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House of Commons Hansard #228 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.

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The House resumed from February 11 consideration of the motion that Bill C-380, An Act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act (importation of shark fins), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour has four minutes remaining to conclude his remarks.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this important issue. I want to thank my colleague, the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, for bringing this important issue to the attention of members of the House. Frankly, tens of thousands of Canadians have responded in an incredibly positive manner by agreeing with him and many members of the House that the finning of sharks at sea is an intolerable practice that needs to stop.

I talked at some length in my earlier comments about how approximately 100 million sharks are being killed each year primarily for their fins, shrinking the international shark population and resulting in the near extinction of dozens of species. The last time I was on my feet I spoke about the porbeagle shark, which has subsequently been listed as an extinct species. It is found off the Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia. The problem with that species is primarily the damage that is done as a bycatch. However, there is still a small directed fishery, and there was some attempt made at an international conference last fall to try to get Canada to recognize that it was another species nearing extinction and controls were required to be put on the fishing effort. Unfortunately, at that time Canada decided not to act, though there have subsequently been some efforts in this regard.

There has been a fair bit of polling done of the general population of Canada, and I believe over 80% of Canadians are opposed to this practice and would support a ban. Likewise, the majority of the Asian community also support the measures proposed by this bill. The question that needs to be asked and that is being posed by the member who sponsored this private member's bill is this. Why do we not show some leadership on this important issue, move forward, take action, and respond not only to the international nature of this problem but recognize the will of the Canadian population by proceeding with a ban?

Several municipalities have done that. It is not without its controversy, but New Democrats believe that it is time to act because it is the right thing to do. Surely, members in the House can agree to act on the basis that it is the right thing to do.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour or the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam for a minute. I have the honour of serving on the fisheries committee with them, and their dedication to fisheries conservation is well known.

I would like to start by making it very clear that the practice of shark finning, defined in this bill as the practice of removing the fins from sharks and discarding the remainder of the sharks while at sea, is a deplorable activity. There are up to 100 million sharks a year that are killed, mostly for their fins, according to the UNFAO.

I think I can say that from past discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, there is agreement that sharks play a critical role in our ocean ecosystem and the practice of shark finning as defined above is abhorrent.

In 2007, Canada released its national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks in response to international calls on states to do so within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Three shark species are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora: the whale shark, the great white shark and the basking shark. As a party to this agreement, often known as CITES, Canada takes seriously its obligation to prevent the import of products made from listed species.

This having been said, it is important to make the distinction between shark finning and shark fishing. The practice of shark finning is already prohibited in Canada and has been so since 1994. On the other hand, shark fishing does occur in Canada and has been occurring in Canada for over 80 years in many areas. Canada's shark fisheries are clearly sustainable and based on sound scientific advice. In fact, the Pacific spiny dogfish fishery recently became the first shark fishery to be certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, a testament to the efficacy of the controls placed on that fishery by DFO.

We have controls in place to manage shark fishing, just as we have controls in place for all commercial fisheries. These controls fulfill the government's duty to manage Canada's sea coast and inland fisheries on behalf of all of us.

In case anybody is tempted to ask, I will digress and talk a little about the budget that just came forward. We were very pleased to see that a new program is beginning for the conservation of fisheries through community partnerships. That is a testament to the government's action on behalf of fisheries conservation. Again, the dedication of the entire Pacific salmon stamp to Pacific salmon conservation is another milestone in Canadian fisheries conservation.

With regard to sharks, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning. For example, licence conditions, pursuant to subsection 22(1) of the fishery general regulations, are attached to porbeagle shark licences. Conditions clearly state that while fishing under the authority of these licence conditions, “Finning (the practice of removing only the fins from the sharks and discarding the remainder of the shark at sea) is strictly prohibited”.

Canadian fishermen can also sustainably harvest sharks on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts through directed fishing conditions for spiny dogfish and allowed bycatch of blue, shortfin mako and porbeagle sharks. However, annual landings of these sharks are very small.

Further, if the licence holder removes fins from any sharks that he or she has retained, the weight of the fin so removed cannot exceed 5% of the weight of the corresponding dressed shark carcasses that have been retained. In other words, a licence holder who has legally caught a shark can remove the fin of the shark as part of the normal dressing of a fish. Finally, to ensure compliance, all shark fins and carcasses must be unloaded at the same time. These measures are specifically to ensure that shark finning is not taking place.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada is also responsible for setting the quotas and for enforcing licence conditions that ensure sustainability. As mentioned earlier, shark fins cannot make up more than 5% of the overall weight of a shark that is on board a Canadian fishing vessel. In order to enforce this, all landings are subject to 100% monitoring by dockside observers to ensure compliance. Non-compliance with a licence condition constitutes an offence under the Fisheries Act, as enforced by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CFIA, is the federal department dedicated to safeguarding food, animals and plants, which enhances the health and well-being of Canada's people, environment and economy. CFIA regulates the import of food products, such as shark fins. CFIA is already exploring what can be done on the importation of shark fins.

Shark products for human consumption fall under regulations that address the importation of fish and seafood products. These regulations set standards for quality, safety, identification and are enforced by CFIA. It is not illegal to sell shark fins in Canada, and banning the use of shark fins would damage legitimate sustainable fisheries that supply fins but also other shark products.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans promotes the full utilization of sharks. I would note that shark fins are a specialty food product and a treasured food resource for many of Canada's communities. The fact remains that shark fishing is a legitimate fishery and its products are found in numerous places. Shark meat is available in restaurants and supermarkets under many names: fish strips, stockfish, and rock salmon. It is also in fish and chips or imitation crab meat. This is probably more than anybody ever wanted to know about sharks.

In the health sector, shark cartilage powder is marketed as a healthy food supplement. Shark liver oil is rich in vitamin A and is frequently an ingredient in every child's favourite food, cod liver oil. Some even market shark cartilage as an anti-cancer medicine, though evidence is still being sought in this regard.

Shark products are found in dog food, fish meal and even in fertilizers. Some people may even have shark skin wallets or boots. Collagen from shark cartilage is used in creams and other collagen preparations, and it is even considered kosher.

The Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, at its triennial conference in Bangkok, on March 3 to 14 of this year, took decisive action for the protection of a wide range of other plants and animals in order to improve the world's wildlife trade. At this meeting, Canada fully supported the decision to include protection for five commercially valuable shark species: the oceanic whitetip, the scalloped hammerhead, the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark and the porbeagle shark, which are harvested in significant numbers for their valuable fins. This decision means that they can only be traded with CITES permits, and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally.

In fact, the only criteria for fisheries management should be the sustainability of the fisheries resource, not polls. The regulations governing the trade of these products will come into effect in 2014. These new listings join those for three species already under CITES protection: the great white shark, the whale shark and basking shark.

I would like to quote the CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, who said:

This is a big day for CITES and for the world's wildlife. It takes enormous effort to negotiate treaties and then make them work. The international community has today decided to make best use of this pragmatic and effective agreement to help it along the path to sustainability in our oceans and forests.

Requiring CITES export permits will ensure that international markets are supplied by fish from sustainably managed fisheries and, again, sustainability should be the only criteria.

What has happened as well, given the CITES agreements, is that China, one of the world's biggest markets for shark fins, is already seeing the impact of the world campaign. Shark fin imports to China dropped off dramatically last year, to 3,351 tonnes, from 10,340 tonnes in 2011.

Canada believes that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong management and enforcement practices globally is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices. A complete trade ban would penalize responsible and legitimate fishing practices.

Bill C-380 can be seen as interference in the legitimate natural resource management policies of other countries. We must be very careful here. Canada has become a target of ill thought out and disgraceful campaigns by international activist organizations for what are very sustainable natural resource industries. We can look at the seal hunt, forestry and of course the oil sands. Bill C-380 sets a very bad precedent, is overly broad and could unfairly target sustainable fisheries around the world, just as many rural Canadian communities have been unfairly targeted even when science shows their resource use is sustainable and managed well.

There is a role for Canada to promote responsible resource management in international waters and fisheries, but we must ensure we follow the appropriate international channels and do not act unilaterally.

Mr. Speaker, as you can see, actions have been taken domestically and internationally to end the practice of shark finning, and they are effective. The measures in Bill C-380 do not add anything further to our current efforts, and that is why we will not be supporting the bill.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

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.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me today to offer support for Bill C-380, an act to amend the Fish Inspection Act and the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark and enshrine in legislation Canada's prohibition on finning.

I would like to thank and applaud my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his courage in raising this important issue.

As we all know, an illegal trade in animal body parts exists in the world, such as ivory and rhino horns from Africa, tiger parts from Siberia and bear parts from North America. I am not a hunter but I understand full well the practice of killing animals for food when done in a responsible way to feed people. One might say that shooting a deer in the wild could be considered more humane than putting animals through a slaughterhouse. However, being a meat eater, as most of us are, I accept all of these practices.

On the other hand, killing animals for trophies or body parts is totally reprehensible. That is why I do not support the hunting of grizzlies in my province or anywhere else for that matter.

I have seen the documentary Sharkwater and have watched how sharks are caught, their fins are cut off and they are thrown back into the water. This practice is repulsive, immoral and is largely driven by an underground market controlled by organized crime that exploits threatened and endangered species to maximize profits.

Nearly 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Trade is under-regulated, and it is almost impossible to ensure that imported fins have not been removed illegally or are not from threatened species.

Shark populations are slow to reproduce and cannot support the current overfishing. Sharks are essential to the health of marine ecosystems, and the decline in their population threatens to profoundly disrupt these ecosystems. In 2009, the International Union for Conservation of Nature reported that one-third of shark species were threatened with extinction because of this trade.

In a few decades, shark populations in certain areas have dropped by more than 95%, and they continue to decline. According to some experts, up to 20 shark species could disappear by 2017. In addition, it is impossible to know whether imported fins come from sustainable and respectful fishing.

Shark fin soup currently sells for between $8 and $100 a bowl in restaurants. However, in Canada as abroad, more and more people are refusing to serve or eat this kind of soup, and many Chinese restaurants have voluntarily taken this soup off their menu, including Floata in Vancouver, one of the largest Chinese restaurants in Canada.

Some municipalities in Canada have also passed, or will soon pass, bylaws prohibiting the sale of shark fins and related products. The communities in British Columbia that fall into this group are Coquitlam, Abbotsford, Duncan, Langley, the Township of Langley, Maple Ridge, Nanaimo, New Westminster, North Vancouver, Port Moody and White Rock. I congratulate the municipal councils for having the courage to pass these bylaws.

The Chinese government has required that shark fin soup no longer be served at state banquets. A number of prestigious hotels have removed this type of soup from their menu. Many countries, including the Bahamas, Ecuador and Fiji, territories like French Polynesia, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, as well as the American states of California, Hawaii, Illinois, Oregon and Washington have issued similar bans.

Some people say that Bill C-380 will have an impact on international trade. Based on our research, that is not the case.

We studied the possible consequences of an import ban in relation to the WTO obligations, and we feel that this bill complies with Canada's international trade obligations. Furthermore, my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam is open to amendments at committee stage.

We need to get the bill to committee to address any concerns anyone has.

There are a number of myths about Canada's current shark fin import laws. Some elected members have suggested that Bill C-380 is unnecessary because Canada already has enough laws and that Canada bans the trade of shark products from species protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) or the Species at Risk Act.

According to the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, this is false. Both CITES and SARA only protect three species of shark: basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks. In other words, out of 141 threatened or near-threatened shark species only 3 are protected by Canadian federal laws.

Another myth we hear is that Canada bans or restricts the trade, possession or sale of shark products that present human health or safety concerns. This is also false. Shark fins, which continue to be legally imported into Canada contain high concentrations of a potent neurotoxin, BMAA, which scientists have linked to neurodegenerative diseases in humans such as Alzheimer's and Lou Gehrig's disease. This is not unlike, for example, the link between phenylbutazone in horsemeat and aplastic anemia in children.

The third myth states that working through regional fisheries management organizations to ensure strong global management and enforcement practices is the most effective way to prevent unsustainable shark fishing practices such as finning. This is also false. As long as there is a demand for shark fins, there will be local industry pressure on governments not to prohibit the practice. This demand will also perpetuate the poaching of sharks in the waters of countries that already prohibit finning.

Canada has already been identified, for example, by CSIS as a destination country for poached shark fins from Australia, even though some Australian states have some of the world's strongest shark finning laws. Eliminating the demand removes incentive for fishermen to continue finning and poaching sharks.

We have a chance in the House to do something right together, to take a major step and end this disgusting practice. At a bare minimum, I strongly urge my colleagues who are here, and others who will be here later on, to support getting Bill C-380 to committee where there can be a detailed study with feedback from witnesses, as is the case in a democratic process.

It does not hurt, in any of these crucial issues, to have some more insurance. If we think we have good laws, let us beef them up and provide more insurance to toughen them up. We can always ease back on a law after we have toughened it up, but it is really hard to try to enforce something when we do not have the legislative background to do it.

For this reason, I urge my colleagues to support Bill C-380. I thank my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for having taken the initiative to bring this forward.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Conservative Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak on the important issue of shark finning. As others have said, I am confident that the consensus among all parliamentarians is that shark finning is a barbaric practice. We all agree on this.

The question is how to deal with the issue in an effective way. Bill C-380 is not the way. Why is that? It is because the bill calls for a ban on shark finning, which is already banned in Canada for Canadian licensed vessels fishing within and beyond our territorial waters. In fact, the practice has been banned in Canada since 1994, through licence conditions under the fisheries general regulations.

On the subject of import licence requirements, I am proud to stand before the House and report that our government is exploring options to identify a practical, effective and expeditious resolution to this issue. Specially, our government is exploring the option of adding additional conditions to arrangements that would require that shark fin imports be sourced from jurisdictions that, like Canada, ban the practice of shark finning. That way, we would bolster our domestic ban on this abhorrent practice by putting more teeth into our important protocols.

The course of this action would both respect Canada's international trade obligations and address the issue of shark finning. Best of all, once all of the appropriate considerations had been addressed, the new import requirements would be implemented more quickly than a regulatory change.

We have listened and we are taking action to address the major concerns of the proposed bill.

What are the current regulations? Recently, the issue of shark finning has received worldwide attention, as a number of animal rights and environmental organizations have blamed it for the decline of shark populations worldwide. These groups claim that between 70 and 100 million sharks are caught worldwide just for their fins, primarily for shark fin soup.

The practice of shark finning can be lucrative, yielding as much as $700 per pound for shark fins. Thanks to our government's regulations, shark fishing in Canada is governed by sustainable management plans and strong enforcement. We have strong management and enforcement regimes in place to ensure that finning does not occur in Canadian fisheries. These apply to all shark species in Canadian waters. Shark fisheries are subject to dockside monitoring, at-sea observer coverage, quota monitoring systems, electronic vessel monitoring systems and hail requirements for both the at-sea observer program and dockside monitoring program.

The Fisheries Act is the cornerstone of Canada's fisheries management policy, providing broad powers to the minister for the management, conservation and protection of fish resources. These powers include the discretion to, one, issue licences or leases for fisheries or fishing; two, allocate harvests among user groups; and three, protect fish habitat and prevent pollution.

Section 22 of the regulations provides the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans the specific authority to set out targeted licence conditions for the proper management and control of fisheries and the conservation and protection of fish, including sharks. These provisions provide the minister with the authority to impose, as a licence condition, measures to eliminate shark finning.

We can see that the regulations already allow the minister to impose, as a licence condition, the measure to eliminate shark finning. Therefore, the member's bill seeks to prevent something from happening in Canada that is already prohibited. Today, all licence holders for Canadian shark fisheries and for fisheries where sharks are landed as a bycatch are subject to licence conditions that prohibit them from engaging in shark finning.

The ban is enforced through a number of internationally accepted methods across Canada. One approach requires that the number of fins corresponds with the number of shark carcasses landed by shark fishing vessels. Under a second and more common approach, the number of fins on shark fishing vessels cannot exceed 5% of the overall weight of carcasses on-board when it lands. Both measures are intended to ensure that sharks are not caught solely for their fins.

All licensed shark fishing vessels in Canada are subject to 100% monitoring to ensure that this ratio is respected. Any violation of a licence condition is an offence under the Fisheries Act.

Penalties for those found to be in contravention of their conditions of licence range from warnings, to prosecution, to requests for court-imposed licence suspensions and quota penalties, to loss of privilege of renewal of the exploratory licence.

These measures were put in place to ensure that Canada's shark fishing conforms to sustainable harvesting practices. It is a very practical approach and it has worked well.

Canada's approach is an internationally accepted standard within regional fisheries management organizations.

Canada has additionally worked with other countries to put an end to this practice. Our government will continue to work with our international partners to ensure sustainable management of sharks, including the prohibition of the practice of fining.

Internationally, we promote the sustainable management and conservation of sharks through international organizations, including the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and regional fisheries management bodies such as the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas.

There are also a number of international agreements, to which Canada is a party, that govern the conservation, management and trade of certain at-risk shark species. For instance, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora protects the great white, basking and whale sharks. In early March in Bangkok the convention voted at a global wildlife conference to regulate the trade of shark species that have been threatened because their fins are used to make expensive delicacies in Asia. Delegates supported proposals to put the oceanic whitetip, hammerhead and porbeagle sharks on a list of species whose trade is closely controlled.

More than two dozen species of shark are officially endangered, and more than 100 others are considered either vulnerable or near-threatened. Imports of any of these shark species or any of their parts into Canada is only permissible if accompanied by an export permit from the country of origin, which certifies that the imported shark, or products derived from it, were caught in a scientifically proven sustainable fishery.

Our government has taken action against the deplorable practice of illegal shark fining. We continue to support responsible, legal shark harvesters and crack down on those who break the rules.

Furthermore, to strengthen Canada's protection of sharks we are exploring the option to add additional conditions for fish and seafood imports into Canada that would require that shark fin imports be sourced from jurisdictions that, like Canada, ban the practice of shark fining.

We believe that, with these measures in place, private member's bill C-380 would not be required, and we will oppose it.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-380, introduced by the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam. I thank the member for his work on this issue. I know he has been working extremely hard to move forward on this and that he has conducted extensive consultations.

There seems to be a consensus regarding this bill, except on the part of the Conservatives, who have a habit of opposing sensible legislation.

Nevertheless, I rise here today in the hopes of convincing them, since there will be a vote on this next Wednesday, if I am not mistaken. I hope we will have the support of enough members of the House to pass this bill and send it to committee.

I thought it was important for me to rise and express my support for this bill, and that of most of my NDP colleagues, at second reading here today. From what I understand, the Liberals will also be supporting it. I hope all members of that party will do so. I also hope that the Conservatives will get on board this time in order to put an end to this problem, which is affecting more and more marine ecosystems around the world. I will come back to this point a little later.

To begin with, as usual, when I study a bill, I like to see for myself exactly what is in the legislation. The bill we are studying here today is very simple. It contains two important points.

First of all, this bill amends the Fish Inspection Act. It prohibits the importation of shark fins not attached to the rest of the shark carcass. That detail is important. It is an important aspect of the legislation that I will explain in detail a little later. Second, the bill amends the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning. I support both of these very simple, sensible clauses in the bill.

The bill adds subsection 3.1(1) to section 3 of the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of fins, with some exceptions, since special permits can nevertheless be issued.

In addition, the bill also adds subsection 32.1(1) to the Fisheries Act, prohibiting the practice of shark finning and defining that practice. Those are the two amendments this bill makes.

Why are these measures important? Why did my colleague decide to introduce this bill today? The reason is very simple: we currently have a very serious problem with our oceans. Shark species are going extinct. In fact, approximately one-third of species are currently in danger of extinction. This is therefore a critical and urgent problem that we want Canada to help solve.

I know that this bill will not eliminate the problem overnight. However, at least Canada will have sent a very clear message that we are taking measures to try to reduce this practice as much as possible because we are aware of the problem that it is currently causing.

The situation is critical. We must take action to protect and preserve our marine ecosystems. Sharks are at the very top of the ocean food chain, and so they play an extremely important role in the survival of the ecosystem in general, which would be greatly affected by the extinction of most species of sharks. Sharks are a vital component of the ecosystem.

I would like to mention some important statistics. I think that all the members who spoke today mentioned that approximately 100 million sharks are killed every year for their fins.

If that trend continues, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct by 2017. Another important statistic: Canada imports an average of just over 100 tons of shark fins per year. According to a CTV news report, testing conducted in British Columbia to determine whether shark fins could easily be found in Canada and what species those fins came from showed that 76% of shark fins came from endangered species of sharks. That means that most shark fins in Canada come from endangered species.

How is shark finning done? In my opinion, this is a horrible, barbaric and abominable practice. It is inhumane to do what is being done right now: fishers are setting lines that are 85 km long in the hopes of catching sharks, knowing full well that many other species will be killed by this type of fishing. The sharks are even sometimes still alive when they are brought onto the boats. The sharks' fins are simply cut off and their bodies are dumped back into the ocean. Clearly, the sharks will then die because they cannot swim without their fins. It is hard to believe.

When I watched the documentary Sharkwater recently, I was quite surprised and disappointed to see that human beings are capable of being so disrespectful toward nature. These animals are basically being tortured. As I mentioned earlier, it is important that Canada send a clear message in this regard, and that is the spirit of this bill. Clearly, we object to this practice.

Earlier, I heard a member say that this could hurt the economy, but we know full well that shark meat is eaten only on rare occasions. Shark meat is rarely eaten. Most of the time, sharks are fished simply for their fins since their meat cannot be eaten because it often contains too much mercury. It is a bit of a flawed argument to say that the industry could also produce shark meat. It is a bit of a stretch to say that this would hurt the economy.

Communities that eat shark are changing their customs. The member for Brossard—La Prairie gave a speech about it. He said that the majority of communities and the new generation oppose the practice. Many countries, including China, have prohibited importing shark fins. China has also imposed restrictions, because it does not want shark fin to be served at its official banquets. The Chinese government has even signalled that it does not agree with the practice, which is a threat to our ecosystems.

I do not have much time left, so I would like to conclude by thanking my colleague once again and congratulating him. Today, Canada has a duty to send a message that we oppose this practice and we no longer want to be part of this trade, which is often a black market trade and even involves organized crime. This bill sends a clear message to the international community that we are taking this situation seriously, that we want to protect our ecosystems and that we want to protect the environment for future generations who will have to deal with the fallout of this practice if we do not put an immediate end to it.

I encourage all of my colleagues, from all sides, to support this bill and send it to committee so that any necessary amendments can be made. I know that my colleague is open to sensible proposals. At the very least, this bill should be sent to committee.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé to resume debate, I must inform her that she has only three minutes remaining for her speech, so that there is enough time for the right of reply.

The hon. member for Berthier—Maskinongé.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

March 25th, 2013 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Ruth Ellen Brosseau NDP Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to support Bill C-380, introduced by my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam. This bill would amend the Fish Inspection Act to prohibit the importation of shark fins that are not attached to the rest of the shark. It would also amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the practice of shark finning.

This has already been mentioned a number of times today, but it is worth repeating that every year, up to 100 million sharks of all species—even endangered species—die because of shark finning and overfishing. This number far surpasses biologically sustainable levels.

Sharks are vital to the long-term health of the oceans. Their disappearance would have unforseeable consequences for the oceans, particularly for marine habitats and fisheries.

The shark fin trade is a horrific practice that involves cutting off a shark's fins on a fishing vessel and then throwing the living animal back into the ocean. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

I fully support this bill. A survey carried out by Humane Society International at the beginning of 2013 showed that 81% of Canadians support prohibiting the importation of shark fins into Canada.

I have examined this issue from every angle. I see nothing but good reasons for moving forward with prohibiting the importation of shark fins.

As elected members of Parliament, our job is to represent the interests of Canadians in the House of Commons. The statistics are clear. The importation of shark fins must be banned. Mustel Group's statistics were similar to what the Humane Society of Canada came up with.

In the time I have left, I want to congratulate my colleague from New Westminster—Coquitlam for his work on this issue. He held a number of consultations to prepare a truly balanced bill. I congratulate him on that, and I look forward to seeing the outcome of the vote, since I think this is worthwhile. We are here to protect our ecosystems. We must leave a better world for our children. I look forward to seeing how this turns out. I want to see the bill sent to committee.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleagues for participating in this second hour of debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-380, which seeks to ban the importation of shark fins to Canada and enshrine in legislation Canada's current prohibition on shark finning.

I will conclude second reading debate on this bill by addressing a few key points.

First, there is a strong need for this ban. Since the first hour of debate, an important new study has come out, authored by a group of well-respected scientists. It found approximately 100 million sharks were killed each year, although it stated that this number could range as high as 273 million, which is far above sustainable fishing levels. It concludes:

Global total shark mortality...needs to be reduced drastically in order to rebuild depleted populations and restore marine ecosystems with functional top predators.

Its findings gained international media attention for it provided further evidence that the global shark fin trade was driving the depletion and likely extinction of numerous shark species around the world.

Canada can become a world leader in shark conservation and ocean stewardship by moving forward with a shark fin import ban, which would prevent over 100 tonnes of shark fins from being imported to Canada each year.

The shark fin trade in Canada, in which currently participates, drives the horrific practice of shark finning. Many of my colleagues have spoken to that. It drives the illegal targeting of threatened and endangered species, some of which are supposed to be protected under CITES.

Earlier this year I sent each of my colleagues a DVD of the film, Sharkwater, which shows how, even in jurisdictions that have banned shark finning, organized crime drives a hugely profitable black market. In Canada recent DNA testing has proven that fins from endangered sharks are commonly imported into the country. In 2012 testing of 56 fins obtained in Vancouver and Richmond stores showed 76% came from threatened and endangered sharks. Similar results were obtained from a 2010 study.

Canada has seen numerous municipalities move forward with local bans on the sale and trade of shark fin. They are explicitly asking the federal government to also take action. There is no excuse for the government to drag its feet on this time sensitive conservation crisis.

Experts predict that if current trends continue, up to 20 shark species could be functionally extinct within this decade. In a few decades, some regional shark populations may decline over 95%.

Shark conservation is an issue about which Canadians care deeply. They recognize the grave threat posed to ocean health by the continued targeting of these important apex predators. Sharkwater filmmaker, Rob Stewart, who wrote to MPs this week in support of my bill, stated:

The removal of sharks from marine ecosystems will gravely destabilize the balance of the oceans and may lead to the eventual disappearance of other populations, including commercially caught fish and shellfish species lower in the food chain. We need to take action in order to avoid a potential ecological crisis.

I would also like to draw to the attention of my colleagues an editorial published in the Toronto Star yesterday, authored by city councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam of Toronto and Kerry Jang of Vancouver, as well as Joanna Hui, founder of the Ethical Chinese Consumers Alliance. They stated, “banning shark fins is not an attack on the Chinese culture”.

All three are leaders in the Chinese Canadian community. All three are leading efforts to halt the trade of shark finning. They also point out that in Canada and around the world, Chinese leaders are the ones leading and supporting efforts to implement bans on the shark fin trade. A poll by Environics, released last week, indicated 81% of Canadians would support a federal importation ban on shark fins.

The world has acted before to stop the targeting of elephants for their ivory and rhinos for their horns. Sharks are another example of demand for a single high-value animal part driving the unsustainable slaughter and waste of an entire animal.

It is imperative that Canada take immediate action to halt our role in the destructive and often illegal shark fin trade. The health of our oceans is at risk, as is the survival of sharks.

I ask all colleagues to support my private member's bill. Let us get this important bill before committee so that it can be thoroughly studied.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It being 12:04 p.m., the time provided for debate has expired.

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

BAN ON SHARK FIN IMPORTATION ACTPrivate Members' Business

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93 the division stands deferred until Wednesday, March 27, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

The House resumed from March 22 consideration of the motion that this House approves in general the budgetary policy of the government, of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

When the House last considered the motion, the hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou had six and a half minutes remaining in time for his remarks.

The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Friday, we were discussing statistics on education in first nations communities, and I would like to repeat that they are quite appalling. I wanted to show why we need to invest more in education. It will help not just aboriginal youth across the country, but also Canada's economy.

Between 2004 and 2009, the rate of first nations graduation was approximately 36% compared to the rate of 72% for the general population. None of those statistics should surprise the government, because those are the kind of results we get when we underfund first nations schools by 30% compared to what provincial schools receive. That underfunding was not an accident, nor was it an oversight. That has been deliberate policy from both the Conservative and Liberal governments.

During the Prime Minister's meeting with first nations leaders in January, he did promise again to renew his government's approach to issues like these, but in this budget there is no new money for first nations schools. They will still face a 30% shortfall for another year. Young children, fighting for an education in communities like Eabametoong, Elsipogtog, Lac Simon, Lac La Ronge, will receive considerably less than other students in provincial schools.

The members in the government benches need to ask themselves this question. How reasonable is it to expect children and youth to achieve in their educational pursuits when they are put at such a disadvantage every day?

Unfortunately for first nations youth, Minister of Finance was not done with his handy work. He decided to go a few steps further, reach back into his dark days as finance minister of Ontario and reintroduce one of the biggest policy failures that the Harris Conservatives brought to our country.

In this budget, the Conservatives decided to introduce training funds for aboriginal youth, but with one major caveat. To qualify, first nations communities would have to agree that recipients of the income assistance program would undergo specific job training. This means that in order to get access to these funds, communities must agree that youth between the ages of 18 and 24 cannot collect welfare without taking job training. This is a workfare scheme, similar to the one that Mr. Flaherty brought-—

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I remind the hon. member, we refer to ministers and other members in the House by their riding or their title, in this case. The hon. member.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I apologize for that. In the 1990s the Minister of Finance brought this deeply disturbing and disrespectful proposal to Ontario. It does nothing to deal with the underlying problems in first nations education that I mentioned on Friday. It is the kind of blame the victim approach we have seen in the past from the Conservatives. It saddens me to see it again today.

In a twist that seemingly only the Conservatives could make happen, only $109 million of the $241 million budgeted for this vile workfare program will actually be used to fund the training. The remaining $132 million will go toward administrating the workfare scheme. Only the Conservatives would consider spending $132 million to administer a $109 million fund.

Quality education and training opportunities are vital for aboriginal youth to have a better future. However, it is simply wrong to force any group of people to do any activity to receive the simple benefits that everyone else receives for nothing. This approach smells of discrimination. It was not lost on me that the Conservatives decided to introduce this policy on the United Nations' International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. The government should be ashamed of that, but I doubt it is.

This proposal in the budget will not help move aboriginal youth forward and, in my opinion, it is a slap in the face to those who have hoped for some positive educational and training ideas from the government. It is mean-spirited and divisive policies like these that make it impossible to support the budget.

The Conservatives were given another chance with this budget to show that they were truly committed to making our country work and prove that they were truly improving the lives of all Canadians. However, they have again decided to ignore that chance and opted for the same failed approaches they have given us since 2006.

We will see what the Conservatives will do this week. However, I will do the right thing and vote against this budget because it is a continuation of the wrong approach toward first nations.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's speech was very eloquent and gave an excellent analysis of the impact the budget will have on first nations communities and also the impact it will not have.

Many things are needed to ensure good relations between the federal government and first nations communities. A lot has been said about that over the course of this past year. Not only is the budget sorely inadequate when it comes to the needs and the economic development of first nations, but it also contains harmful and toxic measures. One of these harmful measures introduces workfare in first nations communities.

My colleague spoke about this issue, and I would like to give him the opportunity to speak more about how the federal government's coercive measure for labour training, as the government likes to call it, will affect first nations. The objective of this measure is to impose the federal government's vision.

Financial Statement of Minister of FinanceThe BudgetGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash NDP Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague and neighbour for his excellent question.

First nations had high expectations for the budget. The Prime Minister's remarks led us to believe that the budget would finally contain something good for first nations. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and the example I gave is just one of many.

I was raised to try to look for the good in what is proposed, even by my political opponents. I looked at the budget from a Canadian federal perspective, from a Quebec perspective and from a regional perspective. Forget that, because they abandoned the regions. I could not find anything. What is proposed, this workfare, is just an attempt to try something again that did not work in other jurisdictions. This work model was proposed in Quebec in 1989 or 1990. It was also proposed in New Brunswick and in the majority of American states. The only place it worked well was in Massachusetts, and that was because in that case, it was voluntary. People were not required to do what is proposed in this budget.

Unfortunately, it is a bad approach, as I said in my speech. That is why I will not support the budget.