We expected to be one of many animal advocacy groups presenting at this committee; they may not like us, but we do represent a sizable portion of the voting public. It’s not uncommon for governments to listen to advocates, even if they don’t intend to take us seriously. It simply looks good to have had a true debate. But that wasn’t the case at this committee.
After a round of presentations by the Fur Institute of Canada (three representatives), the International Fur Federation, the North America Fur Auction and, at the end of the meeting, The Fur-Bearers, MP Robert Sopuck made this statement:
“I want to make it perfectly clear that Mr. Howie and The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals was not a witness suggested by the Conservatives. I think it's very important to get that on the record.”
It was, in fact, an MP from the NDP Caucus who added our names to the meeting list. The Fur-Bearers was the only animal advocacy group to present in any of the several meetings on this subject; the rest were hunters, trappers or those who earn their living from those practices (such as biologists funded by lobby groups).
Mr. Sopuck did state he would welcome a debate – the actual quote is “bring it on.” But he refused to allow our representative to speak. Actually, the only member of the committee who allowed The Fur-Bearers to speak during the question and answer period was Liberal member John McKay. At the end of the meeting, Mr. McKay summarized by stating “Poor old Mr. Howie has been like a skunk at a garden party; I dare say that some of my colleagues might want to see him in one of Mr. Cahill's auctions.”
It is clear to us, following this meeting (and you can read the full transcripts here), that our government – and many of our elected officials – do not care what the general public think. To fill in the gaps, here are a few highlights from various members:
Dennis Bevington (Northwest Territories, NDP)
- I'm beginning to wonder whether trappers in Canada are getting the rough end of the stick from the government.
- Trappers are environmentalists; they are dealing with environment in many cases. Are there any specific federal programs to enhance the work that they do to protect the environment?
Blaine Calkins (Alberta, Conservative)
- I think there's been an entire generation missed to political correctness, much to the delight of folks like Mr. Howie who have tried very hard to end an industry, to end a traditional way of life. While they might seem on the surface, through “political-correct speak”, to have the best of intentions, they certainly, I think, end up creating through unintended consequences more problems than they solve.
John McKay (Ontario, Liberal)
- Mr. Howie, I watched with amusement Mr. Sopuck's anxiety as you gave your testimony. Apparently your major sin is that you were not a witness recommended by the Conservative party and you are clearly not singing from the same song sheet as other witnesses. It's a strange concept that we should have debate in this country. Mr. Sopuck raised a couple of issues and then went on to question other members more favourable to his viewpoint.
Robert Sopuck (Manitoba, Conservative)
- On your other point, where you talked about the “bias” of biologists who are funded by perhaps hunting and trapping organizations, most of those organizations have very small amounts of money. I think it's very important to point out that The Humane Society of the United States has a budget of $60 million a year. So when we talk about bias we need to be very clear about what the real story is.
An election is coming in Canada. And it’s up to all of us to speak up for the animals. The disrespect and disregard that many elected officials show for animal lovers – and the animals themselves – must be remembered come polling day. Get out there and vote. If you don’t want to do it to exercise your rights as a citizen, do it to protect the fur-bearing animals of our nation.
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