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.