Update: Politicians to show support of seal hunt in Ottawa today

Colin MacLean with files from the Canadian Press
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Minister Penashue dismisses MP Cleary's claims

Ryan Cleary — File photo

Politicians are all looking to show their support for the seal industry in Ottawa today.

MPs in the House of Commons will be wearing sealskin attire, or sealskin lapel pins to show their support, and an array of politicians will be holding an event in the foyer of the parliament building before Question Period this afternoon.

The government issued a joint statement, saying “Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada’s rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians.”

The event comes on the heels of fresh controversy in the industry, after NDP MP Ryan Cleary suggested that a lack of markets may force sealers to give up the hunt.

More coverage later and in Friday’s print edition.


Newfoundland NDP MP Ryan Cleary’s fashion statements seem to be closely tied to his political statements lately.

Cleary was recently photographed sporting a borrowed sealskin vest to an interview about the seal hunt. At the time the St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP vowed he’d support the hunt by making a sealskin purchase of his own — as soon as he could afford it.

Cleary now reports he’s not only the owner of two sealskin ties, but he’s started taking orders from other NDP MPs for sealskin accessories of their own.

Cleary was sporting one of his new ties Wednesday when he stood in the House of Commons and accused the federal Conservatives of failing the Canadian sealing industry.

The MP’s statement was blunt, calling the government’s efforts to support the seal hunt “a joke,” and blaming inaction on its part for the collapse of what markets had been open to sealers.

But Cleary said during a followup interview there’s nothing funny about the situation the seal industry is in.

“Under this Conservative regime we’ve seen the markets for our seal products just wither and die,” he said.

Both the European Union and the Russian Federation, which made up a large portion of the market for sealers, have passed seal product import bans in recent years. Cleary is calling out the federal Conservatives for not doing enough to fight the bans.

“The Conservatives had an opportunity to take on the European Union during free trade talks — to bring the seal ban issue up then. They didn’t. They had an opportunity to take on the Russians on the seal ban — the Prime Minister had an opportunity to meet with (Russian Prime Minister  Vladimir) Putin for example. He didn’t,” said Cleary.

“The reality of the situation is that the markets have been closed under the Conservatives’ watch.”

Wednesday marked Cleary’s most recent outing in the media talking about the seal industry. The former journalist is a long-standing proponent of the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery, but recently landed himself in political hot water after making comments in a CBC interview during which he questioned if there is an economic future for the hunt.

Representatives with the sealing industry and politicians alike jumped on the comments, including Labrador Conservative MP Peter Penashue.

“I think Ryan Cleary and the NDP have done a lot of damage to the sealing industry,” Penashue told The Telegram.

Penashue went on to say Cleary “put back the sealing industry 10 years with one comment.”

This province’s sole representative in the federal cabinet also dismissed Cleary’s comments on Wednesday.

“MP Ryan Cleary’s hypocritical comments know no bounds. Today, MP Cleary stood up questioning the commitment of the Harper government to the sealing industry. He even gave mention to the IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), the very organization that stands against Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ way of life, and the very organization that uses Mr. Cleary’s remarks as ammunition against our seal industry,” Penashue said in a statement.

“In his apparent new spokesperson role for these anti-sealing groups, MP Cleary only knows how to criticize, only knows how to offer unhelpful comments and only knows how to stand against Newfoundland and Labrador. Unlike the NDP, our Conservative government is committed to standing up for the sealing industry here at home and on the world stage,” he added.

The Conservative government also appears to be preparing to prove that point.

An event called Seal Day on the Hill is happening on Parliament Hill in Ottawa today before question period.

Federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield has invited all MPs to attend and show their support for the seal hunt. Ashfield even issued a statement saying lapels made from seal fur would be available for MPs to wear.

“Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, Arctic and Northern communities,” the New Brunswick MP said in a statement.

Conservative MPs from across the country, including Penashue, are scheduled to attend, as is Ashfield’s provincial counterpart, Fisheries Minister Darin King.

Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones also issued a statement saying she would represent her party at the event.

But Cleary questioned the usefulness of such an rally.

“They can have all the rallies they want on Parliament Hill, but the bottom line is under this Conservative regime our markets have been lost to us,” he said.

When asked if he planned to attend Seal Day on the Hill Cleary said he could not as he was already scheduled to fly back to his riding. But he did extend his offer of securing sealskin ties for MPs to his Conservative and Liberal counterparts.

“If the Liberals and Conservatives would like one, I extend the invitation. They want a seal tie?  Absolutely,” he said.



Organizations: NDP MPs, Conservatives, European Union House of Commons Russian Federation CBC The Telegram Fund for Animal Welfare

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Canada Arctic

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Recent comments

  • Fercho
    February 03, 2012 - 22:32

    Canadian masters you are inhuman people, there are millions of people fighting for the animals welfare, they would like you be beaten to death ? by God who is this?, until when; is time to do justice and be aware of a change now.

  • donna
    February 02, 2012 - 13:11

    This is what I know, Ryan Cleary is doing as he said he would. He is speaking out for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. The only reason that the Conservative and Liberal government are wearing sealskin items is because Ryan made the statement that he did. Kinda like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. Way to many government officals keep their mouths closed because they are so afraid of rocking the boat and losing their careers. Cheers to Ryan Cleary for having the guts needed to do the job proper.

  • port union plant worker
    February 02, 2012 - 09:43

    I hear Darin King and dunderdale are planning on buying pelts and stockpileing them.Were will the put them i wonder-? the house of assembly has lots of free space What a joke

  • cod
    February 02, 2012 - 09:30

    Ryan Cleary is not the problem here. Ottawa just fails to stand up for Eastern Canada and Newfoundland in particular.as for there being no market for seal products, Russian and the European Union have" BANNED" seal products from entering their countries. the animal rights groups did a great job and we paid them well to spread their lies. I bet not "1" person can tell how many seals are actually in the waters around Eastern Canada. my guess is 15 million +

  • Donny
    February 02, 2012 - 08:06

    Ryan Cleary = One term wonder....see ya!

  • Joe it all
    February 02, 2012 - 08:03

    If seal skin products were an affordable price the ordinary Canadian could afford them. I would certainly buy something if it was affordable. Also how about seal meat products? Can't they market the meat. A feed or two of seal meat is all I usually have but I have had seal sausages in the past and they were delicious. I would certainly buy that produce and similar stuff. I am sure a market for that type of thing could be established in Canada and hopefully expanded to other places.

  • Matthew Cleary
    February 02, 2012 - 07:36

    Ryan's mad at the Harper government for "not doing enough to fight the bans"? This is absolute insanity. The market should dictate whether or not a particular product is worthwhile. If people don't want to buy seal-based products, that should dictate whether or not it's worthwhile to have an industry here. I have no idea when it became fashionable for local politicians to start wearing animal skins as a sign that they support the province, but it comes off as completely ridiculous. There's no market for seals, face facts. Asking the government to artificially create a market for a useless product is such a horrendous waste of time, money and resources that I can't even imagine the rationale behind it. Seal meat is terrible, seal-based omega 3 fats are useless and the concept of wearing fur is absolutely ridiculous to most people nowadays. Asking for subsidies and blaming the federal government for not forcing your useless product on people that don't want it is just backwards and stupid.

    • Ford Elms
      February 02, 2012 - 08:48

      Ah, but why are the markets down? Because for over forty years, a vicious, dishonest, and amoral industry has been lying about and slandering sealers, misinforming the world, even stooping so low as to fake the video "evidence" of their offensive lies. Companies like IFAW, Greenpeace, HSUS, and Sea Shepherd have found that slandering sealers and lying about the hunt has been quite lucrative for them. This constitutes exploitation of innocent working people for profit. We call people who do this robber barons. I believe it is the NDP's responsibility as the socialist voice in the House to defend the innocent workers of this country against this kind of ruthless exploitation by an amoral and self-serving animal rights industry. And it isn't only sealers. They are attacking farmers now, using the same old tactics as they used on us, right down to the fake "cruelty" footage. It amazes me that anyone cannot see the injustice in the way these companies make thier profits. It also boggles my mind that the Canadian government has been ignoring this ruthless exploitation of innocent workers for forty years. And let's not even talk about the spectacle of someone who took part in an unjustified, dishonest, and unjust attack on innocent Canadian citizens being elected not only to the HOC, but also to the leadership of the Green Party.

  • The Federal Government pandered too much to Movie Stars Extreme Adventures requests to go the ice floes to interrupt the seal hunt
    February 02, 2012 - 07:33

    It wasn't Ryan Cleary who set the sealing industry back, it was the Ottawa Government, which has continuosly set the industry back over the past 30 or more years by pandering to the Movie Stars request for an Extreme Adventure to harrass the sealers. Give MP Ryan Cleary credit for wanting to bring this charade to an end and exposing it for what it is.

  • Howard Young
    February 02, 2012 - 07:18

    This Guy has turned out to be a complete joke. "the St. John’s South-Mount Pearl MP vowed he’d support the hunt by making a sealskin purchase of his own — as soon as he could afford it." With an MP's salary he should already have one. I wouldn't go to Ottawa without one. And yet he isn't going to be on Parliment Hill for the pro seal rally.

  • Fred Penner
    February 02, 2012 - 06:34

    What will be...will be...as far as the seal hunt goes. If it survives, let it survive on it's own merits. This business of stockpiling pelts is the act of a desperate man trying to save something that is finished. It is wrong to put tax dollars into a lost cause. If you can't sell the pelts now, what makes you think you can sell them later? Chaulk one up to PETA and the hypocrisy of the public tastes...the cows and chickens are next?