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The Politics of the Seal Hunt

The Canadian Senate Debated Ending the Seal Hunt in 2012

Below is Sen. Mac Harb's speech at the debate on Senate Bill S-210 on October 16, 2012, to amend the Fisheries Act to end the seal hunt. The text also contains the responses from other Senators. Thus far, the Senate has not passed bill S-210.


Sen. Mac Harb
Sen. Mac Harb, Canada

Fisheries Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Harb, seconded by the Honourable Senator Poy, for the second reading of Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act (commercial seal fishing).

Hon. Mac Harb: Honourable senators, I am very proud to rise today to continue debate on Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act, which would prohibit the commercial fishing for seals and disallow the issuance of commercial licences for seal fishing.


I would like once again to thank honourable senators for supporting the debate of this important national and international issue. I look forward to a debate that leaves behind emotion and focuses on the facts, facts that will be more closely examined when the bill moves on to committee.

A poll done in June of this year by Environics Research tells us that 69 per cent of Canadians support the passing of this bill. Seventy-one per cent of Canadians oppose using tax dollars to promote the hunt and 85 per cent of Canadians would approve the use of tax dollars to put a program in place to transition sealers into other employment opportunities. This is the reality that we, as politicians, have been ignoring for far too long. When it comes to the commercial seal hunt, the government needs to face this reality and accept the facts.

There are no viable markets for commercially hunted seal products. The majority of Canadians have called on their government to stop propping up the commercial seal hunt with their tax dollars.

The government should support Canada's Inuit and other First Nations whose seal products are exempt from the European seal trade ban and who can benefit from their unique access to the EU market.

Seals are not responsible for the lack of fish. Scientific evidence shows it was government inaction and misguided action on the fishery that was responsible for the depletion of the cod stocks and its continuing struggles to recover.

Finally, Canada's $5 billion commercial fishery needs the government to step up and meet its national and international commitments to establish sustainable ocean management practices.

Honourable senators, the commercial seal hunt is clinically dead and has effectively ended. Although there are 14,000 issued commercial sealing licences, only a few hundred sealers took part in the 2011 hunt. The 2011 landed value of the seal hunt was just over $730,000. Sealers earned an average of $3,000 that year, before deducting costs such as fuel, food and ammunition.

The commercial seal hunt accounted for only 0.002 per cent of the provincial GDP of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2011.

Prior to the opening of the 2012 hunt, the largest seal fur buyer in Canada closed its doors to seal products.

In February of 2012, the Newfoundland government "loaned" $3.6 million to a Norwegian-owned company operating in the province to buy and stockpile pelts. Due to that loan, almost 70,000 seals were killed in this year's hunt and the pelts were dumped in warehouses. What will they do next year — another $4 million taxpayer-funded loan?


Honourable senators, the markets are gone. More than 34 countries, including Canada's number one and number two trading partners, the United States and the European Union, have banned the trade in commercial seal products. Last winter, Russia also banned trade in seal products. Switzerland and Taiwan are now working on bans. This trend reflects the growing international concern, supported by a new landmark report published just this fall in the international journal Marine Policy, which concluded that the commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane given the conditions under which it operates.

Honourable senators, the government misled sealers in early 2011, saying they would soon start shipping seal products to China. However, the Chinese have not and may never open markets for these products. A few weeks ago, more than 50 Chinese organizations, representing tens of millions of supporters, sent an open letter to each honourable senator, saying that Canada's push to send seal products to China has caused "irreparable damage to Canada's reputation in China" and that the Canadian government is "out of touch with the latest developments in China."

The government is also out of touch with how Canadians want their tax dollars spent. Remember, 71 per cent of Canadians are opposed to using their tax dollars to promote the commercial seal hunt and 67 per cent of Canadians are opposed to any tax dollars being spent to support the commercial seal hunt, but their money keeps on pouring down the drain.

Along with funding million-dollar loans to a foreign-owned company with no customers, Canadians will be on the hook for $10 million spent on a futile challenge of the EU ban at the World Trade Organization. The European General Court dismissed a 2011 attempt to have the ban overturned, and legal experts agree that the ban respects international protocols for banning trade. There is no doubt in my mind that the WTO challenge will fail — and it should.

Canada has routinely carved out exemptions from trade agreements to protect our cultural industries and our values. Should we now tell the 27 EU member states that while we maintain the right to protect our values, we deny them the right to protect theirs? It may also be worth stating the obvious: The EU is not ordering Canadians to stop the hunt; it is simply respecting the democratic choice of its own citizens not to have these products brought into their countries.

As many as 100 European parliamentarians are now calling on Canada to withdraw its challenge of the EU seal ban prior to the upcoming vote on the multi-billion dollar Canada-Europe trade agreement. Remember, this agreement could boost Canada's gross domestic product by $12 billion annually and increase bilateral trade by 20 per cent. The government is risking it all for an industry with no visible life signs. It is unbelievable.

The fact is that even these futile efforts are not helping the sealers. The sad reality is that sealers are being abandoned by their government. They are being let down and deceived. Sealers are the victims of this government's lack of action.

The proposed medical use of seal heart valves has failed clinical tests. Canadians are not buying the product. Canadians are not eating the meat and, not surprisingly, the rest of the world is not, either.

To quote John Furlong of the CBC, who writes on the fisheries:

How much experimenting can we do to market seal meat? Only a handful of Newfoundlanders can gag it down. Why do we think there's a broader market somewhere?

It is a good point.

Honourable senators, the old days of the seal lamp oil markets are gone. The commercial seal hunt will never be what it once was. We have to move on to an industry buyout. Sealers are facing hard times and all they are getting is lip service.

The government has to sit down with the stakeholders in the industry and talk realistically about an industry-wide buyout. I am talking about the formal end of the commercial seal hunt, while allowing subsistence hunting to continue. Fishermen who hold sealing licences would receive financial compensation and economic alternatives would be developed in the communities most affected. This solution was used to end the commercial whale hunt in Canada, and it worked.

The good news is that a buyout would cost less than the subsidies required now just to prop up the sealing industry.

I believe these sealers themselves will be supportive. A survey done by Environics Research last year indicated that two thirds of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion were in support of a sealing licence buyout. The people interviewed were not just sealing licence holders; they were active participants in the commercial seal hunt. While polling shows that most Canadians do not want tax dollars used to subsidize the sealing industry, Canadians overwhelmingly support funding a transition program for sealers.

Let us put it in perspective. In 1992, after the collapse of the northern cod fishery, the Canadian government provided nearly $4 billion to help fishers and plant workers adjust to the closures. Before the 1992 moratorium, the cod fishing industry was worth $250 million a year. The funds needed for a buyout of the sealing industry is far less in comparison to what the government has spent on other buyouts.

The government could turn its relationship with animal rights groups from a problem into a solution. Humane Society International (Canada), IFAW, PETA, and Canada's various environmental groups are more in touch with national and international opinions on these issues than politicians will ever be.

There is a way to take advantage of this plentiful natural resource in a different, sustainable way. Just this week, we learned of a new initiative in the United Kingdom where tourists can pay to tour Britain's largest seal colony during breeding season for the first time in its history. The non-profit sector can help. Let us draw on their expertise, research and broad bases of support to find meaningful investments into viable initiatives in lieu of the commercial seal hunt.

Let us now turn to the situation facing Inuit and First Nations hunters. Canada's Inuit are experts at living off the land in a very challenging environment. I would like to take a moment to explain how the government's action — or should I say inaction — has made their challenges that much more difficult. Inuit and First Nations people in Canada have been hunting seals for thousands of years to survive. They have an inherent right to do so. The European Union acknowledged and respected this right when drafting its commercial seal products ban.

The government knew the EU ban was coming and it had a responsibility to ensure that Northern hunters' access to the market remained open. Instead, it opted to take a back seat as communities in the North struggled to cope with these changes. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami was pressured into an appeal of the EU ban because the government did nothing to make the Northern exempt status work in their favour. The Inuit problem with marketing their product is not their problem or an EU problem; it is the Canadian government's problem. The problem here is not the market but the lack of government marketing support, plain and simple.

When the EU ban went into effect, Minister Leona Aglukkaq, Member of Parliament for Nunavut, said in a statement, "in these difficult economic times . . . northern sealers need our support now more than ever." However, where was that support? Where is it now?

The federal government chose instead to use the Inuit hunt as a decoy to defend the failing, larger commercial seal hunt. Our Inuit communities have been badly used by the government as the public relations face for the commercial hunt, despite the fact that their traditional subsistence hunt bears no resemblance to the relative new kid on the block, the commercial seal hunt. That strategy has certainly not saved the commercial hunt and it has caused great harm to the Northern hunters.

Unlike the commercial sealers who get a fraction of their annual income from the commercial hunt, for some Inuit and Aboriginal hunters, the sale of seal products is the only source of income in a region that is going through difficult times.

Let us look at the situation. The unemployment rate in July 2012 for Nunavut was 14.8 per cent compared with the national rate of 7.3 per cent. Half of Inuit adults earn less than $20,000 per year. They face serious issues involving lack of housing, poverty, illiteracy, poor health and food insecurity.


The EU exemption created a unique opportunity for the government to work with the hunters and their communities to create a viable and value-added industry. This could have led to widespread economic development creating lasting jobs in the North.

Canadians are asking now: Why did the government not use this exemption to promote economic development in these struggling communities? Why did the government not facilitate the labour training programs, processing plants, training programs, certification facilities, labelling processes, marketing initiatives and shipping facilities, taking concrete action that could generate real jobs and real export opportunities for these hunters?

Now, honourable senators, let me move to dispel the myth of the cod and the seals.


Despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary, the government stubbornly defended and fueled the myth that seals are responsible for the depletion of the cod stocks. It set higher quotas than the DFO scientists recommended and considered sustainable. It called for the slaughter of seal populations in direct contradiction to best practices and scientific expertise, and why? Because it was politically expedient to do so.


As honourable senators know, the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans has undertaken a study into the grey seal population on Canada's East Coast. I am concerned that the reason for the study was to justify the minister's predetermined desire for a cull, but I appreciated the opportunity to hear wide-ranging testimony from those involved in the fishery, both scientists and fishers.

We heard from many expert scientific witnesses who have spent their entire career studying these complex marine ecosystems. I am here to tell honourable senators frankly that they would be hard pressed to find a single scientist appearing before the committee who would agree with the premise that seals are responsible for the low number of cod in our waters. Despite the overwhelming scientific evidence, sadly, fishery legislation gives broad discretionary powers to the ministers who can make decisions irrespective of science-determined guidelines, targets and principles, a matter I will discuss at more length in a moment.

Honourable senators, it is widely acknowledged that overfishing and poor fisheries management brought the cod to the brink of extinction in this country, but still the current government curries political favour by ignoring the science, even lifting the moratorium on cod fishing in some areas, despite the fact that it remains endangered. Then they blame the seals.

However, seals are not to blame. New research coming out of a 2011 study by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientist Kenneth Frank showed that the collapse of the cod in the 1990s was caused by human overfishing, resulting in a population explosion of plankton-eating forage fish, such as herring and capelin. The forage fish population exploded by 900 per cent after the cod collapse. At these levels, they competed with cod and sometimes ate cod eggs and baby cod, hampering the cod recovery. It was not the seals.

Eventually, the overpopulated forage fish ran out of food and their population started to decline. Around 2005, the ecosystem went into a "recovering" state, where cod populations began rising again. Now, honourable senators, the cod are recovering on the Scotian Shelf and on the Grand Banks, despite or perhaps because of the abundance of grey seals and harp seals in these areas.

You can see that seals and fish can live side by side peacefully.


Scientists like Ken Frank and Boris Worm concluded that changes in forage species could explain both the failure to recover and the subsequent recovery of cod stocks. And, given that seals feed primarily on forage fish, one can reasonably conclude that the reduction in the number of seals will lead to another increase in forage fish populations, which could have a negative impact on the recovery of cod stocks.

However, in order to score political points, the government continues to increase seal hunting quotas and dismiss evidence that shows that the steady rise in the commercial hunt and targeted slaughter is definitely not in the best interest of our fisheries and oceans.


Honourable senators, Canada has one of the world's most valuable commercial fishing industries, worth more than $5 billion a year and providing more than 130,000 jobs. It is the true economic mainstay of approximately 1,500 communities in rural and coastal Canada. Unfortunately, the government is failing to manage responsibly this precious resource and important industry.

The Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on Sustaining Canada's Marine Biodiversity released a report this past February that called the government to task. In fact, they said:

Despite pledges on conservation and sound policies, Fisheries and Oceans has generally done a poor job of managing fish stocks, planning for whole ecosystems and protecting marine biodiversity.

Honourable senators, this report accuses the government of failing to protect our oceans, leaving the nation's ocean species at risk. Its chair, Professor Jeffrey Hutchings, who has appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, said that the government has failed to meet national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity. He is not the only one to think so.

Allow me to quote Ecology Action Centre's Marine Conservation Coordinator, Dr. Susanna D. Fuller:

Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has failed to have enforceable rebuilding targets. . . . We do not have timelines, targets or recovering harvest rules for commercially fished species. . . .

Two decades following the cod collapse there has been no meaningful rebuilding of cod and the northern cod stocks are considered endangered . . .

. . . the failure of fisheries management is the primary reason for stock collapses in Atlantic Canada. . . . Efforts to improve fisheries productivity should first look at the human impacts rather than seek other explanations that would not require us to change fishing practices.

Ironically, honourable senators, the Royal Society report singled out the excellence of the work done by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists in their efforts to meet Canada's commitments on marine biodiversity. Now these scientists and their work are on the government's chopping block. This is what this government does when science gets in the way of political ideology. It shuts down the science and fires the scientist.

The Royal Society report found that the 1996 Oceans Act, which would have helped move Canada towards sustainable ocean management and provide some checks and balances on the minister's discretionary powers, has not been effectively implemented. This delay has led to the politicization of the fishery decision-making process. A broad management plan might have prevented the reopening of the cod fishery in these areas, and we might be seeing the results today with stronger cod numbers.

The Royal Society report tells us that other developed countries facing the same pressures as Canada have done much better. For example, in Australia, Norway and the United States, it is science, not politics, that determines key decisions about fisheries.

It is not just this expert panel calling on the government to fulfill its obligations. In fact, the Newfoundland Minister of Fisheries, Darin King, in a letter submitted to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, called on the government to take steps. Minister King pointed out that Newfoundland Premier Dunderdale had written to the Prime Minister in April 2011, reminding him that her province has long advocated that fisheries management decisions, particularly those pertaining to the setting of total allowable catches, be based on scientific evidence.

He is right. The cod reopenings and the fact that the federal minister ignored his own scientists' warnings about the vulnerability of the harp seal herd in 2011, setting the total catch 25 per cent higher than the scientists recommended, tell us all we need to know about decisions being made based on scientific evidence.


Honourable senators, because of a lack of management protocols, policies have been created based on hypotheses, public perception and, of course, political expediency. For instance, since the number of seals has increased since the 1970s and since it has taken some time for cod stocks to recover, the government is assuming that those facts are related and is therefore calling for more seals to be hunted and slaughtered.


However, scientists tell us that seal populations are currently only a fraction of what they were 100 or 200 years ago, before the advent of the modern commercial hunt, when, incidentally, there was an abundance of cod.


Marine scientist Dr. Heike Lotze told Fisheries Committee members that 100 to 200 years ago, most populations of seals and other marine mammals were much more abundant than they are today — a lot more — and, as a result, I believe it is not correct to assume that we have a problem, as some would point out.

When we talk about seals and fish populations, we have to realize that both have been much higher and that they have both been negatively affected by human activity. Commercial seal hunts or culls are not and should not be used as population management measures. Frankly, honourable senators, it is a waste of taxpayers' money and simply irresponsible.

We need a science-directed approach to fisheries policies, and we just are not getting it. While this government holds press conferences and throws good money after bad searching for non-existent markets for the seal hunt, our oceans and the multi-billion dollar fishery industry that depends upon them are being put on the back burner.

It does not have to be this way. According to Dr. Hutchings, DFO scientists have been working for years to incorporate a precautionary approach to identify target limits and reference points. It is part of the sustainable fisheries framework of DFO to do this, but it has not yet been done.

We also need to address a serious problem identified by the Royal Society report, namely, the major conflict of interest at Fisheries and Oceans Canada between its mandate to promote industrial activities and its mandate to conserve marine life and ocean health. We know all too well which mandate takes precedence when push comes to shove with this government. Short-term gain leads to long-term pain.

Canada can no longer claim to be a world leader in ocean and marine resources management. We have lost our international credibility when it comes to our environmental policies. Scientists are being silenced and facts are being ignored in the interests of short-term economic and political gains.

Sealing no longer provides a livelihood in East Coast rural communities. The commercial hunt has been dealt a mortal blow by the changing demands of the marketplace. However, the government continues to misdirect scarce public resources trying to conjure markets out of thin air and futile battles against our major trading partners. Our international reputation takes a beating every spring as the boats head out to the seal herds and Canadians join millions of people around the world calling for an end to a hunt that has no modern relevance.

The seal population is also facing climate change challenges in declining numbers. This is a one-way evolution, and it will not turn around tomorrow or five years from now. This government cannot allow nostalgia or political expediency to cloud the facts. The conversation has started. The topic is no longer taboo, even here on Parliament Hill.

It is time for real leadership that recognizes its responsibilities to support sealers and to transition those left high and dry by the end of the commercial seal hunt; its responsibilities to Inuit and First Nations hunters with viable markets to develop; and its responsibilities to the majority of Canadians who have been calling for a formal, dignified and proactive end to the commercial seal hunt.

Along with this, and perhaps most importantly, it is time that the government take its responsibilities as the steward of an ocean nation seriously and fulfill its national and international commitments to sustain marine biodiversity and to ensure that we have healthy, safe and prosperous oceans now and in the future.

Honourable senators, I am asking you, in the same spirit and courage in which we came together to support second reading of this bill, to show the same courage by supporting the motion to send this bill on to the Fisheries Committee for an open and in-depth public hearing. We owe it to the sealers, we owe it to Canadians, and we owe it to the international community to explore this issue with the help of informed experts and with the help of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Further debate? Will Senator Harb accept a question?

Senator Harb: Yes.

Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette: Honourable senators, I will come back with a speech of my own after hearing the speech today about the great economic concerns of the honourable senator.

Is the honourable senator aware of whom we are serving by banning seal hunting and not fighting for these hard-working people? European parliamentarians have in fact exploited our fish off the coast of Canada and, of course, none of this is mentioned. If we are living this experience, there are two predators: the fishermen from other countries and, of course, the seals.

We must also take notice that we now have a population of nearly 10 million seals. Yesterday I was watching a Suzuki video about bears that are nearly extinct from of a lack of food, because they do not have access to seals any longer. In fact, the seals have no predators and that is the problem.

We are talking about control of our resources and about an industry that is limited but necessary to the coastal population. How does the honourable senator reconcile the fact that he would like to put these people out of work and have some respect for the European parliamentarians who are now in the process of adopting a policy at the European Parliament to start killing seals because the seals are consuming all of their fish?

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Senator Harb: I thank the senator for the question. Let me put it this way: This is not about us and them. This is about us, collectively. We cannot have it both ways. We live in a global community. We have had poll after poll across the country showing that the majority of Canadians do not want the commercial seal hunt to continue.

By the same token, our number one trading partner, the United States, in 1974 banned the importation of commercial seal products. Our number two trading partner, the European Union, with 27 countries, has also told us they do not want our product. Now we have Russia, which used to be a very big proponent of the commercial seal hunt, saying no.

On an annual basis, honourable senators, we have millions of people — and my office has received in excess of 700,000 to 800,000 emails in support of this bill. These are people. We have to listen to them. We cannot just turn around and say that because Europeans have killed a few hundred seals, we will not support this bill. No. On the contrary, we have to listen to our own people who are telling us that the time has come to end the commercial seal hunt.

Another result is there is no market. The market is dead, finished. Why are we putting our heads in the sand? Why do we not tell the sealers the truth? Why are we being so obnoxious and rude to our trading partners, our own people and the sealers, Newfoundlanders, who expect better?

We have the minister who went to China and came back saying we have a trade agreement with China to sell seal products, so sealers in Newfoundland started packing seals and waited to start shipping them to China. What happened to that agreement? We found out there was never an agreement. In fact, 50 organizations from China have written an open letter to each and every honourable senator saying that they are insulted.

Not only that, not long ago, someone in one of the provinces said it is okay if Europe shuts down; we will sell to the Chinese because they eat anything. What an incredible insult to a population of 1.2 billion people who know better and are telling us they do not want it. Where is it? Who is there? Tell me, who wants this product? Name them.

Senator Hervieux-Payette: I did not expect a very clear answer. I want to point out to all honourable senators that there was a call to the commission of the European Union on October 13, 2012, to investigate the reduction of fish stocks owing to natural predators, such as sea lions, seals and cormorant. They will draw up and implement management plans to regulate the population in cooperation with the affected member states. The parliamentarians in Europe voted for that study to control the population: 461 voted for, 141 voted against and 42 abstained. In Europe, when the problem is at their door, they act and take the decision. I do not know if my colleague is serving the interests of the Chinese or the Europeans, but we are here to serve the Canadian people.


Senator Harb: It is a false notion that if one kills the sea lions or the seals then the fish will recover. In fact, honourable senators, the United Kingdom has done that, has culled the population, and the result is still unknown. They do not know whether or not the fish recovered. Norway did the same thing in 1980, 1990 and 2003. They do not know the result. Iceland did the same in 1982. They said there was no formal evaluation and culled biomass fluctuated without trend. Namibia did that in 1993; South Africa did it in 1993 and 2001. California did that with the sea salmon in 2005 and 2007. I will name the rest for the record.

The Baltic States did that to try and save the cod, as did California. British Columbia did so, as well as Alaska.

In each situation where they went after the seals or sea lions in order to save the fish, there is no proof whatsoever that the fish came back. We have to let this out of the way. Killing the seals does not ensure that the fish will come back. In fact, the opposite is happening in some areas.

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: I find it ironic that Senator Harb talks about debating without emotion when in fact it is emotion based on misinformation that drives the animal welfare movement and that is behind this bill.

Anyone who knows anything about seals — I have hunted and eaten seals, along with many of the people in my constituency — knows they eat fish. Scientists told the Fisheries Committee that a mature grey seal eats a tonne to a tonne and a half of fish a year, yet Senator Harb talks about an illusory world where fish and seals live in perfect harmony. If these huge predators do not eat fish, what does he think they eat? Does he think they are vegetarians?

Senator Harb: There has been a study, which I would be happy to make a copy of and deposit in this chamber, showing that the grey seals are not responsible for the cod depletion. I would be happy to table that study. I know the committee did not have a chance to see that report, but I will table it in order to prove the point based on science, not emotion.

When the Department of Fisheries and Oceans appeared before the committee, they told us that the diet of the seal in terms of cod is 1 per cent to 24 per cent. That is a major variation. That could be almost nothing or it could be up to 24 per cent. Rather than turn it around and say they want to slaughter every single seal in the ocean because they might be able to save the cod, why do they not first try and figure out the reality of it, which is the minister's mismanagement of his department when it comes to the fisheries policies, the fisheries strategies, the national strategies that have to be put in place but that are not there? Forget that. Every civilized country in the world has a proper management plan. We are one of the very few countries without a proper management plan for our fisheries.

Why were the fisheries opened when they should not have been? The decision was not based on science. It was based purely on politics. Remove politics from the decisions and allow the bureaucrats and the scientists to make those decisions, and I assure honourable senators that we would not have to beat up or club any harp seals.

Senator Patterson: I think my question was answered: They do eat fish.

Does Senator Harb understand that the Inuit depend on selling meat and high-quality leather to make their subsistence hunting viable? Does he understand that the European ban and the animal welfare movement have combined with devastating effect on the income of the Inuit from this renewable resource economy they have practised for thousands of years? The bill will finish the job started by the animal rights groups, and I would like to ask whether Senator Harb recommends that Inuit should be on welfare rather than pursuing their traditional way of life. That is where they have been driven by the animal rights movement, of which he is a spokesman, and by this bill, which will finish the job.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I regret to inform the senator that the time for his speech is over. Is he prepared to ask the chamber for an extension in order to reply to Senator Patterson?

Senator Harb: Yes, please.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Is time granted, honourable senators?

An Hon. Senator: Five minutes.

Senator Harb: I do not know where my colleague received his information. Obviously it is completely wrong and is based on false fact. The EU Regulation 14, and I quote it for the record, specifically deals with Inuit exemption:

The fundamental economic and social interests of Inuit communities engaged in the hunting of seals as a means to ensure their subsistence should not be adversely affected. The hunt is an integral part of the culture and identity of the members of the Inuit society, and as such is recognised by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Therefore, the placing on the market of seal products which result from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities and which contribute to their subsistence should be allowed.

The honourable senator needs to get his facts straight. That is what this government is doing, trying to use the Inuit as a decoy in their fight at the WTO, trying to muddy the water.

If this government is serious about helping the Inuit, they will put programs in place to help them in the certification of product, training, and processing facilities. The government should do all that because the EU has said they will buy the product from the Inuit. All they want is for someone to certify that the product comes from Inuit communities. What is the honourable senator doing to lobby his government so they will get off their rear ends and do something to help the Inuit people? What is he doing?


Hon. Ghislain Maltais: Honourable senators, I know that Senator Harb is a good person. In his zeal to defend this cause, he stated at the beginning of his speech that a few people in Newfoundland eat seal meat. Yet, these few people to whom Senator Harb is referring are full-fledged Canadians. I am from the north shore of Quebec. The few people in Eastern Canada and the Atlantic regions who eat seal meat should be treated the same as all Canadians.

I would therefore like to give Senator Harb the opportunity to say that the few people in Newfoundland who eat seal meat are full-fledged Canadians. I submit this respectfully.

Senator Harb: Honourable senators, I am not the one who said that. It was Mr. Furlong, who was a CBC reporter at the time. If the honourable senator wants Mr. Furlong to change his opinion, then he can always ask him to do so. However, if I am being asked whether the people of Newfoundland are Canadians, then the answer is yes, of course, they are Canadians.

In the end, the question that must be asked is as follows: if seal meat is a delicacy that everyone loves, why is it not on menus across the country? Why are we trying to force Europeans to eat something that we refuse to eat ourselves?

Senator Maltais: Honourable senators, that was not the question. Senator Harb quoted a CBC reporter. However, he was aware that those words could be hurtful to people in Newfoundland and the Atlantic region.

Therefore, I would like to ask the honourable senator to apologize on behalf of this man, whom I do not know but whom the senator knows very well, and not to quote him in this chamber anymore. I also very humbly ask Senator Harb — and I know he is a good person — to simply get his facts straight about people in the Atlantic region.

Senator Harb: Honourable senators, I would just like to say that Mr. Furlong is a great Newfoundlander and a great Canadian.


He is a stauncher supporter of seals than many of my colleagues here. I will just quote what Mr. Furlong, a well-known journalist in Canada, said on CBC:


How much experimenting can we do to market seal meat? Only a handful of Newfoundlanders can gag it down. Why do we think there's a broader market somewhere?


Senator Maltais, I do not understand what the problem is.

Senator Maltais: Senator Harb continues to repeat comments that I find to be insulting to the people of Atlantic Canada, especially those he mentioned who are from Newfoundland and Labrador.

I believe that when a wise senator makes an unwitting error, he will do the right thing, and that takes care of the matter. I do not wish to discuss the seal hunt today because, believe me, we will do so in due course. However, as a Canadian, I am offended by what Senator Harb has repeated.

I concur that they are not your words, but I would ask that you please do right by the people of Atlantic Canada.

(On motion of Senator Carignan, for Senator Manning, debate adjourned.)





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