Evidence of meeting #49 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 waterfowl.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gregory Weeks  Secretary, National Board of Directors, Ducks Unlimited Canada
Brian Craik  Director, Federal Relations, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)
Cameron Mack  Executive Director, Wildlife Habitat Canada
Pierre Latraverse  President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs
James Brennan  Director, Government Affairs, Ducks Unlimited Canada

8:45 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call our Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to order. This is meeting number 49. Today we are following along on our study on licensed hunting and trapping in Canada.

We're pleased today to have four groups with us. We have from Ducks Unlimited, Mr. Gregory Weeks, secretary, and James Brennan, director of government affairs. From Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee), we have Mr. Brian Craik, director, federal relations. From Wildlife Habitat Canada, we have Cameron Mack, executive director. By video conference from Longueuil, Quebec, we have Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs, Pierre Latraverse, president. Welcome, all of you.

We will proceed with 10-minute opening statements followed by questions from our committee members, so please try to stay within your 10 minutes. I'll give you a signal when you're approaching the end so we can wrap it up. We'll begin in the order that I introduced the witnesses.

From Ducks Unlimited, we have Mr. Gregory Weeks.

8:45 a.m.

Gregory Weeks Secretary, National Board of Directors, Ducks Unlimited Canada

Good morning and thank you, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee.

As mentioned, my name is Greg Weeks. I am a 20-plus-year volunteer with Ducks Unlimited, as well as the secretary of the national board and senior director in the province of Ontario.

I'd also like to recognize my colleague Jim Brennan, our national director of government affairs, who is here with me today.

On behalf of Ducks Unlimited and our 120,000 active donors and the millions of Canadians who support our mission, we are honoured to be here with you today. Thank you for the opportunity to share our views on the economic and environmental significance of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada.

As an avid angler and a hunter myself, I'm sometimes asked how my recreational activities correspond with my environmental concerns and my passion for conserving the wetland and waterfowl resources that we have here in Canada. As I'm sure most of you agree, the reality is that the two go hand in hand.

Hunting truly is a lifestyle and an expression of our commitment to protecting valuable natural resources. lt doesn't have a beginning nor does it have an end like a sport or a game; rather, it engages us through a unique, lifelong relationship with the natural world. Throughout Ducks Unlimited's history, licensed hunters and trappers have played a vital role in the growth and development of our organization and in driving the vital conservation successes we have had on the landscape.

The genesis of Ducks Unlimited in North America nearly eight decades ago resulted from the responsible activities of conservation-minded hunters who were deeply concerned by the dramatic decline in wetland habitat and the need for strong waterfowl and wildlife populations. These community leaders decided to take action in Manitoba by restoring Big Grass Marsh in Manitoba in the midst of the prairie drought of the 1930s.

Today our organization remains firmly rooted in the Canadian hunting tradition. Waterfowl hunting remains a cultural activity that connects many of our supporters, and we continue to support our youth waterfowling mentorship program across the country.

Furthermore, the support of hunters and trappers has been critical in advancing our scientific research and on-the-ground conservation programs across the continent.

Wildlife scientists, hunters, and trappers in Canada and the United States were the main drivers behind the creation of the North American waterfowl management plan, also known as NAWMP, in the mid-1980s. It's widely regarded as the most successful conservation partnership in the world. Success under NAWMP has been driven by strong partnerships among hunters, waterfowl scientists, NGO partners like Ducks Unlimited, provincial and state governments, as well as federal governments in Canada and the United States. Since its inception in 1986, NAWMP has invested over $1.4 billion in habitat conservation in Canada and the United States, which has resulted in almost 20 million conserved acres across North America.

ln both countries, waterfowl hunters continue to fund this conservation through the purchase of licences and federal waterfowl hunting conservation stamps, and also through philanthropic donations. ln fact, this year will mark 50 years that the U.S. state fish and wildlife agencies have been allocating a portion of their annual budgets to support waterfowl habitat conservation here in Canada. Ducks Unlimited Canada and our sister organization Ducks Unlimited in the U.S., will be recognizing this milestone at a reception at the Canadian embassy in Washington later in May.

Stories like these illustrate an important point about the profound connection hunters have with the natural environment and the significant role they have played throughout Canadian history in driving habitat conservation through their own initiatives. However, while the hunting community has achieved tremendous success through the support of wetland conservation across Canada, there is a clear and urgent need for federal leadership to further protect migratory birds and their habitat. That's why we are grateful for the government's national conservation plan, NCP, and the programs it supports, including the national wetlands conservation fund and the recreational fisheries conservation partnerships program.

These initiatives provide critically important funding for on-the-ground conservation work, while at the same time supporting outdoor recreation and educational opportunities. We strongly support the steps this government has taken to protect Canada's cultural heritage through the NCP, and we recommend that this valuable initiative be maintained into the future and existing funding opportunities be enhanced.

We believe that this kind of continued investment is not only critical to protect wildlife but also supports rural job creation and economic growth, because just as hunting supports habitat conservation, habitat conservation supports the Canadian economy.

Like other groups that have appeared before this committee, I have already pointed out that there is unequivocal evidence of economic benefits of hunting and trapping. However, it is important to bear in mind that there are direct economic benefits from habitat conservation itself.

Recent studies indicate that for every dollar invested in Ducks Unlimited's conservation work, Canadian society enjoys $22 in total economic benefits. These benefits include ecosystem services such as water quality regulation and flood control, contributions to tourism and outdoor recreation, and an estimated 970 full-time equivalent jobs annually.

A 2013 study by ecological economist Mark Anielski found that Ducks Unlimited's conservation and habitat restoration activities, largely supported by hunters, generated GDP benefits of $77.1 million per year. The same study found that the more than 2.5 million hectares of wetlands and natural areas secured and managed by Ducks Unlimited Canada generated an estimated $208.5 million in economic activity through Canada's recreation and tourism sector alone.

When leveraged by partners, including Ducks Unlimited, Canada's participation in the NAWMP means that nearly $20 million in U.S. funding is made available through Canadian conservation work on an annual basis. This funding is heavily supported by hunters for the benefit of all Canadians.

A 2013 study by University of Toronto economist Thomas Wilson found that for every dollar of federal investment in Ducks Unlimited conservation activities, roughly 66¢ is offset by tax transfer recapture. As your committee continues to study the economic benefits of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada, we recommend that you account for those direct economic benefits produced through habitat conservation programs and projects, as these are critical contributions to Canada's economy, as driven by hunters and trappers.

Government-led conservation programs and policies supporting the protection of wildlife habitat are vital to maintaining our country's hunting and trapping heritage. While hunter recruitment, interestingly, has taken a small upturn in recent years, the overall trend has been one of gradual decline. We believe that one of the main causes of this is an increasing urbanization of society. Canadians simply don't have the same easy access to our forests, marshes, and grasslands that they once had. Today, those wishing to hunt must travel further and further out of the city to access increasingly marginal wildlife habitat. The gradual decline in hunter participation since the 1970s has placed increasing financial pressures on NGOs and all levels of government. As reduced licence revenues and fewer tax dollars are generated from recreational hunting, this ultimately means that fewer conserved acres are put on the ground.

The Government of Canada's clear commitment to supporting hunters, trappers, and conservationists is critical. Today we urge you to further consider actions in support of licensed hunting and trapping activities in Canada, including making it easier for Canadians to discover the outdoors and take up activities that have been part of our cultural heritage since before our founding.

Thank you very much for your time. We're happy to answer any questions.

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Weeks, and thank you for staying well within your 10 minutes. That's a good precedent for the rest to follow.

Mr. Craik, no pressure.

8:55 a.m.

Brian Craik Director, Federal Relations, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)

I see you've accorded me some extra time.

8:55 a.m.


Oh, oh!

8:55 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Not really; we're a zero balance game.

8:55 a.m.

Director, Federal Relations, Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee)

Brian Craik

I thank the committee for having invited the Grand Council to participate here today. We were rather unsure about the goal of this meeting, but in any case we can give a characterization of the situation in northern Quebec.

Eeyou Istchee covers 339,698 square kilometres in James Bay, Quebec. Representing 22% of the province of Quebec, it stretches from the coast of James Bay and Hudson Bay to the height of land at the interior plateau. The territory is rich with a diverse range of ecosystem. It has marine waters, islands offshore, inland rivers, lakes, wetlands, hills and highlands, forest, taiga and tundra, all of which sustain a multitude of wildlife species, such as the woodland caribou, barren ground caribou, moose, black bear, polar bear, beluga, freshwater seals, and other types of fish—ciscoes, trout, prehistoric sturgeon—and many types of waterfowl colonies.

The territory and its resources are shared between the Crees and the Jamesian populations. The Crees slightly outnumber the Jamesian population. There are about 17,000 Crees. The Jamesians themselves live in seven localities in the southern part of the territory, while the Cree population is dispersed over the whole territory in 10 communities.

For thousands of years the Crees have depended on the land and have lived within the cycles of natural life. They understand and respect the animals hunted, and this was fundamental for their survival. The animal has a spirit and will offer it to the hunter. It gives itself to the hunter to ensure survival of the people, who in turn must show respect for the animal in order for the animal's soul to be reborn. Respect for the animal is an important component throughout the process of hunting and the life of a hunter, and it is shown in many ways, but most importantly, respect is shown by sharing within the human society, harvesting only what is needed and what the population can handle, and ensuring that all parts of the animal are used. These principles have guided the Cree hunters and trappers in their use and management of their lands.

There are approximately 300 family hunting territories, which cover the whole of the 330,000 square kilometres. Each has a tally man in charge of the harvesting activities. Through their presence and continued observation of the land, along with the knowledge transmitted from past generations, they have acquired a wealth of information, providing important indicators with respect to animal trends, population trends, reproductive success, health, animal behaviour, use of habitat by those animals, and more. The role of the stewards and their management of the hunting territories are well recognized by Cree society and are protected by the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement.

The James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement was signed in 1975, and it was protected by the Canadian Constitution in 1982 as a treaty. As part of this historic agreement, the hunting, fishing, and trapping regime was established, as well as the income security program for hunters and trappers and the Cree Trappers' Association. These three institutions have played an important part in supporting our hunters and trappers and in preserving the Cree way of life, which strongly depends on a healthy wildlife population.

The hunting, fishing, and trapping regime basically involves co-management by the Crees, Inuit, Naskapi, the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, who participate in making recommendations and in certain cases decisions that bind the minister.

Some of the key provisions of the regime are as follows.

The right to harvest any species of wildlife at any time, anywhere in the territory, is a Cree right except in settled areas.

The right to harvest is subject to the principle of conservation, which is the pursuit of the optimum natural productivity of living resources and the protection of the ecological systems of the territory so as to protect endangered species and to ensure, primarily, the continuance of the traditional pursuits of native people, and secondarily, the satisfaction of the needs of non-native people for sport hunting and fishing.

It recognizes the family hunting territories, also referred to as traplines.

It also recognizes the exclusive trapping rights over the whole territory by the Crees and the exclusive use by the Crees of certain species. There are exemptions to that. Caribou, moose, and game fish are all shared by the native and non-native community, whereas other things like whitefish, sturgeon, beaver, and those types of animals that were more used in the traditional way of life of the Crees are exclusively harvested by the Crees.

The priority of subsistence harvest over sport and commercial harvest is another element of this regime.

It also establishes the exclusive rights to commercial harvesting. In certain respects the Crees also have a right to first refusal for certain projects, although I believe that right is expired now. There was a 20-year limit on it.

It also establishes the exclusive rights of the Crees on category II land and their priority on category III land for establishing outfitting operations.

The Cree hunters and trappers income security program requires the head of the family to be in the bush for 120 days per year. It covers his or her family, as well. The program paid beneficiaries a total of $23 million in 2012-13, which represented 68% of the families' incomes. There are 1,357 beneficiary units enrolled in the program. The average amount of benefits per unit for all the communities in 2012-13 was $17,016. These family units total 1,904 adults and 771 children, representing 15% of the population.

Hunting has gone from being the only source of income in the 1950s to being a source of income that is partially supported by welfare payments, and so on, in the 1960s and up to the coming of the agreement. Then this program clicked in. If you look at it in terms of the economy, the importance of fur has gone from being their only source of cash and also a source of food, to the cash part of it representing less than 1% of the Cree economy today. The Crees are involved in mining and delivery of education and health services. They're also entrepreneurs and have started many businesses.

The Cree Trappers' Association was created to assist and promote the pursuit of traditional activities through the implementation of various programs and services. Here are some of the programs they provide. They maintain a voluntary harvest registry system for fur-bearing animals and the harvest of big game. They coordinate and participate in various studies through the collection of information. There is a moose jaw study, which indicates something about the health of the moose population. There is a harvest data for migratory birds, various traditional knowledge studies, and climate change studies, which are tracked by the Cree Trappers' Association. If you go to their website you'll see there's a portal that shows the observations that have been made by Cree trappers in climate change.

They contribute to the enforcement of the regime through the training of tally men as auxiliary game wardens and participate in the training of Cree wildlife protection officers. They contribute to the recovery efforts of various species, such as woodland caribou, freshwater seals, and lake sturgeon, through awareness building and the collection of information and observations. Conducting and training various safety initiatives is another role of the association, such as firearms safety and boat safety. Ski-Doo safety is another issue. They have other programs to help the trappers get through their lives.

All I can say is that it's not just those who are members of the Cree Trappers' Association who go out hunting, fishing, and trapping. The whole society does, as well as the Jamesian society. Many of those people go.

One person commented to me, “I work to keep my family and to be able to go out on the land whenever I can.” I think that's the attitude that permeates the community.

9:05 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Craik.

We'll move now to Cameron Mack, the executive director of Wildlife Habitat Canada.

9:05 a.m.

Cameron Mack Executive Director, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Good morning, Mr. Chair, and committee members.

Thank you for inviting Wildlife Habitat Canada as a witness in your study of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada. Over the next few minutes I would like to talk about wetlands, waterfowl, and the benefits they provide, including waterfowl hunting.

These are areas that are all in the federal interest and jurisdiction. ln particular, I would like to advise you on the role of Wildlife Habitat Canada, the wildlife habitat conservation stamp, the contributions that waterfowl hunters make to conservation and Canada's economy, and the evolving role of conservation NGOs in helping to implement government natural resources policy.

I'll preface my remarks by saying I have only worked with Wildlife Habitat Canada for about a year as executive director; however, I'm also drawing on about 36 years of natural resource management experience at the international, national, and provincial levels, including nine years as director of fish and wildlife, and four years as director of natural resources science and research with the Province of Ontario.

Wildlife Habitat Canada is a national non-profit charitable conservation organization. Since 1985 it has invested over $50 million supporting more than 1,500 conservation projects across Canada. In 2013-14, $1.5 million in WHC grant funds leveraged over $11.3 million in additional partner revenue, which resulted in more than 96,000 acres of wildlife habitat conserved across Canada. Conservation projects also support local and regional economies.

ln many ways, WHC was ahead of the curve when it was created over 30 years ago. Its cornerstone was that habitat conservation was the fundamental tool to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. This was at a time when most agencies were still focused on individual species and population management.

Funding to support WHC grants comes from the purchase of the Canadian wildlife habitat conservation stamp. This funding is provided through legislation and a contribution agreement with Environment Canada. The stamp, which costs $8.50, is purchased primarily by waterfowl hunters to validate their migratory game bird hunting permits.

WHC works through partnerships with communities, with landowners, governments, non-government organizations, and industry to conserve, enhance, and restore wildlife habitat. Nationally, WHC is a member of both the Green Budget Coalition and the federal hunting and angling advisory panel, as DU Canada is. We can play a strong linkage between environmental and conservation sustainable-use NGOs.

The Canadian wildlife habitat conservation stamp is often referred to as the duck stamp, which is the name that's used in the United States for their similar product, but the conservation work supported by the stamp goes well beyond waterfowl and wetlands. Water control, water quality, the conservation of ecological goods and services, biodiversity and rare, threatened, and endangered species are just some of the broader benefits supported by the stamp.

Stamp funds are earmarked for wetland, waterfowl, and benefits derived from them including waterfowl hunting, based on the three goals of the North American waterfowl management plan.

Anglers and hunters like earmarked funding. They are quite willing to contribute to conservation, but they want to know that is where their money is going.

Other examples of the use of earmarked funding in Canada include the creation of the Saskatchewan wildlife development fund in 1970, and in Ontario, the formation of the fish and wildlife special purpose account in 1995, which dedicates all fishing, hunting, and trapping licence fees and fines to fish and wildlife management, about $70 million annually.

Waterfowl hunters have a long and proud history of wildlife and habitat conservation in Canada and North America, and they're generally very supportive of the stamp because they know they are contributing directly to on-the-ground efforts in habitat conservation and stewardship.

There are two major challenges affecting WHC's ability to make conservation investments.

First, nationally, the number of waterfowl hunters has declined precipitously from over half a million in the 1980s to about 200,000 today. As an example, in Ontario the number of migratory bird hunting permits reduced from over 130,000 in 1985 to just 62,000 in 2013, whereas resident hunting licences for deer, moose, and bear all increased during that period.

Second, at $8.50, the wildlife habitat conservation stamp is still the same price as it was in 1991. As Mr. McLean mentioned last week, the hunting and angling advisory panel recently recommended to the Minister of the Environment that the price of the stamp be raised to further support WHC's conservation efforts. The U.S. has recently increased their equivalent duck stamp from $15 to $25.

Many conservation organizations rely on hunters heavily for support. For example, hunters are large supporters of conservation organizations such as Ducks Unlimited Canada, Delta Waterfowl, the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and—here it goes, Pierre—La Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs. All four groups, in addition to many others, receive grants from Wildlife Habitat Canada that actively support and assist with government and private conservation initiatives.

At WHC, our success in contributing and advocating for wildlife habitat conservation is directly linked to waterfowl hunting. We need to pay more attention to promoting and increasing participation in waterfowl hunting. Waterfowl hunting contributes about $327 million annually to the economy, or about 18% of the $1.8-billion figure within the Canadian nature survey. That economic contribution is not easily replaced by other nature-related activities. For example, the average waterfowl hunter spends nearly seven times the daily expenditure of a birder.

Most important for the future of conservation, hunters and trappers are participating in nature conservation activities at more than three times the national average for Canadians over 18. As you are also aware, many other NGOs are actively engaged in hunter recruitment, mostly focusing on youth hunter recruitment. While youth participation is very important, it is obvious from the demographic age distribution of Canada that it requires other strategies so as to attract older Canadians to hunting as well.

Of all the areas in natural resource management in Canada, angling and hunting recruitment is one area we know little about. Furthermore, although there is a fair bit of information in the United States, we either don't use it or don’t know about it. This is a major gap.

One thing you won't hear me talk about today is the good old days of natural resource management. I have no romantic notions about historical resource management. Natural resource management is more complicated now. There are more wicked problems, such as invasive species, climate change, mega-development of resource industries, etc., and obviously, there are more people, but having worked in natural resources since the seventies, I know that natural resources in North America have never been managed better than they are now. The science information and tools are much better. The general public is more aware and supportive of environmental priorities. People who work in conservation are as committed as ever, and they have better training and knowledge than folks like me. Also, there are better communication and educational tools.

One of the big changes I've witnessed in my career is the development of much broader partnerships for delivery of programs, none more important than the increasing role of NGOs in helping to implement government natural resources policy.

At their core, natural resources policies basically have three bits. First, they want to protect ecosystems from being damaged; second, they want to rehabilitate ecosystems that have been damaged; and third, they want to make people happy by providing some cultural, social, and economic benefits. Conservation NGOs are quite eager and capable to help implement them.

I will close by showing a cultural aspect of hunting that you may not be familiar with, and that is the linkage between hunting and wildlife art that has existed as long as the human condition. Stamps may be very small, but the U.S. duck stamp and Canada's wildlife habitat conservation stamp have had a major influence on the development and promotion of wildlife art in North America. Both countries hold a competition for their stamp image every year, and the artwork is also sold in print versions.

I brought with me today the first one, the 1985 print by world-renowned Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman. I put it on my side of the table because I figured that DU would try to auction it off if I put it on the other side.

9:10 a.m.


Oh, oh!

9:10 a.m.

Executive Director, Wildlife Habitat Canada

Cameron Mack

As you can see, a very small stamp has generated a lot of development and promotion of some beautiful art in this country.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and committee members, for your time. I’d be pleased to answer any questions that you have.

9:15 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Mack, and thanks for bringing that very appropriate prop with you today to illustrate an area I would have never thought about in terms of wildlife conservation. That's great.

We'll move now to Monsieur Pierre Latraverse, from the Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs.

Mr. Latraverse.

9:15 a.m.

Pierre Latraverse President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Good morning, Mr. Chair. Good morning, everyone. My thanks to the committee for listening to what we have to say today.

My presentation will be about the federation and its affiliates.

The Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1946. Its mission is to contribute to the management, development and sustainability of hunting and fishing as traditional, heritage and sporting activities, with due regard for wildlife and habitat.

The federation's objectives are: to represent the interests of hunters and sport anglers; to defend, protect, promote and ensure the sustainability of hunting and fishing activities; to promote responsible behaviour by hunters and anglers; to cooperate with public authorities in establishing wildlife habitat conservation and management programs; to cooperate with public authorities in establishing wildlife management plans that will assist the government to meet its ecological, social and economic objectives.

Today, the federation brings together more than 200 associations representing more than 125,000 members in every region of Quebec. In achieving its objectives, the federation can count on the support of its two affiliated organizations, Héritage faune and Sécurité nature.

Héritage faune is the federation's official foundation, started in 1980. Its mission is to provide various sources of funding in order to make possible wildlife, land and water management projects, establish programs for the next generation, and provide scholarships to graduate students for wildlife study. The foundation is also engaged in many projects with wilderness and environmental organizations in Quebec.

Sécurité nature was established in 1995. It is the federation's educational arm. It provides courses as part of the Programme d'éducation en sécurité et en conservation de la faune and coordinates the 450 volunteer instructors who give the courses all over Quebec. It also develops education programs in nature interpretation, in protecting and understanding the value of wildlife and its habitats, including the safety of those participating in outdoor activities. It also produces educational material on the appreciation, conservation and understanding of wildlife and its habitats, and on outdoor activities.

According to Sécurité nature's statistics, the introduction to hunting with a firearm course is increasingly in demand in Quebec. In 1999, there were 10,750 participants. In 2006, there were 14,000 participants. In 2014, there were 20,000 participants.

In Quebec, the right to hunt is recognized in the Act respecting the conservation and development of wildlife. Two of its provisions are as follows:

1.3. Every person has a right to hunt, fish and trap in accordance with the law.

1.4. No person may knowingly hinder a person who is lawfully carrying on an activity referred to in the first paragraph of section 1.3, including an activity preparatory to such an activity.

In terms of community involvement in wildlife management in Quebec, the legislation provides for the participation of the hunting and fishing community in wildlife management. It determines the composition and the advisory role of consultation bodies such as the Table nationale de la faune, and similar regional bodies and technical wildlife bodies. Those organizations work together to develop management plans for the game that hunters are seeking.

In Quebec, hunting is considered as a factor in economic development. A number of regions view hunting as one of their major economic engines. It is also significant in major centres. Hunting and fishing opportunities on public lands are made available in various kinds of designated areas: the controlled harvesting zones, or zecs, which have volunteer boards of directors, private hunting areas, or pourvoiries, wildlife reserves operated by a crown corporation called Sépaq, and free areas of crown land.

Private lands that are part of municipalities support almost 70% of hunting in Quebec. According to the surveys that the federation has conducted, half a million Quebeckers are regular hunters and 700,000 hunt at least once every five years.

A total of 535,000 hunting licences were sold in 2014, including 173,000 for small game, 144,000 for white-tailed deer, 175,000 for moose, 14,000 for black bear and 11,300 for wild turkey. According to a recent study conducted for the Government of Quebec, each hunter spends an average of $1,832 on 15.2 days of hunting, for a total of 4.3 million days of hunting in the province. Hunting represents an overall economic impact of $540 million. The species that is most economically significant is the moose, on which $205 million are spent, followed by small game, which generates $138 million.

Those involved with wildlife face a major challenge because we can see that 68% of hunters are 45 or older. A great deal of recruitment activities need therefore to be organized all over the province. Hunting has social benefits. In addition to its major direct economic impact, because of vehicle sales, packages, outfitting, accommodation and fuel, hunting is important in protecting the environment, controlling damage, and protecting human health. It is recognized scientifically as one of the best tools in controlling animal populations.

The greater snow goose population is at 800,000 and it is causing damage to farms. Resident Canada geese are increasing in numbers and increasingly taking over city parks and golf courses. The continental white-tailed deer population is at 250,000 as a minimum and it is continuing to migrate north. Some areas in southern Quebec are overpopulated and there are many problems of damage, including to farms. There are also many road accidents there, with 6,000 collisions annually involving deer.

Since 2008, the federation has conducted a number of promotion campaigns in order to boost hunting, including among young people, making the activity “cool”. That is how Quebeckers see it. We have made short videos, conducted advertising campaigns about the image of hunting, and campaigns on Zoom Media.

We are now in the modern era of hunting and fishing. We have developed a number of tools using new technology in order to help hunters and anglers conduct their activities. We have created Zone Chasse, whyhunt.com, Mentorat chasse, pêche et piégage as well as allonspecher.com, a map providing access to fishing areas.

In closing, the changes that Quebec's natural environment has undergone mean that many animal populations, like white-tailed deer, coyote and wild turkey are finding it an exceptional place to live. The development and management of the forests in less urban areas have allowed some others to expand, such as moose and black bear.

Quebec therefore has abundant game on which a major economic activity is built. As a result, many organizations are active, working with Quebec's Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs. The wildlife needs to be controlled if we are going to avoid major costs to society. Because of their activities, hunters actually protect farmers' crops and reduce the compensation that has to be paid to them.

They also reduce the problems caused by automobile collisions and damage to gardens. For all those reasons, hunting and trapping are legitimate activities that benefit society as a whole on a number of levels.

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much.

We will move now to Mr. Sopuck for seven minutes.

March 26th, 2015 / 9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thanks to our witnesses. That was very interesting testimony.

Mr. Latraverse, I want to direct my first question to you.

This is the first time that the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has undertaken a study of licensed hunting and trapping. Do you think a study such as this is important? If you do, why do you think it's important?

9:25 a.m.

President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Pierre Latraverse

It is very important for the federal government to study the impact of hunting and trapping across Canada. People must become aware that we live with animals, that they can cause problems and that their populations have to be controlled.

Hunting is the best way to control populations. It generates economic benefits and has an effect on the management of the animals we hunt. For us, it is very important for the federal government to keep an eye on all these activities.

9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

I couldn't agree more that this is a very important study.

It may surprise you and the rest of the committee that both the Liberals and the NDP made very public statements objecting to this study even being done. I firmly disagree with their position on this, and I agree with you about how important this study is.

Mr. Latraverse, I'm not from Quebec. From a cultural standpoint, can you describe the hunting and angling culture in Quebec?

9:25 a.m.

President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Pierre Latraverse

Hunting and fishing started in Quebec. When the Europeans—the French, that is—arrived, they would not have been able to colonize the lands along the shores of the St. Lawrence without hunting, fishing and trapping. It is part of our history, it is in our genes. Even the indigenous tribes recognized the skills in hunting and fishing for survival displayed by the French, the Europeans, who were arriving in New France at the time.

Today, we owe a great deal to the wildlife on the land and the resources in the water that allowed this country to be colonized. I remind you that Canada's economic development was first made possible by the fur trade and the relationships established as a result with the indigenous people in the country. That trade really marked the birth of Canada. It proves that hunting, fishing and trapping are historically important, and in terms of our relationships with the indigenous people.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Latraverse, a study was done by Cornell University, which talked about the role of hunters and conservation. In fact, the study labelled hunters as conservation superstars. That's another good reason for the environment committee to study the conservation activities of the hunting and trapping community.

Mr. Latraverse, you described your passion for hunting and angling, but how has this driven you and your group's passion for conservation?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Pierre Latraverse

We cannot hunt and fish unless the habitat for wildlife is healthy. The quality of the wildlife habitat is always the first thing that our federation's hunters and anglers look for. We work as hard as we can to keep the wildlife habitat in extremely good health so that we can use it. Hunting and fishing are a bit like gardening. We have to keep wildlife habitat very healthy so that the animals can live there and we can hunt them properly in order for them to be sustained and to establish some contact with nature. That contact is absolutely vital in fully understanding all the symbiotic relationships between the various inhabitants of the habitat.

Hunters and anglers have often been the first to sound the alarm in the face of certain problems with wildlife, well before conservation and environmentalism was in fashion. Ecology is a very new science. In 1940, people in my region were concerned about some problems with the wildlife and took steps to keep the habitats in good shape, all the while maintaining good relationships with the landowners. We must not forget that, in Quebec, 70% of hunting activity occurs in municipally owned areas.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Latraverse, this is my last question.

You are a member of the hunting and angling advisory panel. What advice would you have for the federal government to enhance hunting and trapping in Canada along the lines that you have suggested?

9:30 a.m.

President, Fédération québécoise des chasseurs et pêcheurs

Pierre Latraverse

My advice would be to maintain the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel. The panel is important because it provides a Canada-wide vision of the issue.

Personally, for the 150th anniversary of Confederation, I would like to see a national conference on wildlife and habitat, as there was in 2012. Following that 2012 conference, Mr. Harper established the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel. The panel has made advances and also allows a sharing of things that are being done across Canada to keep habitats healthy. That allows people to participate on a societal level and generates very significant economic benefits.

9:35 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

9:35 a.m.


The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you very much, Mr. Sopuck and Mr. Latraverse.

We move now to Mr. Choquette.

9:35 a.m.


François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. My thanks to the witnesses for being here. I appreciate the light they are shedding for us on nature conservation as well as on hunting and trapping in our country.

Mr. Latraverse, I thought you were going to tell us a little about the Sorel Islands, that incredible jewel that we have in our part of the country. I am the member of Parliament for Drummond and, in my riding, we have another jewel called the Forêt Drummond. I know that Ducks Unlimited Canada has worked very hard in the Forêt Drummond and the Sorel Islands to conserve the wetlands.

But there is a small problem with the Forêt Drummond. It belongs to Hydro-Québec, and it is currently for sale. So municipalities like Saint-Bonaventure, Saint-Majorique-de-Grantham and Drummondville find themselves with a difficult choice to make. The RMC of Drummond is in the process of considering the possibility of creating a regional park. That would help greatly in conserving that area of Drummond. I am going to get involved in the survival of the Forêt Drummond. It really is important for us in the region.

All that to say that there is also a little hunting and trapping in the Forêt Drummond. Therefore, if the hunting and trapping are to continue, the nature must be conserved. I feel that the work you are doing is really important and enlightening in that context. It is important for the federal government to continue to play a major role in nature conservation, in places like the Forêt Drummond.

My question is for you, Mr. Latraverse. I know that you have done a lot of work on climate change matters in the past. On your website, we can see that the issue is very important for you. Your files are filled with information about it and we learn that climate change affects Quebec hunters and trappers directly. You even sent one of your members to the United States to receive training in climate change.

How do you assess the effects of climate change on your hunting, fishing and trapping activities?