Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 15, 2017 - 8:29 am

Canada now has an official day to celebrate the seal: May 20

National Seal Products Day Act passes House of Commons third reading

Ring seals lie on the dock in Qikiqtarjuaq.  (FILE PHOTO)
Ring seals lie on the dock in Qikiqtarjuaq. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavummiut will have another reason to celebrate this coming May long weekend and it has nothing to do with Queen Victoria.

On May 5 Members of Parliament gave third reading to Senate Bill S-208 that declares May 20 National Seal Products Day.

“Unfortunately Canada’s seal hunt has been the target of very unfair and fraudulent campaigns by the animal rights movement,” said Tory MP Robert Sopuck, a rural Manitoban who made one of several impassioned speeches before the House voted overwhelmingly in favour of the seal products bill.

“It is clear that the sole purpose of these anti-sealing groups is to raise funds for themselves and the collateral damage to coastal communities has simply been staggering.”

According to the Hansard official transcript of the May 5 proceedings, Sopuck said he was on Southampton Island years ago and was able to participate in a walrus and seal hunt.

“I do know what it’s like to plunge one’s hand into a freshly killed walrus and experience the joy and exuberance of the hunt when one is successful… I have eaten raw seal, raw walrus, and I found the tastes interesting, to say the least. It can be good.”

The bill originated in the Senate thanks to Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette, who is now retired, and, in time, received gushing support from Nunavut Senator Dennis Patterson.

Bills that begin in the Senate rarely pass successfully through the House of Commons so while National Seal Products Day is largely symbolic—it doesn’t create a statutory holiday—it is nonetheless significant.

Hervieux-Payette chose May 20 because the European Union had declared that day European Maritime Day, in order to recall, “the importance of a healthy marine environment both for the sustainability of economic activities on the seas and for the quality of life in coastal regions,” the bill’s preamble states.

Bill S-208 passed through the Senate in May 2016 and has been winding its way through the House of Commons and committee hearings since then.

Even though it was the last order of Parliamentary business May 5, five MPs spoke at length in favour of the Act: one NDP member, two Liberals and two Conservatives.

“We need to take a stand,” said Montreal NDP member Alexandre Boulerice.

“Creating a national seal products day would send a clear message to everyone, here in Canada, and in the European Union.”

Liberal MP Yvonne Jones, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, who hails from Labrador, offered personal stories of growing up around seal hunting

“It is a way of life for us still today as we eat seal and wear seal,” Jones said.

She credited her “colleague from Nunavut,” presumably Independent Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo, with speaking in the House about the importance of seal products to northern hunters and families, for food and for income.

“It has been a way of life for [Inuit], as harvesting, farming and fishing have been a way of life for anyone else in this country,” Jones said.

Following those speeches, the Hansard transcript of the vote says one MP voted against the bill but does not identify who that was.

When Bill S-208 went through second reading in the House of Commons, 283 MPs voted in favour and three MPs voted against: Toronto Liberal member Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Vancouver NDP member Don Davies and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May.

The National Seal Products Day Act becomes official law when it receives Royal Assent.

Coincidentally, it’s Sealing Day on the Hill this week in Ottawa and the Baffin Regional Chamber of Commerce is advertising various seal celebrations.

The Speaker of the House of Commons is hosting an invitation only Sealing Day on the Hill reception today, May 15. The National Arts Centre will then be the scene of a seal industry dinner hosted by MP Yvonne Jones, parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs May 16.

The following evening, May 17, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami holds its annual A Taste of the Arctic Inuit food and culture event at the National Gallery of Canada.

At all the events, Nunavut sealskin designers will be showcasing their work.

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(13) Comments:

#1. Posted by Seal Hunter on May 15, 2017

In your face Pamela Anderson.

#2. Posted by Charlene Myers on May 15, 2017

What a sad day for Canada. It’s not bad enough that seals continue to be killed despite a dying industry, but now we have a “celebration” of the killing jammed down our throats by our government. It looked like there may have been about 10-15 Members of Parliament in attendance for the vote supporting this ridiculous bill.

#3. Posted by slaugher house vs Inuit culture on May 15, 2017

#2 poor Charlene Myers.  Ever visit a beef, pork or chicken slaughter house?  More bones,blood, guts, hides and feathers there to feed you right down to your dog, and dress you in those leather shoes with swinging leather hand purse you carry on one arm and the leather dog leash on the other arm.  You provide the slaughter house with your want of hamburgers, roasts, steaks, leather jackets, belts, boots, and the feathered boas around your neck including your laptop computer.

The industry is big business and you are a patron, a partaker in, a supporter of this smelly, revolving process, from coast to coast.

Visit a slaughter house then tell us why we do not celebrate the killing of cows, pigs and chickens that are raised only for the purpose to feed you, your dog, and dress you both.

#4. Posted by Arnold McGillicuddy on May 15, 2017

Hey Charlene, this is a good thing for most Canadians without ignorant viewpoints, unhindered by a confused agenda. 

What if a government made up of people who have never visited your land, nor taken the time to learn your culture and traditions decided that the food your parents and your grandparents fed you was against their morale code for reasons unknown to you, and then banned it?

Who are you to tell Inuit and our indigenous people that their traditional way of life is wrong?  Good Grief, that’s already happened with Residential Schools in our previous generations and we as a country have finally apologized for all the harm it has done and now you want to once again tell people that their cultures and traditions are wrong because you have not bothered to do a little research?

The seal population is strong.  The market will dictate supply and demand of seal products but in the meanwhile, Inuit should be able to hunt seals on their own land.

Well done Parliament.

#5. Posted by Eski on May 15, 2017

@Charlene,  so you know for a fact that seals are in decline? What proof do you have that they are actually in decline?  Sorry to tell you this buttercup,  our rights don’t end where your feelings begin.

#6. Posted by Arcticrob on May 15, 2017

Great for Inuit of Canada who depend on seal for food and clothing!

#7. Posted by Seriously, Charlene?! Seriously?! on May 15, 2017

You came to Nunatsiaq News - a media outlet that represents, serves and reflects Nunavut, an Inuit territory - to drop this comment?  That’s some impressive ignorance, right there.  Truly…stunning.

#8. Posted by Unik on May 16, 2017


That’s what he said.

#9. Posted by Job Tourist on May 18, 2017

#7 So what? She’s allowed to share her opinion. Is shaming your only counter tactic? That’s a pretty weak arsenal you have…

#10. Posted by #7 on May 18, 2017

And yet, Job Tourist, you seem to have left your comment to attempt to do the very same thing you accuse me of.  Ms. Myers is certainly ‘allowed’ to share her comment, just as I am ‘allowed’ to point out that I find it to be a terribly ignorant one, particularly given her selected audience. If she feels any shame,, (which I doubt), that’s not my business.  Perhaps if she did, though, she might take it upon herself to educate / inform herself about the history and complexity of this issue and the impact upon Inuit lives.

#11. Posted by I see the light!!! on May 18, 2017

#10 I get it now, never forget to pander to your “selected audience”. That way you can avoid meaningless rebukes from nobodies in the comment section.

#12. Posted by some nobody on May 18, 2017

For such a meaningless comment, it sure did raise your hackles, #11.

Clearly, we’re of different minds. S’all good. 

I sense an increased meanness in your comments, and that’s no fun. A meaningful discussion (about the actual issue) is great, but trading pointless (pun intended) barbs isn’t my thing.

#13. Posted by Annalise Biedermann on May 19, 2017

Great news! “Canada will celebrate its first National Seal Products Day this Saturday.” This is more than well-deserved by ALL victims of the following, and many more such harmful slogans like, “seals are being skinned alive”. To this day this fake statement is strongly believed and powerful, successful forwarded.
  “The film that launched the first anti-seal hunt campaigns, in 1964, showed a live seal being poked with a knife – “skinned alive”, the activists cried! But a few years later the hunter, Gustave Poirier, testified under oath to a Canadian Parliamentary committee of enquiry that he had been paid by the film-makers to poke at the live seal, something he said he would otherwise never have done.”
It is time to unmask such doings. Luckily, the authentic, honest film ANGRY INUK is successfully doing that. Canada’s first National Seal Products Day is a great second step for a final change. - Good Luck to all!

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