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

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

I'd like to call our meeting to order. This is meeting number 53 of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development. We're continuing our study of licensed hunting and trapping.

We're pleased to have with us today our witness Mr. Harold Grinde, president of the Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters.

Welcome Mr Grinde. We normally have a 10-minute opening statement and then our committee members will follow up with questions, which you can respond to when you're ready.

Proceed with your opening statement Mr. Grinde, and again, welcome.

May 5th, 2015 / 8:45 a.m.

Harold Grinde President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak today about things that are really dear to my heart.

I grew up on a farm in central Alberta. I've hunted and fished since I was big enough to carry a BB gun and harass the sparrows and starlings in the yard. For the past 30 years, I've made my living in the wildlife industry as a professional guide and now as an outfitter. I've also dedicated many hours and dollars to conservation in one form or another, belonging to different organizations and going to meetings.

Recently, we spent quite a bit of time working with the Government of the Northwest Territories on a stakeholders Wildlife Act advisory group, or SWAAG, developing, drafting and tweaking the new Wildlife Act. It's finally done, after about 10 years of trying, and I think it is in large part due to the foresight of the minister to establish SWAAG and take to heart the concerns of the third party interests in the Northwest Territories.

I think we all understand and know of the deep-rooted relationship between hunting and fishing and the aboriginal cultures in the north. But in the Northwest Territories, there really isn't a big difference between NWT aboriginals and resident hunters. Hunting, trapping, and fishing have been part of northern culture from day one. It really was the trapping industry that opened up the doors to the north.

In most aboriginal cultures, hunting and taking the life of an animal is seen as a spiritual event. In many of the cultures it's a part of the right of passage into manhood. If you are not proven proficient as a hunter you can't provide for your family, and you are not allowed to marry and enter into the state of manhood. There is a deep-rooted aboriginal connection to the land, to the animals that live on the land, and to hunting and fishing.

I would like to challenge you a little bit today. I've spent pretty much my whole life in the mountains. As I said, I have dedicated countless hours and lots of finances to conservation and the preservation of habitat. I believe I have the same connection the aboriginals do. Why would it be any different? When you live on the land I believe you become part of it and you still have that same connection.

I had a good friend who was a fellow outfitter in British Columbia, he was a member of the Tahltan first nation and his name was Fletcher Day. He's gone now, but I remember one time he said to me, “Harold you have every bit as much right to hunt and fish in this country as I do. You just haven't fought hard enough for that right.”

I've thought about that many times and I wish it were true. I wish my right to hunt and fish were entrenched in our constitution; it isn't, but I wish it were. I really do believe that it is something that has been part of how Canada came to be Canada. Hunting, fishing, and trapping were part of what made Canada what it is today. Why isn't it my right as it is an aboriginal's right?

My good friend Ken Hall, who has sat with me on the SWAAG committee in Yellowknife for the past couple of years, wrote, “The cultural significance of hunting to my family is as important as it is to any other culture in the NWT, including aboriginal people. We hunt for the same reasons: for food; to practice traditions that have been handed down from generation to generation; to teach our children respect for and appreciation of the land; to learn about and to commune with nature.”

Ken is not an aboriginal person. He is a third-generation Northwest Territories resident, and he feels very strongly that it is every bit as important to him culturally and socially to be able to hunt and fish as it is to anybody else in the Northwest Territories.

I think it's really hard for those of you who have never hunted, who have never taken the life of an animal and seen the life blood flowing on the ground, to understand the spiritual connection you have with that animal, to understand that it is really an emotional thing that happens. As an outfitter, you'd be amazed how many of the hunters tear up and cry when they are successful in taking an animal.

People think of hunters as being macho guys who are out there to murder and slay, but for the most part I find the opposite is true. Most hunters get very emotional when they take an animal. I believe that somehow there's a spiritual connection, which is maybe not even understood, when you take the life of an animal and it provides for you. That is what hunting originally was, to provide for the needs of feeding your family. I think that connection is the reason that hunters have always taken the lead, and probably always will, when it comes to conservation.

I'm sure that by now all of you have heard about and are familiar with the North American conservation model, the success story it has been, and I think given the opportunity will continue to be. Hunters and fishermen, and even to some extent trappers, have taken the lead historically when it comes to conservation. Had it not been for this North American conservation movement, initiated and driven by hunters, we wouldn't have the wildlife that we do today in North America.

This probably doesn't pertain as much to the very far north as it does to the settled areas of Canada, but I think it would be very true everywhere. If hunters hadn't led that charge, we wouldn't have the wildlife that we do today. Because of that, I think it's crucial that we try to somehow entrench the rights of Canadians who choose to hunt and fish. I do believe they will continue to be the driving force who make sure we have wildlife, and habitat for that wildlife, for many generations to come.

I think this is a lesson we can learn well from the Kenyan example. Some of you may be familiar with Kenya. In 1977, all hunting was banned in Kenya. We won't mention names, but it was basically a bribe by a large British corporation to the government of the time, offering them money in exchange for outlawing hunting.

Today those large species of wildlife in Kenya have seen as much as an 80% decline in numbers. There are 70% to 80% of those large wildlife populations gone, which putting a stop to hunting was supposed to preserve. Most of the experts in Kenya today feel that within 20 years those large species will be extinct. Those large mammal populations will be completely extinct. There is a large movement developing in Kenya today to reinstitute hunting to try to save the wildlife of Kenya.

That's the story of the North American model. That's the story of the history of hunters when it comes to conserving wildlife. Hunters are the rubber on the road when it comes to conserving our wildlife, and I think that's true in many cases around the world. I really do believe that a carefully regulated, well-managed, sustainable harvest of wildlife is one of the best tools we have at our disposal for the conservation of wildlife and ensuring that we have both habitat and wildlife for many generations to come.

There are many challenges. I've been involved in wildlife management at several different levels, and it is very complex. One of the biggest obstacles that I see is the urbanization of our society and the disconnect between the urban masses and the land and wildlife. How do people who grew up in a city, who have never had any connection to the land, have any knowledge of wildlife, of conservation, of management? Yet with the way that we govern wildlife in most of Canada today, they have an equal say in the management of that wildlife. I see that disconnect as being problematic.

Everybody is really passionate about wildlife, whether it's me, as a hunter or whether it's an animal rights activist. There's a lot of passion, and it's hard to separate the passion from the science. Today in Canada, most wildlife management is done by government bureaucracies. I think most of us know that sometimes government bureaucracies aren't the best way to do things. They can get very weighted down and become ineffective. I can tell you lots of stories about the inefficiencies of wildlife management.

However, we have opportunities to maybe have a look at that. In the Northwest Territories, under the land claims process, co-management boards were set up. Wildlife management is a shared responsibility between these co-management boards and government, between science and traditional knowledge. I think that's something we are going to have to look at in this country to balance out the polarization that happens between animal rights and activists—

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

You have one minute. Perhaps you could wrap it up.

8:55 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Okay, I'm sorry.

The rest of my presentation is pretty much statistics. If you have the notes, we can look at them. I would say, if I don't have time to go over them all with you, we really do look at hunting and fishing as the economic engines in the Northwest Territories. At times, when the oil field moves out of Norman Wells, about the only new dollars that come into town, other than government meeting dollars, are from the hunters. It is part of of many of the communities and part of the economic engine that drives the local economies in the Northwest Territories.

Most of the numbers are in my speaking notes. I have found some new numbers. The trapping, for instance, in the NWT, under the land claims, is exclusive to aboriginals. It has declined over the last 20 years, but recently the Government of the Northwest Territories has done some very forthright and visionary programs to improve the trapping participation. Last year they had record numbers, 30-year-high numbers, of fur taken and the value of fur was up to about $2.7 million.

Thank you for the opportunity. I look forward to your questions.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Grinde, and thank you for making your notes available. They are available in both French and English and all of our members have them.

I would be open to a motion by someone to include the rest of Mr. Grinde's written statement into his verbal one, and that would be part of the record.

8:55 a.m.

An hon. member

I so move.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

(Motion agreed to)

8:55 a.m.

Statement by Mr. Harold Grinde

On NWT hunting and fishing statistics, 40% of NWT people hunt and/or fish today. It's basically unchanged since 1983. About 45% of aboriginals hunt or fish, compared with 33% of non-aboriginals.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Today there are about 1,250 licensed hunters in the NWT, or 3% of the total population. It is important to remember that aboriginal hunters do not need to be licensed, so 1,250 licensed hunters represents about 6% of the non-aboriginal population of the NWT.

There's been a downward trend, from about 2,000 licensed hunters in the 1980s. This trend is, in part, due to a loss of opportunities for resident hunters—parks, protected areas, land claims, and the barren ground caribou season closures.

According to the 2012 Canadian nature survey, NWT residents spent $19 million on hunting, fishing, and trapping activities during the previous 12-month period.

Trapping statistics are hard to come by for the NWT. Trapping is exclusive to aboriginals under current land claims. Trapping is and has always been a traditional activity for many northerners. Trapper numbers have declined since the1980s from about 2,500 active trappers to about 750 active trappers today. Non-aboriginals can be granted special harvesters licences to trap by claimant groups, but today there are very few non-aboriginal trappers in the NWT. Many would like to trap, but do not have the opportunity. Hopefully, this will change over time and more of the abundant fur resource can be utilized.

Non-resident hunting, or outfitted hunting, in the NWT has always been a significant part of the NWT economy, especially in local communities. There has been less revenue from outfitting in the past five years because of a decline in barren ground caribou, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife ban on the importation of polar bear, and new national parks initiatives.

Outfitting was established in the Mackenzie Mountains in 1965, and hunter numbers and harvest levels have been very consistent since then. Eight outfitters in the Mackenzie Mountains contributed $1.8 million in direct and indirect economic benefits to the NWT in 1996, according to the Crapo report in 2000, including meat valued at $200,000 contributed to local communities. This would convert to about $6.5 million today and meat valued at $750,000.

The Crapo report emphasized that the revenue generated by the outfitters is “export revenue”.

Outfitters are really the main resource for wildlife population data in the mountains through hunter observation forms and harvest data.

I could not find any current data on outfitting in the rest of the NWT. The big barren-ground caribou outfitting lodges are all shut down today. At one time they were a huge part of the NWT economy.

The guided fishing sector is a multi-million dollar industry in and of itself, but no hard numbers are available. There were as many as 13,000 fishermen coming to the NWT in 2007, but that declined to about 9,000 in 2009, and is now stable.

Also, Mr. Grinde, if you care to, in response to some of the questions, you may include some of the rest of your—

8:55 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Absolutely. I'll try to do that.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Please feel free to do that. I don't mean to cut you off, but we want to respect the time that we have.

We're going to go to our first round of questioners.

Mr. Sopuck, please, you have seven minutes.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Thank you.

I found your presentation very interesting, especially your insight into the nature of hunting and the culture of hunting and trapping.

I have a simple question to start off. This is the first time the environment and sustainable development committee has ever conducted a study like this. Why is a study like this important?

9 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

I believe it's important to hear from the common man in Canada, from the hunter and the fisherman, and I know you are, Mr. Sopuck, and a couple of the other members.

I think as we become more and more urbanized we get a disconnect. I believe that almost every young biologist who is given the task of managing wildlife in this country has been a little brainwashed, maybe. Very few of them have any practical knowledge, yet they graduate from college, accept a job with the government bureaucracy, and are assigned the job of managing wildlife. They don't have the practical knowledge to fulfill that job. That's why I think we need to find a balanced way to get the traditional and the local knowledge included. I think that's one thing this committee may move in that direction. I hope that can happen.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I was interested in your comments about urbanization. Just to make you feel a little bit better, I don't think the situation is nearly as bleak as you put out.

The interest in hunting among urban Canadians is increasing. In Toronto, for example, there are a number of gun clubs. There are huge waiting lists to join these clubs. Another interesting thing, regarding fishing, is that in Ontario they sell something like 920,000 angling licences, and 40% are sold in Toronto.

The situation, in terms of our urban friends—and I was born and raised in the city—I don't think is nearly as bleak as it first appears. People like yourself are very important spokespeople to talk to the urban community about what hunters have done.

In that vein, the hunter's role in conservation, you spoke about that. Can you elaborate on what the hunting community does for wildlife conservation both in your neck of the woods and in North America at large?

9 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Where I operate as an outfitter in the Mackenzie Mountains, the Northwest Territories government really doesn't have much budget for studies. It's a very remote region so there's very little pressure on the wildlife, but they really do rely on us as their eyes and ears on the ground. Most of the data that the NWT gathers as far as wildlife population numbers and trends are concerned comes from reports that the outfitters and all of our clients submit. Beyond that, of course, there are many different private, non-profit hunting clubs, conservation groups, that try their best to do what they can to make sure they have the opportunity to hunt. Probably the best example we have today is Ducks Unlimited.

Ducks Unlimited probably has even presented. I don't know if they still are today, but I know at one time they were the largest private landowners in Canada. They owned more land...which was purchased by hunters for ducks so that hunters would have the opportunity to hunt. I have been a life member for 30 to 40 years of the Wild Sheep Foundation. The Wild Sheep Foundation is a national organization in the United States but they have Canadian chapters and affiliates.

We raise hundreds of thousands of dollars every year in Canada to put back on the ground, into studies, into habitat improvement. Those are the things hunters do. Beyond that, of course, in the United States, through the Pittman-Robertson Act, millions and millions of dollars have gone into conservation. In Canada, not so much, but always in every jurisdiction in Canada licensing fees, conservation stamps, go directly to conservation of wildlife. Those are direct contributions made by hunters.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I'm familiar with the Pittman-Robertson Act. The fisheries equivalent is the Dingell-Johnson Act in the United States. As you well know, they both generate funds from levies on sporting equipment like fishing rods and firearms and ammunition, and so on.

Is that something you would like to see in Canada?

9 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

We've talked about this at HAAP. I think it's a good idea. It's a little different situation in Canada because we would probably—unless it was done very carefully—hurt the retail sector in Canada. It's very competitive. It's hard to compete with the American retailers as it is.

I think we need to put a system in place for camping and hunting equipment that does not just target the hunters and the fisherman, but also probably the campers, those who want to go out and camp. We could easily put a bit of a levy on all camping equipment so everybody puts a little bit of money out of their pocket towards it directly.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

It's interesting that the hunters and anglers are the one group that actually ask to be taxed. Of course, being part of a low-tax government it's problematic for us, but I have to get that on the record.

I really appreciate your comments. I appreciated your story about Kenya too. I'm familiar with that. That's interesting. That's the paradox of hunting: the more interest there is in hunting a species, the more abundant it becomes.

Can you just elaborate on that again?

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

Yes. Africa has a little bit different social environment, economic environment from Canada. But when you take away the value of wildlife to the people who live on the land, especially in a place like rural Canada where animals raid crops and stuff, if there is no value in that wildlife to the person, if it's blanket protection—you're not allowed to use that animal for anything—then why would that person feed those deer or those elk? In Africa, when a crop-raiding elephant that you're not allowed to ever gain any economic benefit from is trampling your crops, and your children are starving, why would you not poach that elephant when your kids are starving?

That's what's happened in Kenya, because these people have been told that the wildlife that's there is not theirs. They're not allowed to utilize it for food, for betterment in any way. The big tour companies that operate the tours are for the most part out of country and put nothing back into the conservation of this wildlife. Poaching just becomes rampant because there is no value to that wildlife.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Harold Albrecht

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

Now to Mr. Bevington for seven minutes.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thanks, Mr. Grinde.

It's interesting, you said something about the trained professional. In the Northwest Territories we have what's called a natural resources training program, which has put many people who are Northwest Territories residents into positions throughout the territories as natural resources officers. Do you think those people are inappropriate for the job?

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

No, absolutely not. In the Northwest Territories, you're right; our association, AMMO, has had a scholarship program. We have actually helped send many of those people to school, encouraging them to get involved. I really believe that the system in the Northwest Territories, bringing those people into the programs, is a wonderful part.

There are things that will improve over time. It's the same with the co-management boards. They are a work-in-progress. They're fairly new. They're learning their niche in wildlife management, but it will come full circle. It will become an effective method of wildlife management.

But no, I believe the native peoples, the local peoples, who are going into these programs in the Northwest Territories are wonderful. Sadly, I think their level of education when they enter these programs is.... Part of our scholarship program is an essay. Some of them had not been Word-trained to correct the spelling, and would have been almost hard to follow—

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Well, that's kind of a—

9:05 a.m.

President, Association of Mackenzie Mountains Outfitters

Harold Grinde

But still, they learn. Once they get in these programs and they see that they have a career, and it's a career that they have an interest in, they do very well.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Northwest Territories, NT

Does your association take students out on the land? I know that throughout the north most of the schools have on-the-land programs. At my granddaughter's school they go out and do things like skin animals, beavers, on these on-the-land programs. Does your association support and promote those programs?