Evidence of meeting #53 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 hunters.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Harold Grinde  President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

I hosted the first camp last year at my camp. It was a northern youth leadership conference for teenage girls. Yes, we have definitely supported that and will continue to. We're doing another camp this year at the end of June before our hunters arrive.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Isn't that the way to get people in the schools, through the process—

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Absolutely. I wish I could go and talk to every high school in Canada, or every junior high, or every elementary. I do volunteer in schools at home where I am allowed to.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

It is a little different in the Northwest Territories. I mean, as you pointed out, we are a hunting and trapping place.

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

I also want to talk about the caribou. That's the real big problem in wildlife management right now. You haven't referred to it yet.

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

It's in my stats that the caribou numbers are in serious decline. It's not an area that I personally am familiar with. I outfit in the mountains on the west side of the river, so I'm not familiar with the barrens, other than I know what's going on. The caribou are in serious decline. All hunting has been stopped right now, even aboriginal hunting temporarily. The big outfitting camps that were out there that brought millions and millions of dollars into the territories over the last 20 to 30 years have been closed now for about five years.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Yes.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

It's a sad tale. I don't know if anybody today fully understands why the caribou are in such serious decline, but they are, definitely.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Yes. There are larger factors at play in the world than what hunters themselves can control for the wildlife. That's the point that I think people have to understand as well, that climate change and industrialization are things that actually do impact on the animal populations.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

It's interesting, because NWT caribou biologists and traditional knowledge both tell us that a massive, massive fluctuation in caribou numbers is the norm. They have seen this before. The traditional knowledge of the aboriginals tells of years where there were no caribou, no caribou, no caribou—and then they came back.

It may be related to climate change. It may just be some cycle that we don't understand yet.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Well, generally the caribou people in the Northwest Territories speak of a number of things. If you go up on the Alaska coast, you can see the same thing with industrialization, where industrialization cuts down the range of the caribou. If you cut down the range, you cut down the energetics of the animals because they don't have as much to feed on. Isn't that correct?

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

It's part of it. Caribou are a very complex species, but where you are talking about, up on the Alaska coast, the Porcupine herd is in full recovery. The numbers are on the increase. The Carmacks herd in the Yukon that was almost hunted into extinction in the gold rush a hundred years ago has made a great recovery.

I don't think it's doom and gloom for caribou. I think they will recover. As to how much of it is related to climate change and how much of it is a natural cycle, I don't know.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Maybe a better example would be the buffalo. I remember taking some dried buffalo meat to a school in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. I showed it to the kids and said, “If you'd been here a hundred years ago, you might have been feeding on this.” They just looked at it like it was from Mars.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

That's what has happened. But we have a buffalo recovery. I live in an area where the buffalo, through Wood Buffalo park, have recovered somewhat, just like the whooping cranes. There are things that governments have to do—

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Absolutely.

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

—to ensure the protection of a species.

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

I couldn't agree with you more but I also think we need to find a balance in all areas of Canada, not just in the north, because the Yukon also has co-management boards. I think we need to have a balanced system of management where it's government, science, and traditional and local knowledge. And when I say traditional and local knowledge, traditional knowledge is typically seen as aboriginal knowledge. Local knowledge isn't necessarily from aboriginals. It's from somebody like me.

When it comes to the Mackenzie Mountains, where the outfitters work, where I work, there are eight of us who operate out there. Nobody has as much knowledge about what's going on with wildlife in those mountains as us, because we spend four months of the year out there. The biologist in town, he might get out there for two weeks. How can he possibly have as much knowledge of what's going on out there as we do?

9:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Did you agree with the expansion of the parks?

9:10 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

I don't disagree with the expansion of the park. I disagree with the idea that, especially in northern remote regions, we eliminate hunting from those parks. Minister Aglukkaq agrees with me. At the next HAAP meeting she plans to have Parks Canada there to talk about this, because she feels that it is the right of Canadians like me to hunt and fish.

In the expanded park area, aboriginals can hunt, fish, and trap. Residents are allowed to fish only. Why aren't they allowed to hunt? It's not a matter of a problem with wildlife. Residents have hunted there forever. The wildlife populations are strong and healthy and vibrant. It's not a security issue. The new expanded portion of the park will see maybe five to 10 visitors a year. Almost every visitor who goes to Nahanni goes down the river, which is part of the old park. That expanded region is going to see very few visitors, and the NWT residents could be hunting there forever and nobody in Toronto or Ottawa or anywhere else would ever know the difference. It's such a big vast country and so remote and there are so few people who get there. We have a huge park in the Arctic that gets an average of two visitors per year, yet we're not allowed to go there and hunt. Why not? It doesn't make sense. It makes sense in Banff and Jasper that we don't allow people to hunt. There would be a safety concern. It doesn't make sense in the Northwest Territories.

That's government rigidity where you have a set of rules and it has to apply to everybody. We need different rules for national parks in the Northwest Territories.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Bevington.

Mr. Carrie.

May 5th, 2015 / 9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Mr. Grinde, for your insight. I find that your comments about the importance of balance are excellent for us to hear at the table. This is such an important study because there are a lot of people on both sides. You mentioned the danger of playing politics, especially with hunting and trapping, and not really understanding it. Some of these extreme policy positions can have the opposite effect.

I never knew about that Kenya example. I think it was really important that you brought that forward because traditionally in Canada hunters, fishermen, and trappers do understand the value of wildlife. We heard from other witnesses in Europe where they have these positions where they just trap animals and then they destroy the animals. They don't even use the animals that they kill, so in regard to these ideas of blanket protection and blanket policies I think Canadians really have to understand the long-term effects of such policies.

Last week we actually had a witness here from the Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals. It was one of the NDP witnesses. He called for a ban on trapping. I was wondering if you could actually say what sort of effect completely banning trapping would have on rural and aboriginal communities.

9:15 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

For aboriginal communities, especially, it would be devastating to their local economies. Our aboriginal communities are trying to learn to live in a modern society. Most of the kids today don't have a really close connection to the land because they live in a village, not on the land. There are a few, in the Northwest Territories, such as Colville Lake.... Almost all of the young people in Colville trap. It is the biggest economic engine they have.

Even where non-aboriginals are allowed to trap, trapping is done in as humane a method as possible today, which is regulated by law in Canada. It is also done under a sustainable management regime. Fur is probably the greenest form of clothing that we can wear, as far as that goes. It is a completely environmentally friendly, renewable resource. I see people who want to ban trapping as animal rights activists. I struggle with that. I know that is the polarization we talked about. How do you balance it?

If we have a sustainable harvest, the populations thrive under a certain amount of use. The economic activity that it brings, the tie that it brings between the people and the land is invaluable. If it weren't for that tie, I don't believe our aboriginal peoples in the north would be so dead set against development. In the Northwest Territories, every big corporation that goes out there to try to do anything struggles to get a permit in place. I think the biggest reason for that is that tie they have to the land.

It's no different for me. The last thing in the world I want is somebody to come out and start some big mine in my hunting area. I love that place. I love that land. I would fight tooth and nail against that to the best of my ability. I don't have much ability, but....

I really believe that it is exactly like the Kenyan example. If we were to outlaw trapping in Canada, then of what value are those animals and that land to the people who occupy the land? Therefore, we would just see more development and animals being totally wasted because they become a nuisance.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

That is what we heard before as well, the importance of, as you said, sustainable management. I think that gets lost on certain activists.

Could you elaborate a little bit more on the role of hunting and trapping and how they play such an important part in Canada's conservation efforts?