Nfld. & Labrador

Seal celebration: Could May 20 soon become National Seal Products Day?

Federal Members of Parliament will soon vote on a bill to designate May 20 as National Seal Products Day.

The European Union has banned the importation of seal products from Canada since 2010

The seal fur bow tie that Liberal MP Scott Simms is wearing was a gift from John Crosbie, in the lead up to the opening of the John C. Crosbie Sealers Interpretation Centre in Elliston. (Submitted photo)

Liberal MP Scott Simms sported a seal fur tie when he rose to speak in the House of Commons this week.

"It was given to me by the Honourable John Crosbie during the fundraising phase of the Sealers Memorial in Elliston," Simms told CBC Radio's The Broadcast.

Simms hopes the appeal of his soft, silver coloured tie will help him gain support for Bill S-208, the designation of a day to raise awareness about the culture of sealing and the seal harvest in Canada, National Seal Products Day.

Bill S-208 is a private members bill proposed by, now retired, Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette.

Newfoundland-based Always In Vogue produces seal fur and seal skin products banned by the European Union. (Submitted photo)

Hervieux-Payette suggested May 20 as the day to celebrate seal to coincide with the European Union's Maritime Day.

The European Union has banned the importation of seal products from Canada since 2010.

"Europe's Maritime Day celebrates the culture of smaller communities living on the ocean in the EU," said Simms.

"A lot of the same themes that they use for celebrating coastal communities and the fishing they do and the harvesting of animals can also be used for sealing," said Simms. 

Simms said while the bill may not receive 100 per cent endorsement, MPs from all parties are in favour of Bill S-208.

Conservative MP Robert Sopuck of Manitoba expressed his approval in the House of Commons.

"I had the good fortune, Mr. Speaker, to fish in Labrador this summer, and most of our guides were also seal hunters who described to me the importance of the hunt to them and their families. Quite clearly, the tradition lives on," Sopuck said. 

A seal fur cowboy hat is one of the items made by Newfoundland company Sealed With A Kiss.

Serge Cormier, a Liberal MP from Bathurst, explained to MPs that the population of harp seals is now 7.4 million and has tripled in size since the early 1970s.

"National Seal Products Day can help us draw global attention to the economic impact of the seal harvest and how the ban on seal products is hurting the economy of communities," said Cormier.

"Potential customers may, in fact, be sympathetic to the plight of our sealers — but if they continue to believe that harvesting is unsustainable then they may avoid seal products." 

Scott Simms said Bill S-208 will be voted on in a few weeks. 

He hopes Europeans will take notice of national support for the seal fishery and coastal communities.

"We're turning May 20th into a day that we too can celebrate," said Simms.

​The Broadcast airs weekdays on CBC Radio One at 6:05 p.m. island time, and is re-broadcast the following day at 1:05 p.m. 


Jane Adey

CBC News

Jane Adey hosts CBC's Land and Sea. She formerly hosted CBC Radio's The Broadcast, and has worked for many other CBC programs, including Here & Now and On The Go.