:45 a.m.

Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation

Ward Samson

I'm just thinking about this forum. Most of what you're dealing with is federal jurisdiction. Most of the concerns, not all of the concerns but a lot of the concerns, we have in Newfoundland are under provincial jurisdiction. I'm not sure if this forum is the actual place to discuss them or not but I'll discuss them anyway. Most of the jurisdiction we have in respect to hunting and trapping is provincial.

In Newfoundland what we have now is that we have had our trapping seasons changed this year for the first time. Prior to this year our trapping season began in October, around about the 20th. This year it was November 1. As a result people, on the island part of the province basically weren't able to capture any fur because of the winter that we have in November. Most of the people on the island part of the province trap and catch most of their foxes, mink, and coyotes in October. When the season starts in November and basically extends into March, we have maybe a couple of weeks in November. After that the winter sets in and we have an exorbitant amount of snow plus the frost, so the ability to catch foxes and coyotes is very limited. This is the first year that we have had this season for the province and we've had this season for the province of Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. What we are asking is that we basically have a couple of seasons or two different dates, one for the island and one for Labrador.

On the island part of the province we think, and maybe rightly so we're not sure, that most of the trapping that we do on the Labrador part of this province is in pine marten. The pine marten is endangered on the island and we do not trap them. We don't have very many here, but in Labrador they do.

One of the other things we've noticed is that we've had a decrease in moose hunting licences on the island part of our province. But it has only been residents who have received this decrease. Outfitters in the province have not received this decrease. They basically have the same licences that they have had, or the same quota they've had, for a number of years. This year there has been a decrease in the moose hunting population on the island part of the province but outfitters in our province have not seen a decrease. So what we are saying.... I know they have a percentage. The outfitters in our province have a percentage of the moose hunting licences in the areas as designated. However, what we would like to see is that if you're going to decrease the number for local hunters then you decrease the hunting for everybody, not only for the local hunters.

I know, basically, that we don't necessarily talk about fishing in respect to hunting and trapping, but I'm going to make a couple of comments here. In Newfoundland I represent people, the NLWF represents people, who hunt and fish for food. In Newfoundland what we have is a five-week season basically for our food fishery, and that food fishery with respect to fishing and cod fishing is five fish per day or 15 fish per boat.

The season runs about five weeks. We are having major problems with that. If you leave my hometown, and you travel for an hour and a half, and you go hunting and fishing, and go jigging for cod, you have to come back with five fish only. If you take in more than five fish that's against the law in Newfoundland. That's a federal jurisdiction.

We also have concerns with respect to.... We would like to see fishing for cod increased where we can capture so many per day and have that daily fishery. In the past what we used to do is that a number of us would go out and catch fish. We would give this to the older people in the community who could not fish. We can't do that today. We're not allowed. It's impossible to do that.

In summary we have had our moose licences decreased in our areas in the province. We've had our season changed with respect to trapping in our province. The food fishery that we have in the jurisdiction, and we know that it's run by the federal government, is extremely limited. I would like to say—and I know this is national—that some of the people I represent, the people that we represent, do this for food. We don't do this for anything else. When we go hunting moose, we don't hunt antlers. People don't want antlers in our province. We don't. We hunt food. It's the same with fishing.

With respect to salmon fishing...I know it's going off on another topic. We have four fish per day in our licence for salmon fishing. We take this as food. That's it, as food. It's not for pictures, or paintings, or anything else. When you can catch a salmon, you catch it. It becomes yours. It's not anybody else's. It's not pictures. It's not to catch it and land it, and see how big it is. We catch it and we eat it. It's simple. We have a whack of different interest groups in the province that see this as a business. There can be a business attached to it, I suppose, but if you're going to attach a business component to this then why do you have to have your citizens of your province, the people that I represent, told that this is what you have to do, more or less? If you don't do this, then basically you are a criminal.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Mr. Samson, we're coming to the end of your time. Possibly you can address some of the concerns that you still have when you're responding to questions by members in the question round.

We're going to move now to Mr. LeBlanc.

8:55 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

Bonjour, messieurs et mesdames. Thank you very much for having us this morning.

The New Brunswick Wildlife Federation was formed in 1924 to address a drastic decrease in big game populations. Our founding fathers understood the North American conservation model concept to be the answer to saving wildlife. Trapping is part of that model.

Culturally, hunting and trapping in our province are valued heritage activities, with traditions passed down from generation to generation. We have many traditions in New Brunswick, and I'll name just a few. For those hunters who can relate to the restless evening the night before an early morning duck hunt, we have a hunters breakfast at a local diner or at the Lion's Club. A lot of people can relate to the opening day of deer season after all the preparations—the scouting-the-trail cameras, the reconnaissance, the purchasing of all the equipment needed—to make our hunts more pleasurable. Here in New Brunswick we have the coveted moose hunt, a three-day hunt where most will spend the whole week, and many previous weekends, in the search and pursuit of our quarry. As well, unique out here is what we call the “cast and blast”; you can angle for Atlantic salmon in the morning and in the afternoon you can go for an upland game bird hunt.

Aside from those hunting and trapping activities, you have many families gathering at deer camps or moose camps after the hunt or even during, where they can celebrate the great outdoors and what it provides to us. Many will meet after the hunt to share food, music, and friendship.

Economically these are very important endeavours. Licence sales alone in the province were estimated at $3.7 million last year. We had 1,300 trapping licences. We sold 50,000 deer licences and 4,700 black bear licences; 2,000 of those were non-residents. We have 4,600 moose tags as well as 150 non-resident licences, with 70,000 applicants vying for the 4,600 moose permits.

Hunting, angling, and trapping benefit our rural communities where we have a slower economy. They purchase food, fuel, and other necessities for the hunt. Many hunters and anglers and trappers invest in camps and equipment, and not only for the initial building of the camps. They purchase materials for the annual upkeep as well. Our pelt exports from New Brunswick last year had a $1.2-million value.

Participation in hunting and trapping is more prevalent among the middle-aged and seniors, but licence sales tend to increase when wildlife populations thrive. Trapping will see an increase in licence sales if the price of fur is up, but because of the large investment involved, these increases are modest. As was previously said, we had 1,300 of these trapping licences last year, and that was with depressed prices.

Hunting and trapping courses are very popular in our province. They're filled to capacity around the province. It bodes well for the future that maybe our youth, or new people, are coming into these heritage forests.

In terms of contribution to wildlife management and conservation, hunters and trappers are very sensitive to the issues affecting wildlife. If we do not recruit the youth into these heritage forests, who will protect the habitat that supports fish and wildlife? You know, when we use it, we own it. We seem to be more passionate if we do participate.

Trappers in New Brunswick have signed on to the agreement on international humane trapping, and only certified traps are used. With these measures, they support the protection of fur bearers of special concern. Trappers who want to harvest bobcat, otter, and marten in our province must apply for tags that are allocated by species and zones. Trappers, upon harvesting, must affix a tag to the pelt and present the carcass of these animals to the regional office to obtain their export permits. The animals are sexed, aged, weighed, and the reproduction success determined, giving good baseline data to the provincial biologists who manage these populations. The role of science research and monitoring is critical to determine any change to the environment or disease that will have detrimental effects on wildlife populations. Trapper information helps to further this research.

With regard to wildlife enhancement programs and policies in New Brunswick, when purchasing a licence in New Brunswick, five dollars from each licence goes to the New Brunswick Wildlife Trust Fund.

This, together with the sale of conservation licence plates for our vehicles, provides funding in excess of $1.2 million annually, which is distributed to non-profit groups for wildlife conservation and educational projects, including trapping courses and other projects.

In conclusion, these are our general wildlife and trapping comments for New Brunswick. Our federation fully supports and endorses trappers' role in the conservation and wise use of our fur-bearers, as well as their role in providing income for their families, harvesting surplus animals in the population, and providing baseline data for provincial biologists and research.

The biggest threat faced by wildlife is habitat management. Last year, our province increased its softwood harvest by 20% and reduced the old growth conservation forests from 28% to 23% while, at the same time, cutting deer yards that are crucial to deer wintering survival.

This is why we call for reform and why we support the traditions of hunting and trapping in our province.

I thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. LeBlanc.

We'll move now to Mr. Tony Rodgers, executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Mr. Rodgers.

9:05 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Good morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. I'm nursing a bit of a cold so you'll excuse me if I have to go to my water from time to time.

Thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about one of my favourite subjects and one of my greatest pleasures, hunting. In a province of less than a million people, Nova Scotia has a large number of residents who participate in hunting and trapping as well as angling.

The Nova Scotia government requires those who wish to hunt and trap to take an appropriate training course in order to obtain an outdoor identification number known as the wildlife resources card. Over 100,000 people in the province possess one of these cards, and most of these people are attached in some way or another to 100,000 people who support them: a wife, a husband, a boyfriend, a girlfriend. These folks added together make for a large portion of the provincial population who directly support hunting.

All of us are direct descendants of successful hunters. Humanity survived on this planet because of the skills of hunters, and this remains a fact today in many places on the Earth. Hunting, fishing, and gathering are still activities for survival on a day-to-day basis around the world, and that includes Canada, as many of our first nations rely on the skills of their hunters for subsistence hunting and on non-native hunters to provide a variety of wild food for the family table, food that is free of feedlot antibiotics and growth hormones.

I congratulate you on the motion to study and examine the cultural significance of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada, a subject by far under-studied and far less understood by many in urban Canada. Perhaps this committee will help shed light on the huge impact these activities have on the economy and the culture of Canada.

Let me first say that hunters, trappers, and anglers pay for wildlife conservation in Canada. It is we who reach into our pockets and pay for the privilege to use the natural landscape of Canada and harvest its bounty. We reached so deep into our pockets to spend on these activities that we brought out $13.5 billion the last time a survey was done. In addition, $1 billion is generated by the outfitters of Canada. These are the men and women who operate lodges for hunters to enjoy and hunt out of, and to top off the economic figure, trapping is valued at $700 million in Canada. So that is over $15 billion a year in an economy in only a four-month season.

In Nova Scotia, hunters and trappers are levied an additional five dollars over and above the cost of their licences. This is a wildlife habitat conservation stamp. In the past season, that stamp raised over $275,000. These dollars are spent by a committee led by hunters on wildlife education, research, and the purchase of land. In the past 15 years, as an example, the fund has raised $2 million, given directly to university students to help them with their research on wildlife species. It's important to note that many of these species are animals that we're not hunting. That is what I call economic sustainability.

As a nation, we have been harvesting the land for fur and meat for hundreds of years and continue to do so in a sustainable harvest. It was not always that way. At one point in our natural history, we had a near disaster when commercial hunting almost destroyed the abundance of wildlife by over-killing for money. One hundred years ago we lost the passenger pigeon. It became extinct because of food hunting and feathers for ladies' hats. We almost lost our wild herds of bison and elk. They were killed to feed workers building the railroads in Canada and the United States. That calamity was stopped in time by sport hunters and some enlightened politicians. Two to be noticed are Louis St. Laurent and Teddy Roosevelt. They recognized the problem and did something about it, and that was the North American model of wildlife management. It was developed and grew out of that intervention. The animals did come back, some species in better shape than they had been before the commercial hunt.

Today this model of wildlife management is hailed as the best in the world, and at its centre are hunters, hunters' money, and hunters' regulated harvesting. Hunters and trappers have never had to go to any level of government looking for capital money to get a hunting area. Many activities Canadians participate in require large amounts of money to enjoy, and they could not take place without buildings like hockey rinks, gymnasiums, soccer fields, and of course, spending millions of dollars to landscape a forest and turn it into a golf course. For us, it's just the fields and streams we need. In fact, hunters have become the leaders in wetland conservation in North America.

Hunting and trapping are very important activities to the people of Nova Scotia and Canada. I know that some members of this committee have spoken out publicly against the decision to study hunting and trapping. Please don't slough this off as being unimportant. The lessons learned by hunters through bringing some animal species from the brink of extinction may hold some knowledge for you in learning how to deal with other problems and issues in the natural world and may indeed be the blueprint for the recovery of some of these species.

Too often, hunters and trappers are marginalized because of what we do. I speak of taking animals for food from the wild. When I do this, I have a greater appreciation for those wild things than most people and I learn from the animals. I strongly suggest that you would be very wise to listen to the people who present to you at this committee and learn from them. For a stable harvest and a sustainable economy leads to a culture of caring for wildlife and its habitat.

It's really too bad that we're not all hunters. I guess I'm just one of the lucky ones.

Thank you.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Rodgers.

Thanks to all of our witnesses for all of your very good testimony this morning.

We're going to proceed now to the rounds of questions from our members. I'm going ask our members to be sure that you identify to which of our witnesses you'd like to address your question so that we can help them with putting on microphones, and so on.

We're going to begin with Mr. Sopuck, for a seven-minute round of questions.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you, presenters. Your presentations were extremely interesting.

I want to comment on Mr. Samson's point about federal and provincial jurisdictions. He's exactly right. Wildlife management is a shared jurisdiction, with allocation largely done by provincial governments. But the federal government does have a significant role in waterfowl, and we have a number of very important habitat conservation programs.

One of the reasons for this study is to receive advice from groups such as yours as to what we as a federal government can do.

I'd like to address Mr. Rodgers' comment regarding some of the criticisms about this study. I want to be very clear that the Conservative members of the panel—and I don't really want to get partisan here but it's important to get it on the record—strongly supported it and advocated for this study. We're so pleased. We think that this study will shed a lot of light on a very important conservation community in this country that, as I think all of you were alluding to, simply does not receive the credit that this community—and I'm a member of this community—deserves for the work they have done.

Mr. Rodgers, you're a permanent member of our hunting and angling advisory panel, which was an election commitment of ours in 2011. Can you elaborate on the role of the hunting and angling advisory panel and the use you see the panel as having?

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Yes, Mr. Sopuck. Thank you very much for the question.

The hunting and angling advisory panel was announced by the Prime Minister a few years ago, to bring groups like mine and groups of a national nature such as Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl foundation together to discuss common issues and to try to nip problems in the bud and get out ahead of things that could be difficult for government to deal with.

We've had a great opportunity, through the leadership of Greg Farrant of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and others, to get our items on the agenda and to have an opportunity to speak to Minister Aglukkaq and Minister Shea on a face-to-face basis to deal with issues that we have in our provinces and are dealing with nationally. We really appreciate the opportunity to be on that panel.

As a matter of fact, I was talking to Mr. Farrant yesterday. In his presentation he'll be dealing with many of the issues that HAAP has been dealing with.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

This is again to Mr. Rodgers.

Both you and Mr. LeBlanc talked about the extra funding that hunters provide via their hunting licences for habitat conservation. Of course, our party is very proud to be a low-tax government, which is why the hunting and angling groups sometimes puzzle some of our members, because you're always asking to be taxed. I find that quite endearing. Of course, you would want the extra income that you're talking about raising via licence fees and excise fees, and so on, to be directed to wildlife conservation, and I heartily agree with that.

Mr. Rodgers, can you talk about the hunting and angling advisory panel's work on potential new funding sources for wildlife conservation?

9:15 a.m.

Executive Director, Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters

Tony Rodgers

Just a little bit, Bob....

The element that we're looking at is that in the United States there were two funds that were developed to tax hunters and anglers on the equipment that they purchased. It was a small tax levied, for instance, on the purchase of a boat or a fishing rod or a shotgun, or whatever. That money was peeled off and put into a separate account with the federal government. Each one of the U.S. states then had the opportunity of applying for an equal share of that money by putting up money of its own, and by doing so, you had matching dollars. All of those dollars ended up being a benefit to wildlife and wildlife habitat.

A similar discussion is now going on here in Canada where we are looking at perhaps an opportunity to do something similar. I know what you mean about our asking to be taxed. I don't know if that's the proper way of terming it, but certainly in the wildlife habitat stamp that we have in Nova Scotia, we were the ones that brought the idea forward to government. We said, let's make a stamp and take the money directly. Government does not touch a cent of that money. It comes directly into a pool that we manage. My board has three people on a board of five to direct that money, and just a number of years ago we went back to government and asked them to raise it from three dollars to five dollars. We don't have a problem taking money out of our own pockets to do what we want to do and we're not afraid to tell other people what we are doing too.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I couldn't agree more.

Mr. LeBlanc, I was very interested in your comments about trapping in New Brunswick and the relationship between trappers and the scientific community in gathering data. You also talked about certified and humane traps. You're probably quite familiar with Environment Canada's humane trap development facility in Vegreville, Alberta. Can you just talk about the evolution of humane trapping over the last couple of decades, from where it was to where it is now?

Mr. LeBlanc.

9:15 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

I'm going to say that I know very little about trapping; that is not in my domain. Today I represent a group of 25 organizations around the province, so we couldn't bring in an individual for every aspect of hunting and trapping, but I do know there's been a change. Some will find that it's been a financial strain on the trappers, yet they love this sport enough and respect the animals enough to make sure they're humanely dispatched.

In the province, the government has addressed more humane ways of.... We can, for example, carry a firearm to the trap line in order to dispatch. In the past, that was not allowed, so there's a will to humanely harvest an animal.

To your specific question, I can't speak to the evolution of this trap.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Sopuck.

Mr. Bevington, you have seven minutes, please.

March 12th, 2015 / 9:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Thank you.

I think I come from one of the regions of Canada where there is probably the highest per capita trapping and hunting percentage of the population, and that's the Northwest Territories. We have a very large interest in that. The Government of the Northwest Territories has estimated subsistence hunting at $60 million a year. That's a considerable sum.

We're very interested. I think what I'm interested in, and what we've seen, is that climate change and habitat disruption have impacted us tremendously, especially with the caribou herds in the north, where there are bans on hunting now in many communities because caribou herds have declined precipitously. Some put it down to climate change. There are some very logical arguments on why that's happened in that regard. Others look at the impact of linear development of the diamond mining industry in the Slave geological province as affecting caribou migration.

Those are some of the issues we face. I think that's where I want to go with my questions.

Mr. Samson, when you were last in front of this committee, you talked about your concern about loss of habitat. You quoted Chief Seattle who said, “We do not inherit the world from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children.”

The Conservatives have weakened laws that protect habitat. What role should laws and regulations play in habitat protection?

9:20 a.m.

Member, Newfoundland and Labrador Wildlife Federation

Ward Samson

Habitat, I think, is extremely important. In Newfoundland, what we've had on the island specifically is that we've been having habitat destruction for a number of years specifically in our forest industry. We've been replanting with Japanese larch. The department of forestry tried planting with fir trees for a number of years, but they found that the moose were eating the fir trees. Now, basically island-wide, they've taken on the proposal of the Japanese larch. The moose don't eat those.

As I was saying before, in the last 50 years we've had some reduction in the moose population. As you know, the moose basically is an invasive species. They were introduced into the province with many other species, the mink being one of them. We don't have much forest left in the province. We have a lot of forestry access roads, and of course, we have this new predator, the coywolf he's called, or the coyote, but they're large and they're predating on the caribou and the moose. It's simple. We have to take care of the environment. If we don't, there won't be anything for anybody.

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Mr. LeBlanc, do you see similar aspects occurring in the New Brunswick forests? Do you see this as one of the major issues surrounding your ability to harvest and to protect the species that you're engaged in harvesting?

9:20 a.m.

President, New Brunswick Wildlife Federation

Charles LeBlanc

Yes, sir, very much so. If we don't have habitat, there will not be healthy populations of animals. It's hard to monitor the impact of the changes made to the Fisheries Act or other regulations lately because we have yet to see the charges that anybody has laid. The province finds itself in a hard economic situation and we're open for business at the expense of the environment. That is a big concern to our federation. Forest companies need to have fibre, which is fine, we understand the concept that we need to feed our pulp mills. But maybe they were doing too much spraying, so our habitat is.... The actual cutting of forests is good for some species, but the spraying is detrimental to others. Yes, habitat is number one. If we don't have it, we are not going to be able to sustain our heritage.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

You don't have the same problems they have in northern Alberta with linear disturbance of forests, where cut lines, seismic lines, and access roads have created a web of linear disturbances, which aid predation in many cases and which upset the animal species there. Is that something that happens in New Brunswick as well?