Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fishing, Hunting and Trapping day means nothing if government policies fail to protect our land and sea

I gave the following speech on an Act Respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day in the House of Commons on Wednesday, Nov. 28th. 

Mr. Speaker, I stand in support of Bill C-501, an Act Respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day.

Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are great hunters, great trappers and great fishermen. 

Be it for cod, salmon, trout, Arctic char, moose, caribou, seals, rabbit, beavers, turr or grouse. 

We live off the land. We live off the sea. 

Our first nation and aboriginal peoples have lived off the land and sea for thousands of years, and they  continue to do so. 

Our ancestors who got off the boat, primarily from Europe, made a life in Newfoundland and Labrador  on the edge of the North Atlantic, in the most inhospitable of places, to be closest to the fish that sustained them. 

Life was hard. 

Life was brutal. 

Life was work from dawn till dusk.

But that life made us strong. 

That life made us self-sufficient. 

They were certainly not the richest of people, not in terms of cash dollars, but rich in terms of how hunting, trapping and fishing built character, shaped our culture and formed our heritage.

This bill is important because hunting, fishing and trapping have been instrumental to the social, economic and cultural development of communities in every region of Canada, not just Newfoundland 
and Labrador—although that is my focus, as the member of Parliament for St. John's South—Mount 

Hunting, fishing and trapping still play a vital role in the outports and communities that dot Newfoundland and Labrador, urban and rural. 

Most freezers in most homes contain local moose. They contain local fish. 

There are not many outport kitchens that do not have bottled salmon or rabbit or moose. 

I was on the south coast of Labrador last spring. 

The woman whose home I entered apologized as soon as I got there because she did not have anything prepared to eat. 

By the time I left that house, I had eaten bottled salmon, bottled lobster, rabbit, turr, the sweetest partridge berries I had ever tasted, homemade bread and fresh vegetables from the kitchen garden. 

I had a feast of food prepared from the land and food prepared from the sea.

However, the best meal I have had so far this year was in a fishing shed in Petty Harbour, just outside St. John's, after a day on the North Atlantic, fishing crab.

When we got in, one of the fishermen pulled out a couple of bottles of moose and cooked it with some 

onions on the floor of the shed, in a huge frying pan, with a propane flame. 

I can taste it now. It was lovely.

We still live off the land and off the sea. 

I am proud of where we come from.

This bill is recognition of the importance of hunting, trapping and fishing to our way of life.

However, there are problems that we should reflect upon in this debate.

Let us begin with moose. 

The animals, moose, are not indigenous to Newfoundland, to the island portion of the province. 

Moose were only introduced successfully in 1904. 

However, since then, the population has ballooned, exploded, to the point that moose-vehicle collisions are a real problem. 

There are literally hundreds of moose-vehicle collisions every year.

I had a collision myself, in October 2012, on the edge of Terra Nova National Park. 

I will never forget it.  

It was dark. 

It was misty. 

I was driving relatively slowly. 

The speed limit was 100 kilometres an hour; I was driving 80. 

Out of nowhere, in front of me, appeared a moose. 

I hit it head-on. I remember thinking, 

“If that moose flies through the windshield, I'm dead."

It rolled over my bonnet and flipped over the windshield.

The moose died about five minutes later. I had about $9,000 worth of damage to my vehicle. 

I lived. I am here to tell the tale.

The Conservative MP for the Manitoba riding of Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia recommended 
last summer that we cut down on moose-vehicle collisions.

How? What was his recommendation?

His recommendation was that we kill every last moose. 

Let me quote the Conservative MP, a quote contained in a press release that was on the MP's website:

"The obvious solution is to cull (in other words, kill) all the moose on the island. Removing all the  moose from the island will be a huge public safety benefit, it is the environmentally friendly action to take, and it makes economic sense."

For me, that makes no sense.

I stand here today in support of An Act respecting a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day.

An outrageous suggestion such as killing every last moose, an entire population of a food source, does not respect our culture.

It does not respect our hunters or even nature.

Moose may have been introduced to Newfoundland, but the cod are what drew us to Newfoundland 
and Labrador.

Codfish were once Newfoundland and Labrador currency.

“In Cod We Trust," but not anymore. 

For the true story of the destruction of our commercial groundfish fisheries, such as cod and flounder, I recommend a new book that was released two weeks ago.

It is called Empty Nets: How Greed and Politics Wiped Out The World's Greatest Fishery. That book is by a former industry leader named Gus Etchegary.

In case the hon. members of this House do not realize it, the world's greatest fisheries were on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.

Codfish stocks have been pounded to the point that the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, or COSEWIC, is recommending that Atlantic cod be declared an endangered species.

There is still a food fishery, when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians can fish cod for our tables, but that fishery only takes place during a narrow window, with strict catch restrictions.

Newfoundland and Labrador was known for its fish.

The day, the decade, has actually come when it is illegal for most of the year for a young boy or girl to fish for cod from the edge of a wharf.

That day came more than 20 years ago, a day nobody thought would come.

It is 21 years since the Government of Canada shut down the northern cod fishery for the first time in a 500-plus year history, and there is still no recovery plan for that northern cod.

It is shocking that there is no recovery plan for a commercial fishery that was shut down more than 20 years ago.

Let us move on to seals. Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are proud of our sealing heritage.

However, let me read a quote from 1985. This quote is from a sealer, and it was contained in the report of the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada:

"As a sealer, as a fisherman standing before you today, I say to you that I am the endangered species. I 
am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity 
and right to earn a livelihood."

That was from 1985.

Our tradition of sealing suffered yet another blow this week with the decision of the World Trade 
Organization to uphold the European ban on Canadian seal products.

The Conservative government has announced plans to appeal that ruling, but if the government were serious about standing up for the seal hunt, the Conservatives would have made the seal ban a make-or-break issue during trade talks. 

They did not do that.

Under the current Conservative government, we have witnessed the greatest body blows to the seal 
harvest in our history, with ban after ban.

A national hunting, trapping, and fishing heritage day would be a good time to reflect on the current government's absolute failure to stand up for the seal hunt.

A heritage day would also be a good time to reflect on how the government has gutted the federal Fisheries Act.

A recent federal court ruling in Newfoundland and Labrador noted that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has the ability to control the alteration, disruption, or destruction of fish habitat.

In other words, if there is no monetary value for a fish, it is worth nothing.

To sum up, I support this bill, but I also support policies that ensure that hunting, trapping, and fishing 
can continue in this country in a sustainable and meaningful way. 

It is one thing for the Conservatives to say they support hunters, trappers, and fishermen, but if their policies do nothing to protect our land and our sea and do nothing to protect our culture and our heritage, then the words are meaningless.

Aand a fishing heritage day would mean nothing.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. 

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