Mr. Chair, as I said earlier, we may actually have got off to quite a start when it comes to partisanship and I do not think that anyone is in a position to teach anyone else lessons when it comes to the seal hunt. For myself, I have been a member for five years now and I have had an opportunity to play an active role on this issue. We would not have got to where we are today without unanimity among all political parties on the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, from the Bloc Québécois, certainly, but also from the Conservative Party, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.
The reason we have got to where we are today is precisely that we were able to deal with the issue in a non-partisan manner. It seems to me that we are a little behind the curve, because demagoguery and disinformation have won out for 30 years now in Europe.
Yes, there has been a bit of action, but not enough to suit me. I have a lot of critical things to say about this, but they are intended as constructive criticisms. I also have a lot of ideas on this, or potential actions we could take to deal with the situation. To put us in context again, there have been 30 years of demagoguery and disinformation, which explains why this is no easy task. The challenge is enormous, immense. When it comes down to it, the ones we have to convince are the European parliamentarians, but also the 500 million Europeans. In the end, 500 million people in Europe have been contaminated by disinformation and demagoguery.
Each time I have gone there and have raised the seal hunting issue, I have had the impression—not that I was necessarily ill received, which is not the problem—that they had heard just one side of the story and here we were coming along with the other version. This is a counter-argument at last. It may be far too late in coming, in a way, because the damage has been done.
We can see that the European parliamentarians, who will very soon be off campaigning again, and are thinking of nothing else than re-election, of the elections looming on June 4, have almost unanimously decided to vote in favour of the ban. Only a very few, fifty or so, have decided to vote against it and one of those deserves our praise: Peter Stastny. Though I am not necessarily a backer of the Quebec Nordiques, since I am a Montreal Canadiens fan, I think it is worth noting that Peter Stastny was one of the opponents, and I read today that he was a pretty energetic opponent. Just as he has managed to score goals against my beloved Habs, I think he has scored some good goals in this instance, with a view to helping the truth win out. What we are trying to do in this issue is bring out the truth.
Things are now at the point that even greater intervention is needed. We can no longer content ourselves with having the Canadian embassy host the odd reception to talk about the seal hunt, giving a little presentation to a few individuals or calling people to a small meeting. We must go much further. That is why I believe we have reached a crossroads in this file. If nothing else, what happened today should shake us up and serve as a wake-up call. It should also serve as a wake-up call for the government, since it is not my intention to flatter them too much. We must all wake up, band together and come up with a real action plan that includes a real information and awareness campaign.
Personally, I have done little on this file strictly speaking, but in a way, I have done many things. I have had the opportunity to meet many parliamentarians and, if nothing else, I managed to get some of them to the Magdalen Islands so they could meet some of the people who live there. There were not many parliamentarians, only three. But the little effort I was able to make, along with the efforts made by the people of the Magdalen Islands in recent years, and the efforts we can all make in our own small way, can be significant.
We are at a crossroads. What is going on now must spur us into action, and we must also set aside partisanship. We must find a way to launch a massive information campaign with people who know about seal hunting, who engage in that activity, and who could eventually travel to Europe. They have already done so, but they must do so again. We could use the Centre d'interprétation du phoque, in the Magdalen Islands, which is a facility that already exists. A travelling exhibition could go to various places. It already does in Canada. We must make efforts in the right places. We must do something more significant than merely reacting to those who are challenging us, to abolitionists. These people are not defending animals. Rather, I see them more as abolitionists, who just want to abolish the seal hunt and who totally betray our history and traditions. We are well aware that the seal hunt is an activity that goes back 200 years or 300 years in the Magdalen Islands. I believe this is also the case in Newfoundland and Labrador.
It is an honourable tradition that is carried on with great pride. We must show very conclusively to Europeans that the seal hunt, which is a yearly activity, is not only aimed at selling sealskins to make money. It is an activity that is in the blood of the Magdalen Islanders, of the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador, and of those of the lower North Shore. It is an activity that triggers what will follow in the days and the months to come. That tradition is respectable and it is carried on honourably.
This is a good starting point. Indeed, in Europe, today or very soon, we are going to continue negotiating a free trade agreement. Ultimately, we must ask why we would act like barbarians when it comes to hunting seal, but not in the context of a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.
By that, I mean I can see that grandstanding and misinformation have prevailed, but we have tools at our disposal. We have to use them to the fullest. I am very pleased to see several ministers here this evening. It is clear that this has to be a team effort. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans cannot do it alone. She will need help from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade and other ministers involved in one way or another in this matter. They will all have to work together on this.
As someone put it, we need more leadership. Leadership is the only thing that will help us deal with this problem, this challenge. As I have often said, we no longer have problems; we have challenges. If we think of situations as challenges, we find within ourselves enough energy to deal with them. If we see them as problems, they are much harder to overcome.
This is a challenge of monumental proportions, but we can face it if we think of the people who hunt and fish every day in an honourable and respectful way. We have many good arguments on our side, but the best one is that we are standing up for truth. Sealing abolitionists will say anything. They say that hunters still go after baby seals, that their methods are cruel, and so on. We stand for truth, equipped with a report from independent veterinarians. These animals are not killed inhumanely. The seal hunt is like an outdoor abattoir. Naturally, an outdoor abattoir is not an easy image to sell as fantastic and wonderful. We cannot think like that.
I think that this is a tremendous challenge, but we are up to it.