The 2011 Canadian Election and the Future for Seals: Reasons for Hope
The Canadian federal election was held last night and the political landscape this morning is like no other ever witnessed in this country. Canada now has a Conservative majority government with an National Democratic Party (NDP) minority.
Although Canada’s Conservative party generally brings to mind policies and positions that are unfriendly to animals, there is some good to be found in the election outcome.
And while Fisheries Minister Gail Shea held on to her seat in Atlantic Canada (possibly thanks to her 'publicity garnering announcements' on the seal hunt?), some of the strongest pro-seal hunt politicians were dumped out of office.
So Long, Seal-Haters.
Former Fisheries Ambassador Loyola Sullivan (the man who led the delegations in support of the seal hunt to the EU and elsewhere, wasting millions in Canadians’ taxes) did not win in the Newfoundland riding of St. John's South Mt. Pearl, Newfoundland. During the election, Sullivan launched a vicious and public attack against Liberal MP Dr Hedy Fry condemning her support for ending the commercial seal slaughter. But guess who won their seat? Congratulations Dr Hedy Fry!
Seal meat gourmand and Liberal party leader Michael Ignatieff also lost his riding and has resigned.
The seal-clubbing happy Bloc Quebecois held on to a mere 4 seats in Quebec and leader Gilles Duceppe lost his seat and has also resigned. Seal supporters may remember the ridiculous and rejected Bloc Quebecois idea that the Olympics be used to promote the Canadian seal slaughter, and perhaps recall the equally silly Bloc-supported event in Ottawa last year that served seal meat and showcased a film that criticized groups like the International Fund for Animal Welfare who dare to speak against the hunt.
Welcome, Seal Defenders!
While we are still going through the list of newly elected Members of Parliament, it appears as though compassionate Canadians can now count on at least 15 MPs –NDP, Liberal, and Green - who have indicated their opposition to the commercial seal hunt.
Of course, the most prominent of these is Green Party leader Elizabeth May. The Green Party has been courageous and vocal about their opposition to the cruel and unnecessary slaughter of seal pups and IFAW congratulates Elizabeth May on the historic achievement of being elected the first Green Party politician in Canada – indeed, in North America!
Hope for the Future?
Having the Greens with a seat in the House of Commons will hopefully provide a strong voice for seals. But for those of us who tend to fear a Conservative majority might take heart in remembering that – current government aside - historically, the Conservative party has not been entirely bad for Canada’s seal populations.
It was under a Conservative majority in 1961 that closing dates were implemented to limit the length of the sealing season and help conserve harp seal populations. This was done in response to scientists’ concerns that the population had been halved been 1950 and 1960.
Under a Conservative majority in 1987, the prohibition on the commercial hunting of whitecoat seal pups was implemented and the use of collector vessels over 65 feet was stopped. (The Liberals had refused the recommendations of the earlier Special Advisory Committee on Seals and Sealing in 1972). In 1988, the Conservatives upheld the position that there was no scientific basis to kill grey seals to protect fish stocks and continued to ban the hunting of this species for three more years.
And according to those who have been working on this campaign for longer than I have, Conservative majority governments are more willing to meet with groups like IFAW when in power.
There is also hope in the NDP, which currently does not have an official policy on the commercial seal hunt. However, in their replies to IFAW supporters a number of NDP candidates noted the party’s progressive stance on animal welfare issues, concern about the impacts of climate change on seals, and committed to holding stakeholder discussions on the commercial seal hunt. We remain optimistic that when presented with the facts on this issue: that not only is it cruel and inhumane, but does not even provide a decent living or economic opportunity for fishermen, that they too will realize that the best solution for both animals and people is to phase out this industry and support transitions to alternatives. In fact, among all Canadian political parties the NDP has the largest number of MPs who are on record opposing Canada’s commercial seal hunt.
IFAW will continue to work with Canadian politicians from all parties to encourage them to bring an end to the seal slaughter and we encourage our supporters to do the same. We need to remind our politicians that this is an issue Canadians care about every day, not just during spring elections or during the commercial seal hunt. Please visit ifaw.org/seals for tips on how to raise the seal hunt issue with your new Member of Parliament.
For more information about the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to end the Canadian commercial seal hunt, visit http://www.ifaw.org/seals