Madam Chair, I come from a riding where 14 coastal municipalities depend almost entirely on fishing and seal hunting. I was very bitterly disappointed to see the position taken by the European Union, a position as illogical as it is senseless, confused and flatly partisan on the part of these countries.
The European Parliament has demonstrated unbelievable hypocrisy. The seal hunt is a cultural practice both in Quebec and in Canada. Given the advertising by some European extremists, how could we describe the bullfights, for example, in Spain? If we compare the methods used to kill a seal to the way they massacre bulls and horses in their bullfights, would it be any more logical for us to say that any product derived from horses or cattle that comes from Spain should be banned in Canada? That would be unbelievably illogical. It is a culture, in Europe just as much as in Quebec or in Canada. It is also a means of survival.
Take the communities on the Magdalen Islands, for example. A delegation from the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans toured the various fishery sectors earlier this spring. People were worried everywhere, be it on the Magdalen Islands, in Nova Scotia, in Newfoundland or on Prince Edward Island. Members of Parliament and members of the official opposition, the Bloc Québécois and the NDP took part in that tour and could see how worried the people who rely on this activity to survive were.
If they banned bullfights in Spain, I wonder what the reaction would be. We have seen the outright lies used to show the horrors of the seal hunt. At one point, the Canadian lobbyists who were vehemently and dishonestly denouncing the hunt even had to be told to stop.
We support the motion presented in this House. Why? First, the seal hunt is a lawful activity. Second, the Canadian government no longer funds commercial activities. Third, the slaughter of an animal, be it wild or domestic, is never a pleasant sight for anyone. There are ways of slaughtering, and the Government of Canada has been involved in finding the right ways to ensure that they do not suffer. Methods have been developed by experts.
There is an exception for the Inuit in Quebec, Labrador, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, but these people often market their products through third parties who label them with their corporate name, which means that these people will never be able to sell their products on the European market. It is incredibly hypocritical to claim otherwise.
We were very concerned when we visited the Maritimes this spring because of the huge increase in the seal population due to the controls put in place to eliminate overkill, which the European Union could have described differently. That really hurt the lobster and cod fishers, among others. This is not an excuse to say that we will hunt more seals, but we could have a legitimate hunt, as we have always done in Canada and Quebec. It is not a massacre as such.
For example, in Newfoundland and Labrador, at least seven coastal communities derived between 15% and 35% of their income from the seal hunt. I am looking at my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador, and I believe he agrees with that statement. Between 5,000 and 6,000 people derive income from the seal hunt. In most cases, it is supplementary income that makes up for losses they suffer occasionally. Some hunters say that the money they earn from the seal hunt makes up between 25% and 35% of their annual income. That is quite significant. It is much more significant than a corrida in Spain, for example, where there is a small economic boom during the corrida, but nothing afterward. Many innocent animals are killed during that time, or rather massacred.
On February 24, the Bloc Québécois had a motion adopted in the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans calling upon the government to intensify representations to the European Parliament and implement a widespread educational campaign in Europe to counteract the inflammatory campaigns of misinformation against the seal hunt waged by abolitionist groups. and to do everything in its power to ensure that hunters and the seal industry have the best conditions possible for the 2009 hunting season.
We will certainly manage to get through the 2009 season, but we must not lose sight of the fact that the European ban comes into effect in 2010. Before it does, we have an obligation as a government to take steps, immediately, promptly and vigorously. It is urgent.
There are many myths about the seal hunt. The Canadian government subsidy for commercial activities, for instance, does not exist. It has never been used and the potential funding could be applied to using the meat, the oil and the omegas produced by seals. There is a huge number of potential derivative products.
Unfortunately again this spring the myths about white coat hunts were circulating, yet they have been banned since 1987. That was not exactly yesterday. People claim that the seal hunt is not a sustainable activity. Given its ability to reproduce itself, if seal hunting is not a sustainable activity, this means that not one mine, not one single stand of forest, will renew itself. None of them renews itself as much as the seals can.
According to another myth, seal hunting is authorized merely to re-establish the cod stock. It may be of some use for that purpose, but the scientists are not yet sure of that. Anyway, that is not and never was the purpose of the seal hunt. We also know that the Canadian government has ensured that steps were taken to make sure hunters were certain the seals were dead before butchering them. So far those measures have been respected.