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April 15, 2008
The following statement was issued by the Honourable Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
Call to Ban Use of Hakapik in Seal Harvest
I rise in this honourable House to report on a very important meeting that I had today with the Premier of Nunavut, the Honourable Paul Okalik. I am pleased to announce that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Government of Nunavut are joining together and calling on the Government of Canada to ban the use of the hakapik as part of the annual Canadian seal harvest.We have also written a letter to the Prime Minister on this issue today.
Our two governments recently participated in a sealing industry advocacy mission to Europe that was led by the Federal Government.
I am advised, that within each country the use of the hakapik was a dominant issue and continues to be viewed in an extremely negative manner. These are the very countries that are in the process of deciding whether or not to ban the importation of seal products from Canada. That vote is set to take place in June, so immediate and decisive action is necessary and time is of the essence. Premier Okalik and I are prepared to move quickly and decisively.
The Canadian delegation was told repeatedly that a ban of this tool may prove to dispel some of the negative opinions regarding the Canadian seal harvest. Clearly, this is a core issue in Europe and is used as part of the anti-sealing rhetoric that is being put forward to their policy and decision-makers. This is an opportunity to disarm them of something that is used negatively against our sealers.
A ban on the importation of seal products is a very serious issue that impacts Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike. It affects people in coastal communities across Canada who depend on the seal harvest for income. Indeed, the 1983 European Economic Community ban on the importation of whitecoats and bluebacks reduced the total Inuit income in Labrador alone by one-third, and it had a tremendous negative impact on Aboriginal communities.
There are approximately 16,000 sealers across this country, many of them living in rural areas with limited employment opportunities during the winter. That is why we are joining with our colleagues in Nunavut to fight back on this serious issue.
In reality, the hakapik is only used by five per cent of sealers in our province. Anti-sealing groups have been clear and consistent in using the image of the hakapik as a means to advance their cause.
Our governments are saying that we should no longer tolerate this as a country by putting those who oppose our way of life in a position to depict us as inhumane.
The seal harvest is carried out by people who are earning a living in a humane and sustainable manner. Both independent veterinarians and the European Food and Safety Authority have recognized the Canadian seal harvest as one of the one of the most humane harvests of marine mammals in the world.
Our hunt is sustainable and humane and that should continue to be the focus of our message.
To that end, I am pleased to have had the opportunity to have met with Premier Okalik and I look forward to our respective governments working together on this very important issue.
I ask all members of this honourable House to join with us in calling upon the Prime Minister of Canada and his Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to move immediately to ban the hakapik and assist us in a meaningful way in avoiding the potential of the ban of seal products in the EU.
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