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Georges Laraque Headshot

Sealing on Thin Ice

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No professional hockey player likes the sight of blood on the ice -- it's a stark reminder that a career ending injury is just a senseless illegal hook away.

That's why the hook on a sealer's club makes me scratch my head. How can we condone the barbaric killing of a few-weeks-old seal pup for a fur trimmed coat when we all know how Canadians react to a cowardly hook on the ice? All of that blood for no good reason is just not Canadian.

As deputy leader of the Green Party -- which just elected leader Elizabeth May as Canada's first Green MP -- I'm proud to help represent the only federal party willing to speak up for the seals and provide a fair buyout for commercial sealers.

The other parties might talk a good game when it comes to supporting the sealing industry, but as global markets for fur are disappearing and as climate change melts away the ice habitat of Canada's seals, it is clear that this is a dying industry and that real support for the sealers means shifting to a sustainable economy. Only the Greens have a real and viable solution for ending the commercial seal slaughter.

Canada's annual seal slaughter is the largest killing of marine mammals on earth. That's nothing to be proud of. While the Greens do not oppose to subsistence hunting by Aboriginal peoples and local communities, we do however consider the commercial killing of seals, like whaling, to be a threat to the marine ecosystem. And in fact, much like whale watching, more money could be made off seal watching than hunting.

There's also no doubt that Canada's reputation on the world stage is being damaged by the internationally condemned slaughter. Both the European Union and the United States have banned the trade in seal products. Now the Canadian government is wasting our tax dollars on a WTO challenge against the EU that will likely cost over 10 million dollars. That's several times more money than sealing generated in the past two years combined.

Our plan is more than just lip service. The Green Party will end federal assistance to the commercial seal slaughter and redirect tax dollars toward sustainable jobs that don't depend on ice conditions. What we're not prepared to do is let hard workers on the East Coast go without good jobs and force them to move out-of-province to find good work, as is the case for many east coast families today. The Canadian government has been happy to let this situation escalate.

But the Greens want all Canadian communities to flourish. We'll work with fishermen, fisheries unions and local communities to develop a fair federal buyout of sealing licenses. We will help implement training programs and other resources needed to enhance a sealing industry buyout, work with other levels of government to find sustainable economic alternatives, and provide full compensation to sealers for lost income. That's a lot more action than the Canadian government's shallow move to announce the highest seal quota in history this year when they know full well the markets for seal products are closing for good.

It's a real shame that none of the other federal parties are willing to have a public debate on this issue, but we all know now that they don't like to debate with the Greens because they know we're willing to have hard conversations on issues that aren't scripted. When one of their own goes against the party line and takes an ethical stand on an issue they believe in, all the parties are quick to distance themselves and crank up the pro-sealing rhetoric.

I definitely took a lot of hits on the ice over the years, but none were as brutal as the crushing blow of a club coming down on a defenseless baby seal resting peacefully on the ice floes. The NHL has recently cracked down on cowardly hits that lead to senseless injuries -- it's time the Canadian government does the same and ends the commercial seal kill for good.

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