Ottawa Citizen

An­i­mal-rights group hon­ours se­na­tor for bid to end seal hunt

PETA names former Ot­tawa MP Cana­dian of the Year for 2012

- ROBIN LEVIN­SON

Se­na­tor Mac Harb ac­cepted his PETA “Cana­dian of the Year” award on Thurs­day for his ef­forts push­ing leg­is­la­tion in the Se­nate that would ban the seal hunt.

Harb said he not only op­posed the East Coast seal hunt for eco­nomic rea­sons but also be­cause of its “in­her­ent in­hu­man­ity.”

PETA spokes­woman Emily Laven­der pre­sented the award to Harb in his of­fice on Par­lia­ment Hill on Thurs­day.

Dur­ing the brief cer­e­mony, she ap­plauded him for his “com­pas­sion and per­se­ver­ance in work­ing to pro­tect seals from be­ing need­lessly slaugh­tered.”

While an­i­mal-rights ac­tivists sup­port the cur­rent bill, Harb is pes­simistic about the out­come.

Harb said that he ini­tially op­posed the seal hunt for eco­nomic rea­sons; many of Canada’s ma­jor trad­ing part­ners, such as Rus­sia, the United States and the Euro­pean Union, have made buy­ing seal prod­ucts from Canada il­le­gal. He said he does not see the eco­nomic ben­e­fit of sup­port­ing an in­dus­try that has no mar­kets.

“All of our ma­jor trad­ing part­ners have told us that they are ap­palled,” he said.

But be­yond the eco­nom­ics, Harb said, he wit­nessed the “in­her­ent in­hu­man­ity” of the in­dus­try dur­ing a tour of the At­lantic prov­inces.

“I saw with my eyes hun­dreds and hun­dreds of bod­ies scat­tered all over the ice of At­lantic Canada,” he said.

Harb spon­sored Bill S-210 in June 2011 to out­law hunt­ing seals com­mer­cially; the bill is in its sec­ond read­ing in the Se­nate.

Not ev­ery­one sees eye to eye with Harb and PETA. Robert Court­ney, a sealer and pres­i­dent of the North of Smokey-In­ver­ness South Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion in Cape Bre­ton, said the seal hunt is “on par with the har­vest of any other an­i­mals” and is hu­mane.

Many fish­er­man in At­lantic Canada see it as a way of life, he said.

“I wish the government would stand up to those peo­ple (an­i­mal-rights ac­tivists),” he said, “and let the in­dus­try progress as it should.”

Harb said he is in favour of a government buy­out of the seal­ing li­cences to com­pen­sate hunters, but he is not op­ti­mistic about the bill.

“I sus­pect they (the government) will kill it,” he said.

Bill S-210 is not the first time Harb has tried to put a stop to the seal hunt in the Se­nate.

In 2009, he pro­posed sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion, but no se­na­tor would sec­ond the bill.

Then, in 2010, Harb rein­tro­duced the leg­is­la­tion. That time the bill was sec­onded by Con­ser­va­tive Se­na­tor Low­ell Mur­ray, but it did not make it past the first read­ing.

Harb said he thinks the government sup­ports the seal hunt be­cause of its pop­u­lar sup­port in key rid­ings in At­lantic Canada.

 ?? LOIS SIEGEL PHOTO ?? Se­na­tor Mac Harb spon­sored Bill S-210 in June 2011 to out­law hunt­ing seals com­mer­cially.
LOIS SIEGEL PHOTO Se­na­tor Mac Harb spon­sored Bill S-210 in June 2011 to out­law hunt­ing seals com­mer­cially.

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