Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words and the actions of my colleague, the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and thank her as well for sharing her time on this very important issue.
I come from a little island community called Williams Harbour. It is a sealing community like so many along the coast of Labrador and around the coast of the island of Newfoundland, and on the north shore of Quebec.
I come from a sealing family who has participated in the hunt for generations like so many other families within our province. The hunt is a part of our livelihood, yes, and just as important, a part of our tradition. There is something about the seal hunt, like so many other practices or traditions in our country, that makes us what we are. It is a part of our identity and without it we do not feel the same. We do not feel as complete.
I can speak in that way as a Labradorian, as a person from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. I can speak in that respect as a northerner who lives in the northern part of our country. I can speak in that respect as an aboriginal person whose traditions go back hundreds and indeed thousands of years.
When it comes to the seal hunt itself, and we look at this particular ban, we can say categorically that the members of the European Union were duped, that they have bought into a lie, and that they have bought into a campaign of misinformation. That is a dangerous precedent if a sham can somehow become law, that affects our livelihoods and affects our way of life.
When we look at some of the particulars in the ban itself, like the exemption for Inuit, that is a farce. It was just a face-saving measure on the part of the European parliamentarians. They talk about it in the global context that somehow this comes out of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It is a fallacy. That particular exemption has been condemned by Inuit leaders and aboriginal leaders throughout the country. It means absolutely nothing. This ban is still an attack on a way of life, on our traditions, our practices and our culture.
The ban also talks about allowing certain countries to carry out a cull on the basis of ecological integrity or trying to maintain some balance in the ecosystem.
I do not know of another country that has a seal population of approximately seven million animals. I will repeat what was said before by a former premier of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. He said, “They're in the water. They're not eating turnips. They are eating fish. They're eating caplin. They're eating cod. They're eating salmon. All of these species, the salmon, the caplin and the cod face challenges in terms of sustainability”.
So, it is ironic and hypocritical that we have the European Union countries saying we can cull the animals for ecological integrity in certain countries, but we cannot have a sustainable, humane hunt that also carries, as a part of its integrity, the ecology, the balance that we require in our own ecological systems. They are hypocritical in terms of what they have put in this particular ban and they are also playing into a false argument and using an exemption that means nothing when it comes to the Inuit.
I will use myself as an example. I am a quarter blood Inuk, but I would not necessarily be able to participate in the hunt under this particular ban even though I have participated in the seal hunt the last two to three years and I hold a commercial sealing licence. We also harvest seals for food and for crafts or household use. We have that balance within our own culture already.
I appreciate the fact that all parties in this chamber are on the same page, that we are all trying to work through this issue. I appreciate the fact that there is some unanimity among all colleagues in the House, but we have to ask some questions.
We have to ask questions about the government's strategy, or if it even has a strategy to protect the seal hunt. We have to ask what type of tactics were used in terms of the Conservative government's approach. We have to ask what type of action was taken, or was there a lack of action. I ask these questions in all seriousness.
Was the Conservative government's approach co-ordinated? Did it involve the provinces and the territories in a meaningful way? Did the government involve aboriginal groups? Did it involve organizations like the Canadian Sealers Association or the Fur Institute of Canada? How co-ordinated was the response? What elements made up the so-called campaign? Was there publicity?
I have not seen any pro-sealing ads from our government to be quite honest. Maybe the parliamentary secretary could produce one for me. I have not seen an information campaign from the government educating the public within the European Union as well as parliamentarians over there because a lot of what is happening is a result of public pressure on those parliamentarians.
How aggressive were the diplomatic efforts? I am not questioning the personal integrity of Ambassador Sullivan, but how effective was he? How much support did he have in terms of doing his particular work? If there was a co-ordinated, technically driven campaign, how much money was actually expended?
These are legitimate questions to lay on the floor of this chamber. We deserve some answers, sealers deserve some answers, and those in our communities deserve some answers to these particular questions.
It is also incumbent upon the government to review its strategy, if it had a strategy, to see where it failed. Where were the weaknesses? Where were some of the potential strengths? These are all crucial questions.
Our sealers are in need. Our sealers are hurting and their families are hurting. Our communities need help.
The Minister of International Trade said that sealing was crucial to the livelihood of sealers and their families. What are we going to do now since the seals have taken to the water? Are we going to provide income support? Are we going to extend EI benefits? Are we going to launch a campaign? Are we going to have a WTO challenge? What are we going to do now?
We are talking in the House, but people want answers. They want to know what went wrong. They want to know what is going to happen to help them now. I ask these questions with a sense of sincerity and with a sense of integrity because I am thinking about the people back home. I am thinking about the many families who are hurting.
I get calls every single day, as do other members from my province, from people asking what we are going to do for them now. They want to know how we are going to help them out now. They need help. There has been a promise of some help, and rightly so, for lobster fishermen because they are going through a difficult time. Our sealers are no less important, our fishermen are no less important, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in Quebec, or in the north.
Where is the help for our sealers and for our fishermen when they need it most?