May 18, 2017

Honourable senators, I am delighted to rise today wearing seal garments made in Nunavut to note that on May 16, 2017, Bill S-208, An Act respecting National Seal Products Day, received Royal Assent, and that an overwhelming majority of MPs from all parties — and this doesn’t happen every day — voted to support a bill from our former colleague, now retired, Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, that will recognize May 20 as a day to celebrate the importance of the sealing industry to many Canadians.

To many indigenous and non-indigenous people throughout the territories and Nunavik (Quebec), Nunatsiavut (Newfoundland and Labrador), seal is an important source of food, clothing, tools, oil and income. The seal also has great spiritual significance to Inuit.

As senator for Nunavut, I was privileged to stand in this chamber and speak to the bill on second and third reading. I recited the long history and the unbreakable bond that the Inuit of my home territory of Nunavut have with seals. I spoke of the respect that the Inuit have for seals, demonstrated by their use of every single part of the animal.

Of course, there are misguided, ignorant people who will continue to claim that the seal hunt is a cruel and unnecessary practice, or will blatantly employ distorted and outdated images of the seal hunt to shamelessly raise funds for their organizations. I will not give those views credence by quoting them, but I will ask this question: How can anyone who eats meat, pâté de foie gras, owns or wears leather, slept under a down-filled duvet, or used glue, for that matter, turn around and condemn seal harvesters for their practices?

It is unconscionable and paternalistic to tell cultures that their practices are wrong, simply because we approach an issue from a different perspective. This is the same superimposition of morality that I railed against when the EU ban on seal products was first introduced.

Colleagues, I would like to wish everyone a very happy Seal Products Day in advance of Saturday, and would encourage you to partake in some seal, if you find it available, or support local economies by purchasing Canadian seal products, including rich omega-3 seal oils.

I hope that with each successive Seal Products Day, we can help more and more Canadians to see the importance of supporting the sealing industry in Canada, and we can also celebrate growth in our markets for this rich protein and related products and fashionable fur garments.

Quviasukpunga natssiup qissinginit sannaugait ulluqaqtittaunialiqmat.

Thank you.

Statement – National Seal Products Day