Madam Speaker, I believe that the seal hunt is something people will have a better understanding of, in terms of what is being proposed, through education. As was pointed out by a Conservative member across the way, the designation of a day does not necessarily mean it is a holiday. However, it is a wonderful opportunity to ensure that there is a higher sense of education in terms of how important this industry is.
We often underestimate why the seal industry is so important. We can talk about heritage and the economic benefits. I would I like to spend a little time on those issues but also bring a bit of a different perspective on how important seals are to the north.
I have had many discussions about wildlife, in particular about polar bears and how they are very much dependent on seals, so there is a wildlife element.
I want to go to the economic and heritage sides. When we look at the communities that have been dependent on the seal hunt, we can get a better appreciation of the remoteness of the industry and what the individuals who are engaged in the industry have to do to sustain themselves.
We often take things for granted, whether it is clothing or food or economic survival. In larger municipalities, or even in rural areas, we can find grocery stores and economic opportunities. Once we get to the more remote areas, it takes a great deal of effort. I made reference to Newfoundland and Labrador, but it affects more than one province.
My colleague made reference to populations of between six million and eight million, minus the one that was possibly killed a little earlier today by the polar bear, as was referenced. There is a healthy population of seals.
We can think of the economic benefits. Without that seal hunt, there would be many communities whose existence would be more challenged. For others, it is their livelihood. Often it provides a supplementary income. Many individuals will be involved not only in the seal hunt but in other aspects of our fishery industry.
It is something that is often driven by heritage. Over the years, indigenous people, and even some non-indigenous people, have taken to heart the importance of the industry and the heritage aspect of it. As has been pointed out, it is something that has been going on for literally hundreds of years.
I look at it in two ways. One is from the heritage point of view and the other is the economics.
I started off by talking about education. Often, whether it is motions or legislation that will ultimately designate a day, and often even a month, we want to recognize something of significance for Canada. That really is what we are debating today. Bill S-208 would designate May 20 as a day when we would show appreciation of the importance of the seal hunt and seals to our country.
There are different ways we can deal with those designations. It is really going to be driven by members across the way. The member for Thornhill talked about his tie. We have seen a number of members around the House wear the seal tie. If we talk to members such as the member for Thornhill, they will express a sense of pride in the tie, because it is a very symbolic yet very important gesture that supports the seal industry. I know there are members of the Liberal caucus who have the same sort of seal tie. I am not part of that club as of yet, but I recognize that there is a very high sense of pride in those seal products.
My colleague from Labrador has brought seal meat to the lobby on occasion. I have had the opportunity to try some. I thought it was different, but interesting. I understand there are different ways of cooking it. I would not hesitate to try it again, perhaps cooked a little differently. I understand some people even eat it in the raw form.
The point is that there are ways we can celebrate the importance of the industry. I would like to think that we could even look at ways we could take it into a classroom. We can imagine how a school trustee, an MLA, or a member of Parliament could look at ways to highlight what we believe are important issues to the communities that we represent, even though, as my colleague pointed out, we do not see many seals around Winnipeg North. However, I recognize what it is and the industry as a whole, and I would love to see some class time dedicated by a teacher who has taken an interest in the industry, because it is about education.
There has been misinformation. We have heard that throughout the debate from individuals who really are not necessarily thinking of the well-being of the industry as a whole but are approaching it with a bias. The bias is to stop the seal hunt, not appreciating the heritage and the fact that we have a healthy seal population. There is not only a role for us to recognize the history of the seal hunt and what is happening today, but as has been pointed out, there is also a promising future.
When we talk about the importance of recognizing a single day, I suggest we allow members to appreciate it and recognize it in many different ways, from bringing it into the classroom to debating the issues and bringing them up in future S. O. 31s here in the House to sharing our ideas with members of the media. As with many different industries throughout the country, we need to appreciate and value those industries that have really touched the hearts and souls of so many, not only today but throughout the years. In particular, I focus on how important it is for our indigenous communities in recognizing and supporting the very strong leadership that has come to the table on this particular issue.