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.