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Evidence of meeting #30 for Fisheries and Oceans in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was mile.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Dion Dakins  Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

I don't want to put words in your mouth, but from your perspective then, does this bill not go nearly far enough in terms of tightening the restrictions around access to the seal hunt?

9:05 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

No, we don't think the bill itself goes far enough as it's currently drafted. We think it's a great starting point. It has opened a debate and a discussion around what we need to do as a sector, what we need to do as a nation, and what we need to do as a group of nations. Canada is not alone in this issue. America is also having trouble with the seal populations, as are other nations around the world.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

You must realize, Mr. Dakins, that your recommendations would totally change this bill. Basically, you're asking government to go back to the starting point.

9:05 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

Bill C-555 is specifically focused on non-licensed observers. I think there is an opportunity to craft another set of legislation that would go where the industry sees it needing to go. This is a first step that certainly has opened a dialogue and a mechanism for the sector and others to voice their concerns.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary NDP St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Thank you, Mr. Dakins.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you very much, Mr. Cleary.

Mr. Sopuck.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I'm very pleased to talk with you today. One of my positions is chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus. My vice-chair, Mr. Leef, is here as well. Our caucus is fixated on protecting and preserving our hunting, angling, and trapping way of life.

I have a quick comment on the predator control topic which Mr. Cleary brought up. A recent report came out showing that the wolf kill in Alberta is having a measurable and positive effect on woodland caribou numbers. I think the science is there and getting better in terms of predator control to restore the balance. I think that's what we were talking about, restoring the balance.

I spent a fair bit of time in my previous life fighting the animal rights groups. You certainly recall the Liberal bill, Bill C-15B, which thankfully didn't see the light of day, that would have given animals rights. In terms of the sealing industry being used as a fundraising tool for radical animal rights groups, where these people wilfully distort the conversation on the seal hunt by using pictures of whitecoat seals which haven't been hunted since the 1980s, can you speak to this dishonest approach employed by these groups?

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

It's a very interesting period in the existence of this planet. We have a higher demand for proteins. We have a higher demand for omega-3 oils. We have a higher demand for eco-friendly textiles and other products. Yet we don't see an opportunity to position seal products for what they are. It's a conservation success for Canada. We have recovered our populations inside four decades to higher than virginal levels or at about maximum virginal levels at 7.4 million animals. But because of the positions of various groups that do not subscribe to the sustainable use of any wildlife species running falsified campaigns with misinformation in primary markets and in emerging markets, it has added a complication to the sealing sector because we're such a small commodity.

If you wanted to position the 4,000 tonnes yield from a 400,000 animal harvest into the omega-3 market comparatively, other marine-based omega-3s are about one million metric tonnes, so we represent 0.4% of the total global supply. It's very easy to single us out, and with a well-oiled false propaganda machine it's very difficult to reposition the hunt. That's why we see steps like having third party validation, veterinarian inspection, removal of the erroneous observations, the biased observations that are used to discredit the industry and destroy market capabilities. We need to remove that and we need to replace it with what consumers can buy into, which is a third party validation system.

That's why Bill C-555 in itself doesn't go far enough. However, it can be modified through future bills to achieve what we need to achieve.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I'd like to follow up on the whole notion of animal rights. I'd like to read a couple of quotes from Hansard from a few weeks ago by a couple of NDP MPs. This was in the debate regarding Quanto's law, which is a law to protect service animals. The NDP quite obviously wants it to go a lot further.

I want to read from the October 27 Hansard what Jean Crowder from Nanaimo—Cowichan said regarding a private member's bill, Bill C-232, which was introduced by her colleague from Parkdale—High Park. That's Peggy Nash. She said, “This bill would remove animals from the section of the Criminal Code on property and create a new section for animal cruelty offences.” As I said, this is an NDP-supported private member's bill. She went on to say, “In short, animals would be considered people and not just property.”

Later in the debate, Françoise Boivin, the NDP MP for Gatineau, said regarding animals, “These harmless, defenceless creatures deserve the same protection that we afford to children and people with mental or physical disabilities.”

As someone who's fought the animal rights wars as you and I have, the implications of these statements would be staggering if ever implemented. They would end all hunting, trapping, sealing, and most importantly, medical research, plus the raising of livestock.

How do you think these kinds of statements will be received in eastern Canada, specifically Newfoundland and Labrador?

9:10 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

I'm not well versed on the other proposed discussions, however I can say that our group subscribes very highly to good animal welfare standards. The sealing sector itself, the harvesters, requested that the professionalization program that's now in place become mandatory. Along with veterinarians they helped create the course into something that's useable and achievable to achieve a high animal welfare standard.

I think when we draw the line between...I think there's a great deal of confusion internationally about animal rights and animal welfare. To endow an animal with human rights is quite frankly quite dangerous and difficult for the world to manage. However, all animals that are going to be exploited, either if held in captivity or in the wild, are entitled to a good animal welfare outcome when they're being used or being raised by humans. That's where our group sees the greatest gains in improving animal welfare and third party validation.

November 25th, 2014 / 9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

I could not agree more. People have to appreciate the distinction between animal welfare and animal rights. Many of these animal rights groups hide behind the notion of animal welfare, and they will play the game of talking about humane standards, sustainability, and so on.

When your industry in particular proved the point that you are humane and that the populations of seals are sustainable, these groups morphed into animal rights groups, which they always were—well-funded animals rights groups; most of them have budgets bigger than most small towns in Newfoundland and Labrador. Then they showed their true colours. These are fundraising tools to advance the cause of animal rights.

Mr. Dakins, I think your point, the distinction between animal rights and animal welfare, needs to be appreciated. We all believe in and strongly support the notion of animal welfare, but animal rights are completely another thing. I think you used the word “dangerous” and I think you're absolutely right.

I go back to the statements by Jean Crowder and Françoise Boivin, two NDP MPs who are on the record as stating very clearly that animals should be given the same rights as people, and I find that truly appalling. I go back to the question, once the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed all the sealing communities in Canada, understand the implications of this, what do you think they'll think about this?

9:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

Certainly I think it's clear how we—

9:15 a.m.

A voice

We actually have a bill dealing with this.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Order.

Please proceed—

9:15 a.m.

A voice

What do you have that upsets you that much?

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Please proceed, Mr. Dakins.

9:15 a.m.

A voice

It's not shocking to have a difference of opinion in the House of Commons.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Order.

Mr. Dakins, please proceed.

9:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

I'm not versed in these other bills that are currently alive. I know we as a sector believe very strongly in animal welfare and animal welfare improvement. I think Bill C-555 is a start for a debate that's been long required around how we allow observation and evaluation of the Canadian seal hunt. I think our current structure does not allow for the consumers to feel that they've been given a robust enough traceability or verification system to allow them to comfortably purchase seal products. I think we need this tool to go forward. Again, I think Bill C-555 is a start, but we need to go further with how we control and validate our Canadian seal hunting, and not just the east coast one.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

In terms of the grey seal cull that the Senate recommended—indeed, the study we did on snow crab came to the same conclusion—how close are we to finding markets for grey seals? It's not a commercial species right now, is it? Also, what do you think the potential is to develop markets for grey seals?

9:15 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

We believe the challenges to the grey seal products are the same as they are for the ringed seal product and Namibian fur seal product. A seal is a seal is a seal when it comes down to the marketplace. Regulations and international laws that afford derogations for products of certain origin are, at best, window dressing for addressing the real issue.

We see an absolute requirement to manage the populations of seals wherever they exist, with the exception of a few small species that have been hunted to the brink of extinction and are still struggling to recover. Overall, Canada can be a leader with harp, grey, and ringed seal.

We are seen as world leaders, because we do have the world's largest hunt, because we have the world's largest populations. Interestingly enough, we don't harvest our animals at any higher level than any other jurisdiction that's harvesting seals. We are taking about 7% of the available biomass for harvest.

To answer your question more clearly, I think there are substantial challenges not only to the harp seal industry but also to the potential to revive or to create a grey seal commodity, because the challenges are the same.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rodney Weston

Thank you, Mr. Sopuck.

Mr. MacAulay, go ahead please.

9:15 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Welcome, Mr. Dakins and Mr. Thompson.

It's an interesting committee. There were a few barbs, but I think we're all concerned about animal welfare.

I would like you to give the committee a view of what you think is going to happen if we continue on the same path as we are on at the moment, looking at what's happened to your markets over the last number of years. Also, you mentioned 0.4% of the protein, if I understood correctly. Were you referring to seal at that time?

9:20 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Carino Processing Ltd.

Dion Dakins

I was referring to the omega-3s from the fat of the seal.

9:20 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberal Cardigan, PE

Looking at the value of and the requirement for protein worldwide, what is wrong; what is going on in the world community; what's wrong with us; what's wrong with you; what's wrong with the government when we have a product...? You talked about animal welfare. I'd like you to indicate what's going to happen if we do nothing and the population has exploded as you have indicated? What's going to happen to the seal population itself? Generally things happen if there are too many animals. There will be disease within the herd itself. We have a pretty small harvest at the moment.

I also believe that seals are among the biggest, if not the biggest, consumers of fish in the world today. Looking at the value of protein worldwide—and I'd like to give you some time to answer this—what's going to take place? I'd just like you expand on that and on what we need to do here.

Obviously we're on the wrong track. Either the government is on the wrong track or you're on the wrong track. We have a bunch of people who can put erroneous pictures out worldwide, pictures of things that haven't happened for years and years. You're hurt and I'm hurt as a citizen of this country because of what's going on. I'd like you to take some time to give a general observation of what direction....

I agree that people are too handy to hunt. If your nose is right up where they're doing the shooting of the seal, that's not safe. We do need to do something.

I'd like you to expand a bit on what I have said, understanding that the seal is one of the biggest if not the biggest consumer of fish in the world, and the value and the need for protein in the world today.