Mr. Speaker, let me be clear. The whole idea of shark finning is cruel and inhumane. It has a very strong negative impact on the shark population in our oceans around the world. To the degree to which it threatens to put some species of shark into extinction, there is no justification whatsoever for shark finning. At the end of the day, I believe this is an issue that has been around for a number of years. In fact, we could go back to 1994, when Jean Chrétien, the former prime minister of Canada, introduced a ban in Canada.
The bill, if amended, could have some potential to reinforce what we believe a good number of Canadians believe, and that is that shark finning is completely unacceptable in circumstances where the shark carcasses are thrown back into our oceans after their fins are removed.
Most Canadians would experience this by watching shows and news broadcasts. We see majestic documentaries that clearly show the role sharks have played in our oceans around the world, not only today, but for hundreds of thousands of years. Then we see the news broadcasts that paint a very ugly picture. They show how shark finning takes place on all of our oceans. They show where a shark is hauled from the ocean into a boat, is quickly de-finned and then thrown back into the water, where it is left to drown and the body left to decompose.
Many Canadians have seen these practices, whether on YouTube or in documentaries, and this has influenced their opinions on the issue. I believe that, generally speaking, shark finning is seen in a very negative light, as it should be. I suspect that there are very few Canadians who would support that type of shark finning, where the carcass is left to decompose.
Having said that, I want to highlight the fact that this is as an issue that has been around for a long time. The Liberal Party has taken, I believe, a responsible approach with respect to this issue. In 1994, we brought in legislation to ban shark finning outright, in terms of our own fisheries.
Many other countries have followed Canada's lead in terms of banning shark finning. We applaud those countries that have seen the value in doing what Canada has done. Sadly, there are still many countries that do not see this for what it is, the inhumane treatment of a shark, and they continue to allow shark finning to occur. There are many businesses and entrepreneurs that continue to practise this disgusting measure.
We are right to do what we can to send the right messages and pass the right laws in order to prevent illegal shark finning from taking place. To that extent, we believe that having the bill sent to committee would be a positive thing. It would be our intent to propose amendments in committee in order to make the legislation more acceptable. As it stands today, it is not acceptable.
We need to recognize that there are two types of shark finning occurring. What is offensive is taking the fins and disposing of the carcass. Throughout the world in many countries there is legitimate shark harvesting and where that occurs those fins are properly packed and ultimately end up here in Canada. It is done legally. There are many benefits to that being allowed to continue. We need to be culturally sensitive because there are cultures here in Canada that put a great deal of value on shark fins. Therefore, the House of Commons would not be justified in putting an outright ban on them. Yet that is what the bill would do if it is not amended.
While we are offended by the illegal shark finning that takes place worldwide, we also recognize both the economic and social benefits of allowing properly harvested shark fins to continue to arrive here in Canada. It is important for us to distinguish that.
We have seen city councils here in Canada and in many states in the United States attempt to deal with this issue by passing bylaws. In 2011 or around there, the City of Toronto attempted to ban shark finning and a court ruling overturned it. I am not sure where that case is now, but I believe that for the most part most politicians recognize the sensitivity of the issue and see the value of allowing properly harvested shark fins to come into Canada.
I am very much aware of how sometimes words can be twisted and I would caution members who might want to twist these words because I have had opportunities to talk to people of all ages on this issue, and youth in particular. It is very easy to go into a classroom and paint this picture of the brutality and the inhumane manner in which sharks are being exploited for their fins and to generate huge opposition to that. It appalls me, my constituents and Canadians when that occurs. However, that is quite different from those countries that have established laws and regulations to protect their fishing industries, including sharks, where it is done legally in a humane fashion and then packaged accordingly. We have to be very careful not to lump all as one in this situation.
Because it is a private member's bill, I have recommended to my caucus colleagues that we allow the bill to be sent to committee so that we can achieve the amendments that would ultimately create what a vast majority of the public wants, which is to target the illegal harvesting of shark fin that is taking place worldwide. We must hit it as hard as possible, but not penalize the social and economic considerations that need to be taken here in Canada. We have to look at the fishery industry as a whole.