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.