Statement made on 05 May 2009 by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette:
Honourable senators, in fact, today is the day we need to talk about it in greater detail because the European Union has passed a significant regulation calling for a near-total boycott of seal products. This is a very sad day for the people of Newfoundland, the Magdalen Islands and our Aboriginal communities. Even though the regulation provides for one minor exception, I must say that it reflects a certain paternalism that is characteristic of older countries. The EU is saying that people here can hunt and declare their income, but they cannot sell products. I do not know how the Europeans can reconcile the two. They say it is okay to hunt seals, but they do not want seals to be shot or killed using the traditional hakapik or other tools. Presumably seals have to be killed by the Holy Spirit! I have to say that I find it extremely insulting to Canadians to know that we continue to be the victims of propaganda spread by animal rights activists who are vegetarians. These people will not recognize that humans share the same planet and the same resources, and that Canadians use this resource in a way that is environmentally friendly and in accordance with accepted hunting practices. I must say that it is very disappointing that public opinion in Europe was swayed by the extremely powerful media campaign.
We should tell ourselves that those members do not have many seal hunters in their ridings. I am told that they could lose the election if they do not pass this motion. Given the current global economic problems, I do not think that Europeans are bothered by the seal hunt in Canada.
Still, we should recognize the core of this issue: it is not the seal hunt but, rather, the fact that human beings eat animals. After targeting the seal hunt, they will focus on other sectors. Indeed, this same lobby is campaigning against the consumption of fish. This will surely be of interest to my colleagues opposite. These people maintain that fish should be left alone to live in peace, that we should not disturb them and that we should not eat them.
There is also another lobby in Europe that has launched a campaign against egg consumption. This is rather odd, because vegans, the strictest vegetarians, do not eat eggs.
When we understand the philosophy behind this measure, we realize that these people went after the lowest common denominator. They did not target the beef or poultry sector, because they would have had to deal with powerful industries. Those who hold these views are not mere amateurs and they are aggressive. They are mostly American lobbies who campaigned in Europe with audio-visual techniques that would very often distort the nature of seal hunting. They invented images.
For example, they showed a naked woman, lying on the ground, wrapped in a Canadian flag, with a red liquid dripping onto her body. This illustrates the degree of reflection on this issue. I am mentioning it, because I find it insulting for women to see their body and our flag used in such a vile and grotesque fashion to convey a strong message.
I remind you that this issue has been debated in the European Parliament since September 2006. This is more or less the apex for this parliament. However, there is one more step left: the ministers of each parliament must legislate on these issues. Let us not forget that seal hunting and seal products were banned in certain countries, including Belgium.
The government maintains it position. We are going to the WTO. We went to the WTO, following Belgium's decision. Guess what happened? Nothing. Today, we are still saying that we are going to fight and that we will go to the WTO. In case you did not hear about the softwood lumber issue, we have surely spent more than $20 million in legal costs, not to mention the hundreds of millions to help that industry.
The simplistic solution proposed by our opponents is to pay hunters to stay home, even though this is their legitimate occupation and they make a good living. This is a supplementary income that allows them to live decently, at the beginning of the season, before going fishing. Doing this would deprive Canadian workers of their right to work.
Currently, these workers get two things. First, they get continuous training from experts, veterinarians and animal pathologists who teach them how to hunt seals properly. Second, a group of experts, including anthropologists, oceanographers and members of the industry and of the Aboriginal community, recently spent over two months drafting a universal declaration on the ethical harvest of seals. Last week, that declaration was fully endorsed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. That government has no problem at all defending this industry, which is covered by this policy statement.
We hope that all governments participating in this activity, and with which we have contacts, will endorse the declaration. Last week, we sent all European parliamentarians and their governments a copy of that document, which is available at www.sealsonline.org. The universal declaration is in English, French and Inuktitut. In it, you will see the principles that were developed. Ultimately, we will be able to file this declaration with the United Nations, knowing that it is consistent with other international conventions, such as those on the preservation of biodiversity. In so doing, we will know that all conservation movements will adopt this kind of ethical approach regarding a very difficult human activity.
As I mentioned a little earlier, Mr. Harper will be in Prague this week. Even if we must sit down at the negotiating table and review the whole trade picture with Europe, it is important, since the president of that country sits in the European Parliament, to begin a dialogue with the various governments, to assure them that we are going to respect this declaration and to ask them if they want to sign on to it. I should add that this declaration could apply to the hunting of other wild animals.
In conclusion, I invite honourable senators visit the website www.sealsonline.org to look at the Universal Declaration on the Ethical Harvest of Seals to ensure that we are working with the highest ethical standard. Our industry is suffering greatly from this ban. The price of seal skin will be reduced dramatically, and this group will suffer.
I want to thank my colleagues, both in the House of Commons and here, who are great supporters of this activity. We have 308 MPs and normally 105 senators, and of those only one does not support this activity.
Honourable senators, I hope that you will all support the declaration and that we will all fight for this portion of our population that deserves our support.
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