Yes, I better double-check.
However, Madam Speaker, it is important to me to rise because I want to show my solidarity with the communities and workers of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Magdalen Islands, and northern Quebec and Canada, as well as the Inuit and first nation peoples, to whom it is important to have a flourishing, balanced, sustainable, and cruelty-free seal hunting industry.
I know full well that this has been a controversial issue for years. It is a contentious issue, and emotions run high. However, I think we need to take an approach that is rooted in science, sustainable development, and support from the communities where seal hunting is an essential, traditional, and important practice.
The NDP has always believed that seal hunting could be done in a responsible, respectful, and sustainable manner. That is why we are proud to rise in support of this bill to designate a national seal products day.
We believe in seal hunting because, since the dawn of time, all human communities have used the natural resources available to them for sustenance, survival, and development. First we were gatherers, then we learned to farm the land, to fish, and to hunt the animals around us. In those days, there were few human beings on this immense planet, and their impact on the environment as a whole was minimal.
We have since come to understand that our very numbers sometimes put animal and plant species at risk. Unfortunately, species become extinct every year, often due to human activity.
We also know that it is possible to hunt and fish responsibly with the help of credible scientific assessments to ensure that stocks remain healthy, reproduce, and are not put at risk. That is the case for all fishing in Canada, and also for hunting. We hunt deer and caribou because we can set quotas. We can scientifically calculate the number of animals that can be harvested in a year while ensuring the survival of the species or herd in a given region. The process applies to almost all our hunting and fishing activities, and I am personally convinced, as are my NDP colleagues, that we could very easily do the same thing for the seal hunt.
We have to keep in mind that seals, particularly harp seals, are not threatened at all. Here are the facts. In 30 years, the harp seal population tripled. There are now between eight million and nine million harp seals, which is the most commonly hunted species. According to forecasts for 2030, this population will reach between 10 million and 16 million individuals. We have to do away with misconceptions, with images that captured the public's attention over the past few years, and offended or distressed some people. I will come back to that. I understand how they feel, but let us look at the facts. This species is thriving, sometimes to the detriment of other animals, such as our cod stocks and other fish that seals prey on.
The grey seal population has increased from 10,000 to 500,000, that is half a million, in 50 years. No additional protection is needed for either the harp seal or the grey seal. We can continue to hunt them responsibly and use the healthy products derived from them. We know that we can use their fur for boots, coats, hats, and sometimes even ties, which are proudly worn in the House of Commons. Seals are also a source of food, fuel, and health products. When researching my speech, I learned that there is a growing market for seal oil, which is very rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. There are many interesting and beneficial uses for all the products derived from the seal hunt.
I have something important to say to all those who are concerned about the seal hunt. Only humane practices are used. Let us remember when certain European celebrities visited northern Canada to capitalize on this issue. Denis Longuépée, president of the Magdalen Islands Sealers Association, a man who is aptly named for a hunter, said that we would never be able to get rid of that image because, even though white coat seals have not been hunted for 25 years, people are still using that image. He added that we need to try to convince people to buy and try seal products.
It is important to remind anyone who is concerned about cruelty to animals that white coat seals are no longer hunted. The practice has stopped. Seal hunting is respectful, sustainable, and science-based, and it can be done without people always reminding us of that old image, which is no longer even relevant.
It is important to remind people of this because, unfortunately, that shocking and distressing image has managed to influence policy makers on the other side of the Atlantic. Indeed, the European Union has made decisions that we do not agree with. In August 2010, it decided to ban Canadian seal products. The structure of the European Union is very interesting. It is something I have studied, something that I follow very closely. The European Union generally makes good decisions; that one was not so good.
As parliamentarians, as the representatives of all those communities and the workers who make a living from the seal hunt, we need to take a stand. Creating a national seal products day would send a clear message to everyone, here in Canada and in the European Union. We need to continue to engage in dialogue with the European Union to reopen that market.