Evidence of meeting #51 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 animals.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Robert Cahill  Senior Vice President, North American Fur Auctions
Gregory Thompson  Advisor, Fur Institute of Canada
Jim Gibb  Chair, Communications Committee, Fur Institute of Canada
Dion Dakins  Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada
Nancy Daigneault  Vice President, Americas, International Fur Federation
Michael Howie  Director of Digital Content and Special Projects, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals

8:45 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Welcome, everybody, to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, the 51st meeting.

You'll notice that the chair has become remarkably better looking since our last meeting. I think it's just a statement of truth. I don't think Mr. Albrecht would fight me on this.

Welcome to our witnesses. Thank you very much for being here today.

My name is Megan Leslie. I'm the MP for Halifax and the vice-chair of this committee. As you know, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), we're doing a study on licensed hunting and trapping in Canada. So we welcome you all.

There will be questions in French and English.

With us today, from North American Fur Auctions, we have Robert Cahill. Welcome.

We have three witnesses with us here in Ottawa from the Fur Institute of Canada: Gregory Thompson and Jim Gibb, and joining us by video conference, Dion Dakins. Welcome.

Coming to us via video from Richmond Hill, we have Nancy Daigneault from the International Fur Federation, and we're also joined by Michael Howie from The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals. Welcome to all of you.

We'll begin with 10-minute presentations from each group. I believe the members from the Fur Institute will be sharing their time.

Mr. Cahill, we'll start with you. You have 10 minutes.

8:45 a.m.

Robert Cahill Senior Vice President, North American Fur Auctions

Thank you very much.

Good day, esteemed members.

It's a pleasure to be here today to represent North American Fur Auctions and to talk about the importance of licensed hunting and trapping in Canada and to Canadians.

There remain aspects of the fur trade that many believe have disappeared into the history books, decades or even centuries ago. Your review is timely and important to the tens of thousands of Canadians who continue to support their families from the fur trade.

You know me from my 11 years with the Fur Institute of Canada as executive director—and I'm pleased to see they're here today—or my two years with the International Fur Federation. I'm also pleased to see they're represented here today.

In 2014, I moved back to the trade side of the business, which is perhaps a little more natural for me, as I grew up in a small fur family business in Peterborough, Ontario, where, along with my brothers. we learned the craft of making fur coats from our father, who is a master furrier from England. From a young age I was grading raw fur pelts in the basement of our family business in Peterborough, where my father would buy skins from local trappers and learned that craft. My brother continues that family tradition today in Peterborough.

Now as senior vice-president of marketing for North American Fur Auctions, I have the pleasure of travelling around the world to visit the fur centres of people who are using our wonderful furs in Europe, Asia, the United States and, of course, across Canada. I draw from my substantial experience of servicing the trade over the past 12 years, where I know well the professionalism of Canadian trappers, fur farmers, and the government controls and monitoring measures that ensure compliance with humane trapping standards and the health of our precious wildlife populations. I see the interest and demands of the world's fashion community in using these beautiful and abundant furs to make extraordinary garments and fashion accessories.

For those of you who are not aware, North American Fur Auctions traces its roots directly to the company of adventurers trading into Hudson's Bay, more commonly known as the Hudson's Bay Company. The Hudson's Bay Company sold off their fur trading division in 1987 and focused more, for cost-cutting measures, on their retail activities, while our senior management of the time bought that division from The Bay, and renamed the fur division North American Fur Auctions. On our website and business cards we have, “Since 1670”. The building that we operate in today was built by the Hudson's Bay Company in the early 1970s, and the senior management and many of our grading and administrative staff grew up cutting their teeth in the Hudson's Bay in London, New York, Montreal, and, of course, Toronto.

As we have done for 345 years, NAFA collects wild fur pelts from hunters and trappers throughout North America for sorting and promoting and ultimately selling of the furs via live auction to the world's fur and fashion community. The collecting of the furs is done by individuals who have collection routes that web throughout North American, much like the Hudson's Bay has been doing since 1670, although now we use trucks and planes at certain times rather than birchbark canoes.

The furs are given to us on consignment by these trappers that web across North America and we collect them, we keep their ownership on it, and we sort them for the world fur trade to utilize. The sorting of the furs requires a unique skill that is done by long-term grading teams in Toronto, Winnipeg, and our American office in Stoughton, Wisconsin. Their goal is to sort the furs in a way that furriers can actually use them, so we're looking at obviously lotting common species together and then at certain things like quality of the fur, how well it's primed up for winter. So when trappers are trapping in late fall and wintertime, it is that prime time of fur. We would certainly like to see that, rather than trappers who would have to trap in the spring or summertime when the fur is weak and has virtually no value. Also, it's things like the colour, the texture of the fur. In different parts of North America where the animals live, their hair takes on very different characteristics, and this is what the buyers are looking for.

Today NAFA employs some 650 people around the world, with 250 to 300 being in Canada on a full-time or a full/part-time, seasonal basis. We hold three to four auctions per year that attract 350 to 700 buyers from around the world, along with supporting trade members in the trapping, fur farming, and service sectors.

Our auctions typically have five to seven days of an inspection period, where the buyers come and physically inspect the auction lots of fur, and then six to seven days of full selling at live auction. We fill Toronto airport hotels and restaurants for six to eight weeks per year, driving an significant economic spinoff to that local economy.

NAFA is by far the largest seller of wild fur in the world, with approximately 65% to 70% market share of North American furs. NAFA's wild fur collection comes from all corners of Canada and the United States, with all of the fur bearers harvested legally within the regulations set out by provincial and territorial governments.

It can be said that there are trappers in every federal riding in Canada, including populated urban centres where human-wildlife conflict is increasingly an issue that requires professional trappers.

Approximately 50% of Canadian trappers are aboriginals, for whom fur continues to play a more important role in family income, as the value of the meat often exceeds the value of the pelts they're selling.

The auction buyers compete for NAFA's world-renowned collection of furs, and these are professional auction brokers that just travel the world—today there is an auction finishing up in Copenhagen after seven days. They are professional buyers who understand the quality and value of fur, and travel around to the four to five world auctions that exist. These buyers are from England, Canada, United States, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Russia, Turkey, Denmark, Japan, Korea, and there are a significant number today from China and Hong Kong, with China and Hong Kong buying approximately 70% of the furs and then using them either domestically or for export as garments.

NAFA's role is not only to sort the fur but to also promote it around the world, so we are identifying who these companies are that are working with our fur and are actively promoting to them.

In every way the fur is sold as a commodity. It will change depending on the levels of the market today, driving the demand and supply. The prices will fluctuate, and they have for hundreds of years.

We know the following from looking back at our sales figures over the past five years—and these are just NAFA numbers, as there are other wild fur distribution centres in Canada as well, though we carry about 70% to 75% of Canadian furs. But in 2010, there were just under 800,000 wild fur pelts sold, at a value of $13,500,000. In 2011, 700,000 were sold at over $15 million. In 2012 just under 900,000 pelts were sold at $25 million. In 2013 there were 850,000 pelts sold at $39 million; in 2014, 863,000 at $22 million; and so far this year in 2015, we've sold 485,000 pelts at approximately $11 million. Clearly, there are substantial fluctuations that impact the value of the furs and the money that goes directly into the pockets of trappers across Canada.

In addition to those figures, we sell approximately 10 million ranch mink skins from Canada, the United States, and Europe, which makes us the second-largest fur auction house in the world.

I'd just like to touch on a couple of factors that really do impact demand and supply now. In terms of demand, it's affected in many ways. The price difference between 2013, at $39 million, and 2014, at $22 million for a very similar quantity of pelts is absolutely, one hundred per cent related to the conflict in Russia and the Ukraine. Russia has been a significant buyer of Canadian furs, and world furs for that matter, for many years, as it's a big fur user, and that conflict has stopped the movement of their people. It has impacted the ruble price—and, obviously, the oil price as well is having an impact on that economy. It's having a significant impact not only on their buying directly from us, but also on their buying through other countries and producers that would produce garments and sell wholesale into Russia. Those would be Greece, Turkey, China and, of course, Canada. Today the purchases from Russia are minimal.

And we've seen this impact in the past. We've seen Asian economic crises that have significant and immediate impacts on the price of the furs and the quantity that would be sold in a given year. Right now we're selling virtually 100% of our mink collection, but not enough of our wild fur collection.

Looking at things like supply and demand, fashion is driving demand. If a company like Canada Goose starts to put coyote trim on its coats it has a significant beneficial effect on the value of coyote and also drives fashion trends around the world.

Looking at supply, more commonly looked at as production, there are biological factors like weather and reproductive rates that will impact it. But also the price will impact the supply that's being sold on the market, as when the prices are strong the trappers will make a greater more effort to trap and provide more fur.

With that I'd like to thank you for your time. I think this review of what the fur trade is about today is extremely important, and I certainly look forward to any questions you may have.

Thank you very much.

8:55 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Thank you, Mr. Cahill.

We'll move on to the Fur Institute, and I'm not quite sure who's going to kick it off.

Mr. Thompson's going to kick it off. You have 10 minutes, and you're sharing it, I believe.

8:55 a.m.

Gregory Thompson Advisor, Fur Institute of Canada

Yes we are.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

On behalf of the Fur Institute of Canada and the chair, Mr. David Hutton, I'd like to thank you, the committee, for this opportunity to appear before you today on the topic of regulated hunting and trapping in Canada.

I'm joined today by our two presenters. Mr. Jim Gibb, who is sitting to my left, is an Ontario trapper, wildlife control specialist, and owner and operator of Triple J. Wildlife Services. Jim is a member of the institute's executive and chair of the institute's communications committee. Also, via video conference from St. John's, Newfoundland, we have Mr. Dion Dakins, CEO of Carino Processing Limited and also a member of the institute's executive and, as well, chair of the FIC sealing committee. Both gentlemen are well versed in the importance of fur trapping, wildlife conflict management, and sealing to Canada's culture economy and environment.

The Fur Institute of Canada has recently celebrated 30 years of partnership with Canada's jurisdictions in the delivery of trap research and testing, promotion of animal welfare, fur bearer trapping, and the fur trade.

Created by Canada's wildlife ministers in 1983, the institute has played a pivotal role since 1997 in retaining access to major Canadian markets for Canadian fur in Europe and Russia by supporting Canada's implementation of the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, the AIHTS; and also as a forum for collaboration on and the promotion of sustainable use of wildlife resources and communications—and that's a strong collaboration with organizations such as NAFA, with the sealing community, and with the International Fur Federation.

The institute has played an active role with respect to animal welfare, wildlife management principles and practices, and the social value of wildlife. It remains a vital player in sustaining the licensed and regulated trapping of wild fur and sealing in Canada.

Mr. Jim Gibb will next speak to the committee with respect to the wild fur trapping side, and then we'll turn to Mr. Dion Dakins to speak to the sealing component.

9 a.m.

Jim Gibb Chair, Communications Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the opportunity to sit in front of you and talk to you.

For me, it's an honour to be able to come here to put a face on a trapper. You probably don't know a lot of trappers. If you're lucky, you might. I know that Robert knows a few. On the other hand, I would say that most people don't really know trappers. We exist in every community in Canada. Part of our income every year is made from trapping.

Canada is a world leader in trap research. The tools we've developed in Canada are basically manufactured here by little wee shops. I know of one in Kapuskasing that makes LDL traps, and trappers right across Canada use them. They're even bought and used in the U.S. and copied. There are all kinds of traps. Bélisle traps and Sauvageau traps are made in Quebec. Rudy traps are made in Quebec. Koro traps are made in Manitoba. These are just little shops that produce the tools we use in our trapping industry. We've been able to do this because of the contribution by our federal government to trap research. We've been doing trap research for 20 to 25 years.

As a trapper, I can sit here in front of you and honestly tell you that the tools I used when I first started—I've been trapping for approximately 35 years—are not the tools that I use today. I've been very fortunate, in that I've been able to travel to many different communities in Canada, teaching trapper education and promoting the trade. I've been to probably just about every community in Dennis' riding in the Northwest Territories, such as Colville Lake, Fort Resolution, and Fort Smith. I've probably been to every little community. I've also been up in Nunavut doing different things.

It's all about continuous education. What we need our government to recognize is that we provide a service. It's mainly done in rural areas, but in the off-season, my job is to trap racoons. On my route, I leave Milton in the morning, go to Burlington and then down to Niagara Falls, and then over to Kitchener and back into Milton. There are probably seven or eight of us who do that every day. I don't want to say who we work for, but it's basically done so that the lights stay on in your house every day. I think you've seen the story in the Toronto Star a few weeks ago about Toronto being the “racoon nation” of North America. Toronto is one of the busiest places that we work out of.

Anyway, just to bring it back, what we need as trappers is access to world markets. We also need regulations that are based on science and sound judgment and not about emotion. We need to have the continued support of our government so that they understand who we are and what we do.

When markets are high, as Rob was saying, the fur trade takes care of itself, but when the markets drop off, you have issues with beaver and issues with coyotes. Trappers are always there and playing a role. Sometimes my role is going to be for the fur trade, and sometimes my role is to help society deal with problems, and we try to do that as cost-effectively as we possibly can.

Again, I'd like to thank the committee for the opportunity to come here and share that with you today.

Thank you.

9:05 a.m.

Dion Dakins Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Good day. I hope everybody can hear me.

Madam Chair, can you hear me okay?

9:05 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Loud and clear.

9:05 a.m.

Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Dion Dakins

That's wonderful. Thank you very much.

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

Having said that, for four decades seal populations have grown exponentially. Since the European Union ban on seal products in 2009, the annual Canadian seal harvests have fallen well below the DFO-established total allowable catches. Populations have risen to new heights. The harp seal population is now above seven million animals, three times the 1970 levels. The grey seal population has exceeded 500,000, an 80-fold increase since the 1960s. While ring seals are uncounted, observations indicate growth in populations. The same is true for various species on the west coast of Canada.

The economic contributions to the Canadian economy are significant, at more than $70 million in 2005 and 2011. In 2012, the seal hunt saved our fisheries approximately $360 million of seafood that would otherwise have been consumed by over-abundant seal populations. Northwest Atlantic harp seals eat 15 times more fish than the entire Canadian fisheries. The true value of the meat of the hunt is not fully understood, but it is consumed extensively throughout the communities.

A viable commercial sealing industry is an essential tool in a fisheries management regime. Sealing is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Either the consumer will cover the cost of maintaining a stable seal population or governments will. Unfortunately, the latter is already the case in many jurisdictions.

With about 10,000 licensed sealers in Canada, there is ability to manage this valuable resource. The problem lies in the bans, which are basically dismantling the seal harvest.

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

Seal hunting in Canada occurs in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nunavut, with emerging activity on the west coast in British Columbia. Sealing is a sustainable practice that utilizes an abundant, natural, and renewable Canadian resource. It is highly regulated. Canadian sealing has among the highest standards in the world of animal welfare.

In Canada, seal hunting is also an instrument for conservation. Federal fisheries resource managers within DFO set yearly allowable catches at sustainable levels, which are rarely met. They are based on a precautionary management approach in order to maintain abundant populations.

This year the harp seal quota is at an all-time high: 468, 000 animals. If you compare that with the 2007 total of 270, 000, you can see the large jump in the species. Following the survey in 2008, there were an estimated 7.6 million harp seals in the northwest Atlantic. This is an abundant and renewable resource that needs to be managed, harvested, and commercially marketed.

The bans in place from the European Union are based on a stigmatization of sealing by the anti-use industries. It is time to establish a new narrative and restore international markets for seal products.

We would like to encourage the government to take this opportunity to develop and implement a detailed market development plan for harp, ring, and grey seals that targets opportunities in Canada, Europe, Russia, China, Taiwan, and other markets.

A commitment to an integrated, ecosystem-based management approach to fisheries that ensures the sustainable use of all marine resources is also required. The principle of ecosystem-based management is well established and internationally accepted. Canada explicitly acknowledges this approach in its fisheries policies and publications. So have virtually all seal-range states and international organizations, such as the European Union, the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

However, while EBM is accepted, it is not fully applied in Canada. Canada has the largest seal populations in the world. Fisheries management is undertaken on a species-by-species, stock-by-stock basis.

9:10 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Mr. Dakins—

9:10 a.m.

Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Dion Dakins

The impact of seals on the ecosystem as a whole, while acknowledged, does not form an integral part of Canada's fisheries management regime.

9:10 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Mr. Dakins, can I ask you to wrap up?

9:10 a.m.

Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Dion Dakins

I'm very sorry; yes, Madam Chair.

9:10 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Thank you. Don't worry; it's what I'm here for.

9:10 a.m.

Chair, Sealing Committee, Fur Institute of Canada

Dion Dakins

That's wonderful. Thank you.

In conclusion, we recognize that seals need to be managed in concert with our fisheries. If the principles by which the hunters conduct the activity reflect a high animal welfare standard and are regulated, this is a legal Canadian activity that deserves and should be afforded greater protection.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

9:10 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Thank you to all of you. Just so you know, there's going to be lots of time for questions and comments, so if you missed anything in your presentation, I'm sure we'll have the time during our meeting today.

Next we have Nancy Daigneault from the International Fur Federation.

9:10 a.m.

Nancy Daigneault Vice President, Americas, International Fur Federation

Thank you very much.

My name is Nancy Daigneault. I'm a vice-president of the International Fur Federation with a responsibility for North and South America. I'd like to thank the chair and the committee for inviting me to testify today.

I will speak to you about the sustainable use of Canada's natural resources, trapping, and how it is an important element in environmental conservation. First I'd like to tell you a little bit about the International Fur Federation, the IFF for short.

The IFF has 49 member organizations that are trade or fur-farming associations. They come from 38 different countries from around the world. We're a diverse organization representing the interests of all sectors of the trade and we advocate with them at the local and international levels.

It's important to note that the IFF believes in sustainability, transparency, and accountability. We therefore ensure that all IFF members subscribe to our code of practice, which mandates that they respect and work on the relevant rules in their country for animal welfare, environmental standards, employment laws, corruption laws, international conventions, and treaties. We strongly believe in these principles and use them to guide us as we undertake various issues in different countries.

The IFF dedicates a sizeable amount of our yearly budget to the fur industry in Canada. This year, for example, we've allocated almost $400,000 to Canadian fur issues. This includes money to the Fur Institute of Canada for trap research, sustainable use, and sealing issues. We also commit a sizeable amount to agricultural issues and the fashion end of the trade spectrum. The IFF is proud to support the Canadian fur industry.

I want to outline for you today why trapping is so important in Canada and how it underpins the health of our environmental efforts. I'll outline for you how trapping is well regulated in Canada, why trapping helps to control diseases dangerous to people, how trappers help with the introduction of species that have been eliminated from various jurisdictions, and how Canada has become a real leader in international trap research. Finally, I will outline for you the dangers of not continuing on our progressive path of environmental conservation.

To begin, trapping is well regulated in Canada. Our trappers are educated, accountable, and knowledgeable about their work. All provinces regulate trapping. All trappers must pass a trapper's education course. They must be licensed. Most provinces have registered traplines along which trapping is permitted, and there are also open and closed seasons. The provinces further mandate when, where, and how to trap, and they carefully monitor the harvests every year. To become effective, the trapper has to learn about animal behaviour, wildlife habitats, types of traps, trap preparation, sets and lures for different animals, and of course the care of pelts.

Trappers are key to wildlife management through government-imposed quotas. There are minimum and maximum quotas, depending on the species and the year. In Ontario, for example, the province has mandated that trappers must have a minimum harvest for beavers—these are the trappers with registered traplines. Some beavers have become overabundant in some areas.

Using Ontario as an example again, an end-of-season and harvest report is mandatory. The trapper must turn in the report to the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, which in turn feeds it to government authorities. This allows wildlife biologists to closely monitor harvest rates while collecting data on population trends.

Trappers also serve as the ears and eyes of the land. They're among the first to sound the alarm if the environmental balance is upset by pollution, habitat destruction, or diseases such as rabies and distemper. Diseased animals must be reported to the appropriate ministry right away.

A good example of this is that back in the year 2000 in New Brunswick, trappers helped to control rabies, which had become a serious concern in coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. They live-trapped, vaccinated, and ear-tagged more than 500 animals. The program successfully reduced the amount of rabies in that particular area.

When biologists need more information, regulations can be tweaked and adjusted to require that trappers turn the carcasses or certain parts of the harvested animals in. This allows them to examine such things as reproductive rates, food habits, and sex and age ratios. All of this monitoring ensures that biologists maintain accurate records of wildlife populations and health.

Trapping is also a critical and vital tool for endangered species management and for the reintroduction of some species to original habitat. Alberta trappers, for example, were key to helping reintroduce wolves to Idaho. Back in 1996, 66 wolves were live-trapped in Alberta and released in Idaho. By the year 2005, the wolf population in that state had grown to 565, and last year the population was at a healthy 770. This is another excellent example of how trappers support the environment.

The methods by which Canada traps are internationally recognized, and Canada's trap testing facility in Vegreville, Alberta is considered a state-of-the-art facility, which conducts research on traps and trapping methods to ensure that fur-bearers are trapped humanely. The research centre was set up and is a part of Canada's commitment to the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, a trilateral agreement between Canada, Russia, and the European Union. Canada can stand tall and proud. It is in full compliance with this agreement, and trap testing has served the fur trade well in ensuring that our harvests are regulated, humane, and within standards adopted by the international community.

The international standardization organization's testing methodology was used as a criterion in setting up the trap standards. Over the years, the IFF has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to this trap testing facility, as we believe it is in our interest to ensure that fur-bearers used in the trade are harvested humanely. The Fur Institute of Canada publishes its list of approved traps on its website and updates it regularly as traps are tested to meet the standard. Over 600 trap designs have been evaluated for 15 species. The Fur Institute's trap research program is internationally recognized and puts Canada on the map for its progressive approach to environmental sustainability.

I would like to use this opportunity to draw your attention to some jurisdictions that simply do not share Canada's progressive views with regard to conservation and sustainable use. It's a shame that in some countries in the world, they simply trap animals and throw them away rather than viewing them as a natural resource that can be conserved wisely and used in a responsible manner. Most EU member countries permit trapping for nuisance control only, and the animals are then thrown away and not used. While this is a necessity, it is a shame that open and closed seasons are not permitted for trapping in order to use the resources wisely and responsibly.

Nuisance animal control is a growth industry in some areas, as development encroaches on wildlife habitat. This trend is of concern to biologists and wildlife managers, because it indicates that some people are viewing wildlife as problems that should be removed and destroyed rather than as resources that could be used, consumed, and conserved. The meat, fur, and byproducts of many fur-bearers can be used for so many different things. With the beaver, for example, the pelt is used in the fur trade; the beaver tail is used to make wallets; the scent glands are used in the perfume industry; the meat can be eaten; and the oil is used in the cosmetics industry. Muskrat meat can be eaten, as can racoon. There is also a market to use meat as bait, lures, and for other trapping purposes.

Finally, I would like to note that the animal rights agenda is a bit of a concern to the industry, and should be, when it comes to environmental conservation. Some activists are being blinded by ideology with no regard for the sound application of science, which can be a recipe for poor public policy development.

As outlined in my presentation, trapping is about environmental conservation, disease management, and more. It also supports those who truly live off the land in rural communities. Wildlife biologists and conservation authorities have spent decades studying and carefully regulating trapping in Canada, and this is the proper approach to further enhancing Canada as a leader in wildlife management and sustainable development.

In summary, I would like to recap. Trapping is about more than simply the fur trade. Trappers are committed to sustainability. They carefully monitor wildlife populations and disease. Modern-day trapping is about working closely with wildlife biologists, conservation authorities, and others to maintain ecological diversity. Trappers believe in accountability and sustainability.

I would like to thank the committee today and urge you to continue this work investigating the important role that trapping plays in the environment. Thank you.

9:20 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Thank you very much, Ms. Daigneault.

Last but not least, here in Ottawa we have Michael Howie joining us from the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals.

Mr. Howie, go ahead.

9:20 a.m.

Michael Howie Director of Digital Content and Special Projects, The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals

Thank you very much for inviting me to speak on behalf of the association.

I'd like to start by saying that we're neither specialists in hunting nor is that covered in our mandate, so I won't be speaking about that subject today. I'd also like to point out that we are neither animal rights activists nor ideologues. We are not extremists. We've been around since 1953, and we provided funding to help develop the Conibear trap at that time. Ultimately, we decided that trying to find a humane trap was not a realistic goal and we now focus on solutions, humane processes, and education.

I'd like to register a bit of concern about one or two of the biologists you've had here in the past who are admittedly hunters and trappers and receive funding from hunters and trappers, speaking about biology in this regard. We'd be happy to provide contact information for scientists who do not have any such associations and would be appropriate third-party speakers.

I'd like to talk a bit about the ability to enforce regulations. We know there are fewer conservation officers across Canada right now and these areas are open massively to these trappers. They can be hundreds of kilometres long.

Ensuring that the traps..., which are tested under the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards, a trade agreement, is virtually impossible in the field.

We would point out that trap check times range from 24 hours to a week in the case of some kill traps. We have heard of many cases and have documentation of animals being left in traps for days when these are supposed to be checked every 24 hours, and instances where endangered species, at risk species, and numerous companion animals such as cats and dogs are caught in these humane traps.

The vast majority of people using outdoor space are not trappers. The 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, which was created by provincial, territorial, and national governments, indicated that 89% of Canadians enjoy spending time outdoors. This list ranges from bird watching and photography to hunting and trapping.

It is estimated this industry of recreational outdoor use generates $41.3 billion and 5% of that is attributable to hunting, trapping, and angling. Of that 5%, 2%, or 0.1% of that total $41 billion, is attributable to trapping.

When the report discussed the individual categories of nature-based recreation, the report's authors added a note regarding trapping, that the small number of respondents who reported participating in trapping of wild animals was below the threshold for statistical reliability and was therefore not shown in the figure. Yet all the regulations in place protect trappers. They do not protect animals, companion animals, and other users.

In the past we have requested that provincial governments, trapping lobbies, trapping associations, and individual trappers consider putting up warning signs to the public, “traps in area”. We're not asking them to identify where each trap is, and we understand their concern with that. We simply ask for a warning sign. That is ignored and called ridiculous.

We ask for registration tags on traps, so in an instance where a trap is misused, conservation officers are able to quickly identify the person responsible and use appropriate follow-up methods. That too has been dismissed.

Meanwhile, when we visit trapping association blogs, websites, or forums, we see the three tenets of SSS. For those of you who don't know what that means, it's shoot, shovel, and shut up. That is what's discussed when a dog or an endangered species is caught in a trap, yet we are being told that the trapping industry is about environmental sustainability. I'm sorry, I do not see that. The facts of the matter do not show that.

We talk about the science of population control. The most recent study shows that coyotes reproduce at a higher rate when they're persecuted. Studies out of the western United States show wolves increase depredation on livestock when they are disrupted by trapping. Yet we are told this is the only way to control these populations.

There was an instance a year ago of a woman walking through the woods and coming across a coyote or coywolf—the DNA was never clear—that was stuck in a snare. Veterinarians and wildlife experts believed that coywolf had been there for at least four days, based on the amount of feces and injuries. He had lost his leg and was transported to a wildlife rehabilitation centre, where he was healed and released with tracking technology. The woman who released him after seeing him in clear pain and suffering was threatened by the local trapping association as well as the municipality for interfering with a legal trapline.

There was a case not 40 minutes from my home in Hamilton where an at-risk snapping turtle was killed within six feet of a public trail in a public park. There are cases of dogs being caught in Conibear traps that are four feet from public trails, and we are being told it's the dog owners' fault. That is just no longer acceptable.

As you were told by the gentleman from the North American Fur Auctions, there are trappers in probably every jurisdiction. I should also point out that there are 3.5 million dogs and 4.5 million cats in Canada. So I would ask you, when you consider the political ramifications of this, who are you telling to go away and be quiet?

We would very much welcome the opportunity to help in updating some of these regulations. We have municipalities in urban centres saying they don't like these traps, they don't consider them safe, and they see them as a public hazard. They're being told by governments, be they provincial or federal, that they don't have the authority to say no to traps. Vancouver, Toronto, Oakville, Guelph, and numerous other municipalities are looking at these options but are being told they're not allowed to say no to traps even though they represent a clear danger to their citizens.

In short, there is a lot more to this issue than the fur industry and the trapping industry discuss. There are significantly more people than trappers on these trails, in these woods, who are not being aptly protected. These regulations need to be updated to take a long, hard look at who's really using these trails and who is at risk, because it clearly is not trappers.

I'm happy to take any questions on these subjects.

Thank you.

9:25 a.m.


The Vice-Chair NDP Megan Leslie

Thank you very much, Mr. Howie.

Thank you to all of our witnesses.

We're now going to begin our question and answer period, starting with Mr. Sopuck. You have seven minutes.

April 23rd, 2015 / 9:25 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you very much.

I appreciate the testimony.

Mr. Gibb, you're certainly welcome to come to my farm. I have nine beaver houses on my farm; they certainly need to be controlled.

This was a very important study to do, but I want to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Howie and the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals was not a witness suggested by the Conservatives. I think it's very important to get that on the record.

I will make the point, as well, Mr. Howie, that your testimony was interesting, but I am looking at a February 5 article where you say: “Our goal is to bring an end to the commercial fur trade and to find non-lethal solutions to wildlife conflicts, which would in turn largely eliminate the need for trapping.” To be perfectly clear, your organization wants to see an end to fur trapping in Canada.

On your other point, where you talked about the “bias” of biologists who are funded by perhaps hunting and trapping organizations, most of those organizations have very small amounts of money. I think it's very important to point out that The Humane Society of the United States has a budget of $60 million a year. So when we talk about bias we need to be very clear about what the real story is.

Mr. Cahill, could you please tell the committee how important this study is?

9:30 a.m.

Senior Vice President, North American Fur Auctions

Robert Cahill

The study that the committee is undertaking?

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Yes, this particular study.

9:30 a.m.

Senior Vice President, North American Fur Auctions

Robert Cahill

We think that the importance of this work is significant for the people of Canada to really understand that the fur trade is still very much alive and well, that there are people living off the land and that there are, as Ms. Daigneault mentioned, trappers around the world who are not able to provide their furs, who are are trapping but not able to gain benefit.

In Europe, I've travelled around extensively, and in Ireland, Holland, France, the U.K., Sweden, Ukraine, and other countries they are actually trapping animals at an industrial rate, which are either thrown in the nearest ditch or incinerated at government facilities. When it's said that trapping doesn't need to occur, you just need to tell that to the Queen of the Netherlands, where they trap 200,000 to 300,000 muskrat every year, and have done so for decades at a cost of about $100 a muskrat, and then institutionally incinerate them. They do this for control of the population. France has 200,000 trappers; they don't sell one pelt. In Spain and Ireland—I was there—they're trapping red fox and mink and just throwing them in the ditch and don't even know their value. They have lost the sense that these animals have value. In Canada, we have maintained that value and people are living on the land.

I've also seen and worked with the trapping standards and people around the world, and we have without question the highest standards here and the highest regulatory system to set regulations to enforce them, to track it. We think what we have here is without question the best system in the world to actually be proactive, recognize what's going on, and do it better. For this committee to really look at that and understand it better, I think, is extremely significant for yourselves and for the people of Canada.

9:30 a.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB


Ms. Daigneault, you talked about the importance of public policy in supporting trapping. What would the effect be of animal rights legislation, with Bill C-592 as an example, a private member's bill proposed by the NDP MP from Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, which has caused great consternation in the sustainable-use community? What kind of effect on the trapping industry would animal rights legislation have?

9:30 a.m.

Vice President, Americas, International Fur Federation

Nancy Daigneault

If you're talking about the elimination of trapping completely in Canada, it would be a significant, real economic hindrance in Canada. It's important to know that the fur trade in Canada contributes over $800 million to the economy. Canadian trappers and fur-farm owners have earned over $135 million in pelt sales from 2007 to 2009, and that number is even up now because pelt sales did go up, up until about 2013. So provincial and territorial governments receive about $1.6 million in annual royalty and licence revenues paid by fur trappers; 42% goes directly to government-managed wildlife and habitat conservation programs.

It's a significant economic contributor to Canada, not to mention—going back to what my colleague Mr. Robert Cahill, from NAFA, said—that in some countries in the world they're merely trapping these animals because they have to for nuisance control, and they're throwing them away. They're not using them as a resource that can be consumed and used.

So there is a concern that, if there's an agenda to move towards a ban on trapping in any municipality in Canada or anywhere in Canada, it is going to have a significant impact.