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House of Commons Hansard #55 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was farm.

Topics

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Madam Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his speech.

I listen to CBC radio fairly often. I am also appalled by the cuts that have been made to it. On the weekend, because there is so much driving to do, I heard a broadcast on which a European Union parliamentarian spoke out against the way information was given to all parliamentarians. As my colleague was just telling us, monumental sums of money have been spent on disinformation. She even talked about threats. She said that some parliamentarians who were planning to vote against that law, to vote against the ban on seal products, received threats. Her opinion was that the way the campaign was conducted was deplorable. As my colleague just said, there are elections coming up and so this was probably electioneering.

My colleague asked whether we ourselves should offer information and not disinformation. To do that, the government has to get involved. Does he really believe, given the negotiations it is starting with the European Union, which represents a market worth tens of billions of dollars, that the government will want to mount an honest and responsible defence of the seal hunt in Canada?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his question.

I would say that the answer is self-evident. One of the first things the Prime Minister said about the free trade agreement negotiations with the European Union was that there would be no…

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. I would ask the hon. members at the back to go to the lobby if they want to continue their discussions.

The hon. member has the floor.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker. My colleagues have fine voices, but they carry and it is difficult when I can hear them.

In fact, the problem is this. We have a Prime Minister who went to Europe. While he was there, he said there was no problem, and we would not cause problems about the seal hunt, because in any event it did not account for a large share of Canada’s gross domestic product and we would let them negotiate with us. I have only one question on that point. How is it that we are regarded as barbaric by the Europeans when it comes to the seal hunt, but not too barbaric to sign a free trade agreement?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join in the concurrence debate on the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. I will be sharing my time with the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, who is a member of the committee and took part in the unanimous report that is before us.

The committee considered the matter of the seal harvest. I want to talk about some of the elements of the report and the very brief statement approving that the methods of harvesting are fully acceptable, that the harp seal hunt is humane, responsible and sustainable, which are the three elements that people in the European Union have attacked in trying to justify the ban of the seal harvest.

The member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte and the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor talked about the history of the seal harvest in Canada. It goes back many hundreds of years. Seals have been harvested for food, fuel, shelter, fur and other products for hundreds of years. Seal products consist of leather, oil, handicrafts, meat for human and animal consumption, as well as seal oil capsules rich in omega 3 fatty acids and other nutraceuticals. It is a product that has been used for many years and for many reasons and has a legitimate place in the market.

If we think of the island of Newfoundland as a triangle with St. Anthony at the top, Port aux Basques in one corner and St. John's in another, some people do not know that the whole northeast coast, the area from St. Anthony to St. John's, was only able to become settled year round by virtue of the fact that there was a seal harvest. That enabled people to live through the winter. Until the seal harvest there was a migratory fishery. The only people who stayed were the ones who escaped their masters and managed to find a way to survive. The viability of that coast came about as a result of the seal harvest, which was a fairly precarious and dangerous livelihood but one people engaged in.

Throughout most of Newfoundland's history, the seal fishery, as it was known, was the only source of cash for people who lived and survived on what was known as the truck system. They lived off their obligations to the merchant who supposedly looked after them, bought all of their product but only charged them a fee for what they consumed. They never had any cash. The seal fishery was the cash component of their income. Today it still accounts for between 25% and 35% of those engaged in the seal harvest.

I want to go back to another fisheries report. It has been studied by Parliament on a number of occasions. One of the most recent and comprehensive reports done by the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans was done two years ago and it was issued in April 2007.

My colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, was a member of that committee. As well, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte participated in that report. It was a very comprehensive report. It focused on the sustainability, the humaneness, the economic, social and cultural importance and the role of the seal harvest in achieving and maintaining an ecological balance within the marine ecosystem. It was a very serious report on the study of these aspects. It concluded the following on sustainability, and this is a quote from the European Commission:

It agrees with the European Commission that: “The seal populations in question are currently not endangered and are therefore not regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).” In addition, experts told the Committee that the Northwest Atlantic population of harp seal was probably one of the best managed wildlife species in the world.

We have heard other colleagues say that the population has grown from about two million animals in the early 1970s to nearly six million, and some say seven million, today. That is an indication that the issue of sustainability is not in question and that it is being properly managed by DFO.

On the issue of humaneness, again, upon reviewing the evidence presented by expert independent veterinarians, the committee believes that the harp seal harvest is humane. The methods used to kill the seals, the hakapik and rifle, satisfy standards for humane killing and euthanasia, and compare favourably to methods used in slaughterhouses across the country. That would be true of Europe as well. If the issue were about humaneness or cruelty, people would not be dealing with the seal harvest, but they might be dealing with issues having to do with pâté de foie made in France and other countries, and the treatment in the production of veal.

Humaneness is not the issue here. Most of the seals are actually harvested with the use of the rifle on the front, which is the area off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. The estimates go from 75% to 90%. In the gulf and the Îles-de-la-Madeleine, the hakapik is the more traditional harvesting tool.

On the issue of the economic, social and cultural importance of the seal harvest, the committee concluded that the seal harvest was an important part of the economic, cultural and social fabric of Canada's east coast and the north, where thousands rely on this activity as an important source of income. We are dealing with something that has a value economically, socially and culturally.

There is another point which is not often talked about, although we heard some colleagues talk about it today. The member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine spoke about the importance of the seal harvest to the ecological balance within the marine ecosystem. Here the committee said that it believed that the seal harvest has a crucial role in achieving and maintaining an ecological balance with other marine species, including those valued by humans.

Many people who talk about ecology talk about the relationship between animals and the environment, but they leave out one of the animals that is pretty important to all of this, and that is humans who are also part of the marine and other ecosystems. Humans and animals interact in this environment. The role of the seal harvest is part of that ecological balance. If we took the seal harvest out of this equation, we would see an ecological imbalance that would lead to an increase in seal numbers, perhaps an increase in predation upon the food supply, such as the cod fish and other marine species, to the point of collapse of them as an economic harvest and also to the point of collapse of the food supply, a collapse of the seal population itself or the necessity for a cull. The balance is achieved in part by the role of the seal harvest.

After considering the four principles of sustainability and conservation of marine resources, all political parties represented on the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans remain united in their support for the commercial seal harvest, and then recommendations followed.

It is important to understand that today's motion concerns a report which is the product of many years of study by committees of the House. They are responsible, objective and understanding. They listen to experts. They try to be independent. They recognize the historical, cultural, social and economic value of the harvest. It has been determined on each and every occasion that this is a sustainable, viable, humane hunt. It is not that they did not recommend changes. The regulations have been changed and improved over the years. Yet we are still faced with the ban by the European Union.

We have heard about the role of the ban and the images that have been generated in order to encourage public opinion to impose the ban. The image we have seen for 25 or 30 years is the white coat seal, normally with a tear running down from its eye, which is supposed to indicate the sorrow of the animal. I understand that it does not indicate that at all, but rather is a natural tearing. Nevertheless, that image is used to raise money to support the advertising. It is a vicious circle of using money to raise money to get more images to provide political support.

I agree with the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine. There are many people on the other side of the issue who have a very responsible, philosophical position for which I have great respect. A person who chooses not to eat meat, not to wear animal products such as leather belts or shoes and decides he or she wants to live without relying on animals, I have a great deal of respect for that opinion. A person who is a vegetarian by philosophy or belief has every right to do that and I have great respect for people who choose that way of life. However, there is a bit of a difference, and I am not saying this is what everybody is into, between being a vegetarian and insisting that no one else be allowed to eat meat. That is what we are dealing with here, a very great difference of opinion.

I see that my time is up and I hope I can elaborate on one or two of these points--

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to further the comments of my colleague.

It is very interesting that the issues affecting the oceans of the world really receive short shrift. The international conservation caucus fielded a meeting with Alana Mitchell. She is a former Globe and Mail reporter and was also named the top international reporter on the environment. She wrote a book called Sea Sick and in it she quite clearly articulates the damage taking place to our oceans today. Dr. Sylvia Earle, the world bathyscaphe specialist, shark expert and oceanographer, has written amply about the dying oceans.

I want to ask my hon. colleague a question. He understands, as my Liberal colleague mentioned before, that the oceans are dying and we have a number of challenges, not the least of which is overfishing and the use of draggers. Unrestricted fishing in the open oceans beyond the 200-mile zone is a serious problem.

Would my hon. colleague not support that the Government of Canada should work with the member states that are signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, that we should work together to strengthen international regulations that are backed by judicial and enforcement measures, enforcement measures being particularly important, to deal in a punitive fashion with the overfishing that is destroying the oceans, not the least of which is being done by irresponsible European countries that are raping the earth's oceans?

Does he not think we should take the lead on tightening the reins on these people and groups?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, obviously Canada has been trying to take the lead. In fact, the fisheries committee has been urging Canada to take the lead with respect to the nose and tail of the Grand Banks in ensuring that the fish stocks are not destroyed.

The Globe and Mail, on Tuesday, May 5, contains a nice story, which I find disturbing. The headline is “Whales make comeback, other marine life in peril”. As we know, whales were hunted almost to extinction in the latter part of the last century and the early part of this century due to over-hunting.

This is obviously not happening to the seals, but one of the species that is at risk is called American plaice, found off the east coast of Newfoundland. It is being overfished by, guess who, the same people who are banning the import of seal products into Europe and at the same time engaging in overfishing practices. We have a great deal of difficulty controlling them.

Canada should be playing a role with international organizations to try to bring this under control. We have been having great difficulty with NAFO, as anybody who has been following that knows. We have to take a stronger role in terms of control off our own shores but also insist that other nations be more diligent as well, and stop the illegal and obviously unsustainable practices.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, the World Wildlife Fund released a report about a week ago indicating that bycatch fisheries on the nose and tail of the Grand Banks were at an unregulated and disproportionate level compared to actual targeted species. In fact, it said that the European Union was the biggest culprit in this regard. Bycatch fisheries are destroying stocks as an overt way to actually target certain species, which is actually a directed fishery. Could the member comment on whether the European Union activity is in keeping with sustainable fish harvesting practices?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, clearly not and that underscores the difficulty that most of us in Canada have, particularly those who are engaged in this seal harvest.

Here is a community which is saying that on the one hand, morally it does not think the animals should be harvested, even though it is sustainable, and at the same time, the EU is not condemning the practices of its own member countries in the same oceans and ecosystem.

I think that is wrong and why we need to condemn that ban. It is not consistent with the high moral tone that the EU purports to have, which is totally absent when it comes to its fishing practices which have not only destroyed our coasts, but as the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca said, other coasts throughout the world.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, in my previous speech during the take note debate, I mentioned a bumper sticker I once saw in Nunavut that said, “Eat seals, 1,000 polar bears can't be wrong”. That is absolutely correct.

I was in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. A store called LUSH had posted a big advertisement that said, “Stop Canada's commercial seal hunt”. It had a picture of a whitecoat. This was just a little while ago. I went into the store and asked the manager if she knew anything about the seal hunt. She said no. The poster came from somebody in Canada and she was asked to hand out postcards to people so that they could send them off to the Prime Minister to stop the seal hunt. She knew nothing about the seal hunt. It was just that somebody presented a good story without any facts.

This is the problem with the commercial seal harvest. A lot of these environmental groups, what we call “greenies”, on the extreme side are not allowing facts to get in the way of a good story. A good story is that Canadians are barbarians, destroying and knocking the heads and skulls of these cute little critters and wiping them off the face of the earth just so we can make money. This is how they portray it, and that the seals have no chance at all.

I have been here since 1997, through five Parliaments, two different governments, six different ministers, six different parliamentary secretaries and many different critics and roles of people in and out of committees. Every single time, the committee has agreed. It did not matter which Parliament or which government. It was agreed unanimously by those committees that the commercial seal harvest was the proper thing to do to provide livelihood for people on the east coast as well as our first nations and Inuit people in the far North.

It completely upsets me when we have people who are very good at exploiting what we call an open abattoir. It is very difficult to combat those photos of white ice, blue sky and red blood. There is just no way around that. Yet, these same people should take the time to go into a normal abattoir where chickens, pigs, cows or anything else are slaughtered. They would have a different view.

In our society, we are omnivores. We eat meat and plants. Some people prefer to be vegetarians for either health reasons or personal reasons. God love them for it, but they should not get in the way of people who prefer to have seal or to utilize the entire seal for its coat or medicinal purposes. As my colleague from St. John's East said, hunting of seals has been going on for centuries.

What will happen if this ban is successful? If these animal rights groups are successful, the seal population will increase further in size to a tipping point where it will either have a natural, massive die-off or we will have to cull them in the millions. A cull means that we would go out, kill them and let them sink to the bottom to become crab or lobster bait. I simply would not support something of that nature. I do not think anyone in the House would.

That is why we have to utilize the complete seal when we can. That is why the government authorizes a certain percentage of over 250,000 to 270,000 seals per year. Out of 7 million, that is not very much at all. However, it provides an important livelihood and an economic base for thousands of people in Newfoundland, the Gaspé, Nunavut and other parts of Atlantic Canada.

It is unbelievable that the EU, with some of the worst fishing practices on the planet, can tell Canada what to do when it comes to the commercial seal harvest. What right do the EU countries have to say to people in Newfoundland and Labrador that they do not have a right to earn a living? What right do they have to say that our traditional peoples, the Inuit and first nations, do not have a right to sustain themselves by hunting seals? What right do they have to tell Canada about fishing practices when they themselves, in many cases, are the scoundrels of the sea?

If this complete ban on seal products follows through, then what are the animal rights groups going to go after next? I can assure members that putting a live lobster into boiling seawater cannot be very pleasant for the lobster. I can assure members that de-beaking a chicken cannot be very pleasant for the chicken. I guarantee members that castration of a bull cannot be very pleasing for the bull. I can tell members that branding of cattle cannot be very pleasant for the cattle.

Where does it stop? Which animal or which species is next on the list? It will be at a point where we will be unable to consume anything of that nature. For hunters who wish to go out and hunt deer, it cannot be very pleasant for deer to get shot. It cannot be very pleasant for bear, or caribou, or sheep, or whatever. Which species will be next on their hit list?

This is why the halting of the ban on the seal harvest is so critical to the traditional ways of life of our hunters, anglers and our first nations people. If we do not stop this now, they will go after another species. It will be to the point where we are left eating lima beans and tofu. I do not have any problem with lima beans and tofu except that it gives me gas. However, the problem is this. I like variety in my diet, so do many other Canadians and so does the rest of the world.

To say that the seals are endangered is simply false. To say that we are hunting white coats is an outright lie. To say that the hunt is inhumane is wrong. For the EU to take this stand is simply wrong. We know it is doing it for crass politics and not based on a scientific decision.

When the member for Malpeque and I spoke to some Dutch folks in P.E.I. a few years ago, they said very clearly that this was not based on any scientific numbers of the humaneness of the hunt. They said that this was strictly politics, that it was about getting re-elected, that it was about listening to thousands of people who signed a petition, but gave it no extra thought after that.

When people talk about banning the seal harvest, if we speak to most of these people who sign these petitions and ask them if they have really thought about what they have done, most of them say that they do not know many people who hunt seals, or they do not know many people who make a livelihood from the seals, but they are awfully cute on the camera, and that is why they sign the petitions.

My colleagues in Newfoundland and Labrador, especially, and those in Nunavut and the Gaspé, are having to go through this and having to defend this traditional practice over and over again. I really feel sorry for them. The people in Newfoundland and Labrador have a lot better things to do than worry about what the EU says about their practices when it comes to the seal harvest. I wish the EU would leave the good people of Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut alone and allow them to traditionally harvest their products in a sustainable manner, in a manner that provides them an economic livelihood so they have the dignity of work, the dignity of feeding their families, the dignity of knowing when they get up in the morning and they go to bed at night that they have done something that their forefathers and grandfathers have done.

I warn the House and I warn Parliament, what is next on the chopping block? A lot of members of Parliament are from rural areas in Ontario, in the west and in the north. What is next? If the House does not stand united in support of those people in the commercial seal harvest, then what else will people do?

I plead with members of all parties to look at this resolution for what it is. This is a sustainable harvest. If the government does it right and provides the market scenarios for them, if it ensures it is well checked, well in balance, we can ensure the livelihood for future generations to come. However, more important, if we do not do this and we allow this ban to occur, it will have reverberations throughout not only Atlantic Canada, but throughout the entire country.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, my colleague covered the issues very well. My colleague will know that, as far as we can tell, built into the text of the proceedings in the European Parliament is an exemption for the Inuit. In spite of that exemption, Mary Simon, one of the Inuit leaders, said less than a week ago, in referring to this European action, “This will cause more despair among our Inuit youth”. In spite of the exemption, she is very pessimistic about what this will do for the Inuit people.

Would my colleague comment on that?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary brings up a very good point. Who in the world can tell the difference? When somebody walks down the Champs Èlysées or the streets of Berlin with a seal vest on, how does someone know whether that seal was caught by an aboriginal or non-aboriginal person?

I lived in Yukon in the early eighties, when the animal rights groups went after the fur trappers. It had a devastating effect on first nations people in Yukon. Mary Simon is absolutely correct. People of Nunavut are trying to teach their children traditional ways, the ways of their grandfathers and grandmothers. What Europe is saying to them is that their traditional ways are wrong and they should not do that.

That is simply wrong. This ban will have a devastating effect on the territory of Nunavut. I hope all of us would look at that territory and understand its traditional cultures.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am of the belief that using nude photos of women, who were paid to do so, for the exploitation of a commercial campaign is to treat women as objects. It is a form of violence against women, yet that is exactly what we have found with, for example, LUSH Cosmetics.

The hon. member mentioned the campaign used by LUSH Cosmetics. A paid staff member of the company was asked to paint herself in red paint and lie nude on a Canadian flag. LUSH Cosmetics entered into a very large scale commercial campaign to sell a particular brand of soap at that point in time.

It is my opinion that using paid, nude female models to do this is exploitation. It is treating them as objects and treating women as objects is a form of violence.

Would the hon. member agree with my assessment?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, he is absolutely correct. Those people will lie, distort, do whatever it takes to stop the seal harvest. Going to extremes of this nature, to have a naked woman painted in red lie on the Canadian flag, is just one example of what they would do.

If LUSH Cosmetics or anyone else does not like the seal harvest, then they should not buy seal products, but they should not get in the way of those people who earn a livelihood from an honest living.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have had many years of Canadians not fighting back on this issue, and we have seen the hypocrisy of the European Union in its arguments. Last week a Liberal member pointed out the hypocrisy of the wild boar hunt in Germany and other examples of that.

Does the seal industry in Canada have any plan to deal with this issue through advertising programs, through websites and so on, in an effort to fight back?

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will give the government credit. The government has gone with industry and Nunavut individuals to Europe on repeated occasions. This is the number one issue of the ambassador for Fisheries Conservation, Loyola Sullivan. The Minister of Fisheries has said that this is her number one priority.

Everyone has tried, within the realms of democracy and politics, to get the message out, that what we are doing is correct. The difficulty is when others, such as Europe, never allow facts to get in the way of a good story.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:10 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we are here today for obvious reasons that relate to the recent vote in the European parliament, which, if effected, would place a devastating blow and some would even suggest an end to the seal hunt in Canada.

We recognize this has been a long-standing concern and an issue of much debate for many people in Europe. I do not know that it will change a lot over time, but we need to look at what happened this time. Then we need to ask if there is a remedy to this situation. We believe there is a remedy.

Many of us want to speak to this matter today. I will be sharing my time, Mr. Speaker, with the member for Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo.

As we know, a vote took place in the European parliament. That vote effectively banned the sale of seal products in the EU. That decision will be given full consideration by the EU Commission before the end of June and it will decide whether to uphold that vote.

We have asked for something reasonable, something that can be scientifically backed up and endorsed. We have been very aggressive on this file with members of the EU parliament at every diplomatic and political level. We appointed an ambassador just for this task, who has had over 350 meetings with various EU members to try to impress upon them their responsibility to follow the rules and do what we have asked.

The procedures that are followed in the Canadian seal harvest are ones that are acknowledged, substantiated and endorsed by outside organizations that have the expertise to give this full consideration. I would like to refer to a couple of these.

The European Food Safety Authority looked at the various processes that are used in this harvest and it tabled a report in December 2008, concluding, “it is possible to kill seals rapidly and effectively without causing them avoidable pain or distress”. In fact, the method that is used for the main hunt, predominantly being the rifle, is virtually instantaneous.

A second study was undertaken for the European Commission to assess the impact of this proposed regulation, and it noted, “The negative consequences of trade restrictions would fall disproportionately on Canada”. The commission's proposal contained what is known as a derogation clause, or it could be called an exception clause, which would allow for the trade in “humanely hunted seal products”.

Those who voted against the seal hunt may have been well-intended. They were absolutely misinformed. I believe some of them thought they were doing the right thing by including a clause recognizing the historical and cultural aspect of indigenous hunters, be they in Canada, or Greenland or some other area where a seal harvest takes place. Inuit hunters themselves have said that if this ban goes into place, it would effectively end their market. Therefore, a clause that would only include the ability of Europeans to continue to buy that narrow portion of the product simply would not be sustainable economically.

That leads us to the other aspect of the Canadian harvest, which is that it is done in a way that is environmentally sustainable. The overall herd on the Canadian side, depending on whose report we look at, numbers something in the order of six million. The intended amount of harvest for this year was something in the order of 250,000, and as we know now, it is going to be a lot less than that.

This is not a species at risk. This is a species that is proliferating and one that can sustain a hunt that is just that: It is sustainable.

What we have asked for is the derogation clause or the exception clause to include the indigenous factor, but as our own Inuit people tell us, that is not enough. It has to include the notion of a hunt being accepted that is humane, and I just quoted the report that talks about the method used, that is done in a way that is rapid and effective and does not cause pain or distress, and is sustainable from an environmental point of view.

We have said, put those provisions into the derogation clause and we can live with that. It also would underline and would enable those in the EU parliament who voted against this to say, as we would want to say, that no hunt or no harvesting of any animal should be done in a way that is cruel. We all agree with that. This would satisfy their legitimate concern, if that is their legitimate concern.

We have already heard from members of all parties talking about how, really, the international media has been played on this. Just last week when I was watching television, there were my words in the background saying, according to this report, this is a harvest that is done with humane, accepted international standards, but the whole time I am talking, there is a picture of a baby seal, a cute little pup of a baby seal.

Baby seals, those pups, are not hunted in the Canadian harvest. If there are other jurisdictions that are doing that, then maybe there should be something that applies to them.

Have you ever seen a baby calf, Mr. Speaker? I think you have. Have you ever seen a baby sheep? I think you have.

These things can be used in a way that sends out an entirely wrong message and a message that moves people emotionally to do something that is not necessary but the result of which would destroy the livelihoods of thousands of people.

More than a few of the EU members did support us. Obviously, the majority did not. We are asking them to consider what they have done, to realize that they are going against one of their own reports that says this harvest is done in a way that is humane and sustainable. They are going against that. They are making a decision based on emotion, not on fact and reality, and in the process of doing that, they are destroying the livelihood of thousands of people who are directly involved.

We hear about the number of people who are directly involved, but there is all the indirect provision that goes on—the processing and manufacturing, the processing of food and everything that proceeds from that. This has a very major impact.

That is why this has brought parliamentarians together from across the aisle today, to say that if a trading nation or a trading organization wants to ban a product, they have to do that on a scientific basis. In this case, they have to do it in a way that acknowledges that we need an exception clause for those areas where the harvest is done in a manner that is humane and sustainable and also recognizes the indigenous component. However, it goes far beyond the indigenous component.

I thank members on all sides of the House for working together on this very important topic today.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for providing some comfort, some reinforcement to what we have known for generations to be a fully sustainable, humane practice that has been conducted in compliance with World Trade Organization rules and requirements.

I will ask the minister the following question, and it is a very direct one. It has been suggested that to raise the issue of the seal hunt and what we consider to be an illegal trade ban by the European Union in the context of the current Canada-European Union free trade talks would be to poison the well and would not be helpful to our cause. As has been suggested by a very renowned and thoughtful commentator, why did the European Union do it, then? They are the ones engaged in this illegal trade action at the dawn of a new era in Canada-EU trade, yet they are the ones who decided to invoke an illegal trade ban at this particular point in time.

How can we as Canadians have confidence that these talks are occurring in a good faith environment when it is the European Union that has decided to poison the well? They chose to poison the well and embark upon an illegal trade activity at the very moment we were asking for more rules-based trade.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the point is well taken. Let me put some framework around my response.

It was very exciting to be in Prague last week with the Prime Minister as we formally signed a declaration that gives our negotiators in Canada and in the EU the ability to start the negotiations on a free trade agreement.

For Canada, the benefits of that would be huge. We have run some econometric numbers on it, and if there were a free trade agreement in place right now between us and the 27 countries of the EU, our exports would be $12 billion more than if we did not have one or do not get one.

I want members to consider the impact of an extra $12 billion of exports right now in this time of economic downturn. It is huge and it is very positive. It would create jobs and opportunities.

With all trade arrangements, there are always, without exception, going to be disputes about a particular trade item. What we have then is a mechanism to handle the dispute in such a way that the whole agreement is not cratered.

We always have one dispute or another, even before tribunals, with the Americans, for instance, or possibly with the Mexicans in our free trade agreement. We do not trash the whole agreement and affect the livelihoods of thousands, and in fact, with NAFTA, millions of people.

With the EU, it is going to affect millions of people. We do not trash a whole broader agreement because of one dispute, however passionately we feel about that dispute. So we can do the two separately.

By the way, the Prime Minister did raise this particular issue with the members of the commission with whom we met last week, and he raised it in a very strong way, but we are also going to continue negotiations to get a broader economic agreement under that umbrella.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Bloc Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, everyone can see that we are unanimous in defending the seal hunt, and I imagine that the Minister of International Trade can see it, too. It has to be said that such unanimity is somewhat rare. It is a rare occasion when we can agree, beyond partisanship or our differing political opinions. In this case, we agree on the seal hunt. But this is more than a hunt, it is also a tradition.

As I mentioned in my speech—and I would like to hear the minister’s opinion on this—it is frustrating to hear this, and our impression is that we are becoming the sacrificial lambs.

This is a small thing as compared to the big Europe-Canada treaty, it is $12 million as compared to $12 billion. But that is not how we should be looking at it. It is also a failure to respect a tradition, and I would like to hear the minister on that point.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Conservative Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is encouraging to have a consensus from time to time. I realize it seldom occurs.

There is a consensus because the members agree. We want free trade that is fair. If there is a way to reach an agreement with the European Union, as proposed by this motion, there must be a system that will ensure that we are given consideration. I agree with that.

Europeans do not understand that it is important for us and not just in terms of culture. It is vital to the life and the economy of thousands of people here. We agree and we will continue to fight for that.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to participate in this important debate brought on by the May 5 vote by the European parliament to ban trade in seal products.

I would like to address some of the important issues underlying this debate, particularly those relating to wild animal hunts and the actions of animal rights activists.

We must be absolutely clear as to what is at stake.

Our animal rights opponents have a very clear agenda that will not stop with the seal hunt. They will target other wild animal hunts as well, and certainly fur trapping will again come up for scrutiny. Other sectors in Canada are also vulnerable as well to emotional, non-factual arguments of the type that have proven influential with European legislators. Attacks have been launched against Canadian forestry practices, and again we see that rural Canadians living closest to nature are the most vulnerable.

I am grateful, therefore, that this debate on the Canadian seal hunt has demonstrated the extent to which the primary products sector is so important in many regions of Canada. Most people in Europe and many in urban Canada do not realize that many small communities continue to depend for their survival on the land and the sea, much as they always have.

We owe a great debt to the Inuit and other Canadians in Nunavut and Atlantic Canada who proudly continue with their way of life despite the insults and lies. I am encouraged, in particular, that objective conservation organizations, which have taken the time to look carefully into this issue, are highly supportive of sealing.

A good example is the IWMC World Conservation Trust, headed by Eugene Lapointe, who previously served as secretary general of the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species. He made the following point, “The natural beauty in remote northern regions continues to exist because people maintain traditional ways of life. Central to this, is utilizing local natural resources, including seals”.

In a world where many regions, clearly, are living beyond their means, it is clear as well that rural, isolated communities with a strong sense of their place in the natural world must continue to exist.

Sealing is not a sunset industry with no relevance to the needs of today. Quite to the contrary. In addition to the pelts, which have been the main commodity, the oil and meat are increasingly valuable. Hunters have demonstrated great ingenuity in developing new uses, including the development of seal oils as a valuable diet supplement, and initial research on the medical use of seal heart valves is most encouraging.

However, it is also recognized that the challenges faced by our sealers in isolated northern and coastal communities are made much greater by actions, such as the May 5 vote in the European parliament. I am grateful that some European members of parliament took a courageous and principled stand in opposing the May 5 vote to ban trade in seal products. The French European MEP, Véronique Mathieu, was one of them. In her May 5 speech, she expressed profound disappointment and concern for the impact of the vote on Canada-EU relations.

In her speech, Madam Mathieu accused supporters of the ban of waging their campaign for re-election in the June 7 EU parliamentary elections on the backs of Canadian sealers, further noting that there was nothing to be proud of, especially considering the impact this ban has on the Inuit people and their economic livelihood. Madam Mathieu eloquently described the impact of the EU measure on our Inuit. For aboriginal communities, sealing is an important cultural tradition as well as a significant source of income. It has also been an important part of the Inuit way of life for thousands of years.

While the measure adopted by the European parliament today includes a limited exemption for some traditional Inuit and indigenous products, this will serve no useful purpose. Inuit spokespersons in both Canada and Greenland have consistently pointed out that such an exemption is meaningless if the overall market for seal products is destroyed by a ban.

European supporters of the European parliament's ban have been fooled by the animal rights activists. I would urge that they now take note of the boastful claims that their actions have already devastated the market, with the average price for a seal pelt below $15.

The Canadian government must remain vigilant against new anti-seal hunt initiatives. An article on the website of HSUS, a prominent anti-seal hunt NGO, states that it will now take steps to ramp up its campaign in Europe for a global boycott of Canadian seafood. It is very encouraging that the HSUS boycott initiative in the United States has been largely ineffective. HSUS claims notwithstanding, we cannot allow ourselves to become complacent.

Similarly, PETA, or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, launched a campaign asking VANOC and the Government of Canada to help end the Canadian seal slaughter. It has protested in downtown Vancouver and in some European capitals. PETA has the nerve to disrespect our Inuit people and all Canadians by distorting the inukshuk symbol for the 2010 Winter Games as part of its anti-seal hunt propaganda.

I urge all Canadians to stand firm against this type of blackmail and intimidation. The truth about the humane, sustainable Canadian seal hunt will prevail in the end. I know I can rely on the support of all members in the House as we move forward. I also wish to underscore my appreciation to Canadian sealers for the valuable lessons they and their communities are teaching the rest of us about living in harmony with the environment. I support the seal hunt.

Fisheries and OceansCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a fairly simple series of questions. I have said before that the oceans are dying and that it is an issue that receives short shrift in the House.

As part of the international conservation caucus, we had a meeting today with the head of the IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It is an international organization that ties together 11,000 scientists in 160 countries. It is the longest, most integrated and expansive network of organizations dealing with conservation on land and at sea. We know now that most whales are in danger and that there has been a massive die-off and a reduction in all large fish species. In my province of British Columbia, we have a massive problem in terms of salmon species.

Would my colleague put pressure on the relevant Ministers of Fisheries and the Environment to work together to deal with some of the severe and significant environmental concerns that we have on the west coast that are causing the collapse of our fisheries, not only on the west coast but also on the east coast?