Making an impassioned plea, Canada's Senator Harb calls commercial seal hunt 'unviable'

On June 14, Canadian Senator Mac Harb moved second reading of Bill S-210, a Bill to end commercial seal hunting. Senator Harb made an eloquent and rational case for a discussion on ending the commercial seal hunt in Canada, based on the lack of economic viability of this industry, its reliance on public funds, and the need to provide solutions for the few remaining sealers who derive income from sealing.

Senator Harb’s bill remains on the order paper, and it will be discussed when Senate resumes next fall. We need to keep the pressure on the Canadian Senate and let them know that Canadians support an end to the sealing industry in this country. If you haven’t already, take a moment to write the Senate of Canada and ask them to support Senator Harb’s bill.

Below are the introductory remarks made by Senator Harb from Hansard

IFAW Director, Seal Program, Sheryl Fink, our own Sparky the seal and Sen. Mack Harb in Ottawa."Honourable senators, I am very proud to speak today to open debate on Bill S-210, which would amend the Fisheries Act to prohibit the commercial fishing for seals in Canadian fisheries waters and to disallow the issuance of commercial licences for seal fishing. Exceptions are made for commercial fishing that is carried out under a licence issued to an aboriginal organization or carried out by certain persons exercising harvesting rights under a claims agreement.

Honourable senators, I wish to start by first thanking the seconder of this bill, specifically Senator Cools, who has spent many hours waiting for me to pass this bill. I want to thank her for her diligence and her support of free speech. I also want to thank Senator Campbell and Senator Poy for agreeing to allow free speech.

Given the heavy government agenda, including the budget bill and the fact that the Senate is set to adjourn shortly, I have asked for and now received the Senate's support to provide the necessary time for this bill so it can be properly and fairly debated.

When I continue my remarks on Bill S-210, I will focus on the following issues: The status of the commercial seal hunt and the fact that there are no viable markets for commercially hunted seal products; the fact that our primary and secondary trading partners, the United States and the EU, as well as many other countries around the world, have banned the importation of commercial seal products; the fact that the majority of Canadians want an end to the commercial seal hunt; the fact that, out of 14,000 issued commercial seal fishing licences, only an estimated 225 sealers took part in the 2011 commercial hunt, highlighting the de facto end of the hunt.

Honourable senators, I will also talk about the government's need to be frank with commercial sealers and to help them move beyond the clinically dead seal hunt. I will be pointing out the fact that the sealers need to know the truth and the government must stop telling them that all will be fine, new markets are around the corner and that the EU market will reopen once the challenge to the WTO is successful. We know that the World Trade Organization challenge will not result in force-feeding Europe seal products. The challenge will not bring back the market. Europe, like the United States, has said "no, thanks."

Honourable senators, these are desperate times for sealers, who need actual and tangible government assistance and not the lip service they have been getting thus far. I will explain clearly that the sealers' licence buyout is the most effective and fair way to provide that tangible help to these hard-working Canadians and their communities.

I will also be speaking about cod and seals, which are happy neighbours but both are victims of human activities. Cod and seals have swum side by side in the same ocean for thousands of years, long before humans began to fish or hunt. They are not the problem — humans are.

Science shows that seals and cod are not enemies and it is the relationship with forage fish such as herring, capelin and mackerel that have impacted cod stock recoveries. Science will show that it was government inaction and misguided action on the fishery that was responsible for the depletion of the cod stocks and its continuing struggle to recover. The seals are not responsible. The government continues to abandon its responsibility as a steward of Canada's oceans and its resources.

Finally, I will be speaking of Canada's Inuit and First Nations hunters in their economic suffering. When the European Union drafted its ban on seal products, it included an important exemption for Inuit and First Nations' seal products but the government chose to ignore the opportunities this presented.

Canadians are asking these questions: Why not use this exemption for Inuit and First Nations to promote economic development in these struggling communities? Why not facilitate the processing plants, training, certification, labeling processes and marketing initiatives, which are concrete actions that could generate real jobs and real export opportunities for our First Nations? The government should be helping these hunters and not using them as a decoy to defend the unviable commercial seal hunt.

As you can see, honourable senators, there are many serious issues that we need to debate to find real solutions to some very real problems. Instead of working against animal welfare groups and environmental organizations, let us join hands with them to share ideas and resources and find answers that will actually help the communities in Atlantic Canada and in Canada's North. Answers will ensure that Canada fulfills its national and international commitment to sustain marine biodiversity and to ensure we have healthy, safe and prosperous oceans now and in the future."

Comments: 59

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

I am not Canadian, so I have no right to tell those lucky citizens of Canada what to do. I do dearly love that country as a beacon of moral rectitude and decency to the rest of the world. With high-quality synthetic furs and fabrics readily available, there is no longer a need for commercial seal hunting for human attire. It is my hope that Canada's government will outlaw the senseless slaughter of seals; such a move would be consistent with the well-earned reputation that Canada has in such arenas as human rights.
I was very touched when, as a teenager, I saw a memorial in the Parliament building in Ottawa to the beloved pets of the country. It occurred to me that a society with such a sense of priorities, honoring animals instead of warmongers, deserved much respect.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Please, do stop killing seals! It is absolutely crual, horrible and impossible to accept.
G. Shapira, Zurich, Switzerland

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

This is absolutely wonderful news after all the years of animal welfare people defending the innocent animals a government member has stood up and told it how it is. Senator Harb's presentation was perfect in order to capture the minds (and hopefully hearts) of the government to ban this horrific annual event.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Thanks you so much, Senator Harb, for telling it like it is. We must do everything possible to stop this horrific slaughter. These poor babies, killed in front of their wailing mothers! What does that say about us as "human" beings? To me it says that essentially, humanity sucks!

And yes, kudos to Sheryl Fink. I don't know how she does it. In fact, I can only imagine how witnessing this carnage year after year has affected her emotionally.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

This is wonderful news, i hope this passes!!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

An intelligent Government doesn't use the life of no the animal to win money. Also, I have news that the Government from Canada liberated for Chinese they kill the Bears of the ice, an aberration of this country. However, Will come the day that these cursed people that torture and they kill animals are going to the hell and for God a thousand years it is just one day!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

A bloody (literally) shame a democratic and proper Government still allows seals to be slaughtered: the government must have means to compensate these murderers in order that they can do proper work??!!!

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Three cheers for Senator Mac Harb!!! The only man in government to acknowledge the writing on the wall! And three cheers for IFAW and especially to Sheryl Fink, for having the intestinal fortitude to document, year after year, the brutality and bloodshed on the ice! Thanks to all of you folks.

 
Anonymous
2 years ago

Senator Harb , i implore you from the bottom of my heart to end this cruel and inhumane practice !!!!! There is no viable reason for this annual heartless slaughter other than making money !!! These are beautiful creatures being murdered in their 1st few months of life . Please , please stop their suffering NOW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Experts

Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Robbie Marsland, Regional Director, United Kingdom
Regional Director, United Kingdom
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union