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NEWS: Seal hunt to begin soon, further CETA tension expected

The Globe and Mail reported yesterday that, “The hunt for grey seals is expected to begin Monday (on Hay Island, a tiny island off the coast of Cape Breton)… The Hay Island hunt marks the start of the sealing season, which will eventually move to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then to Newfoundland. …The (Harper) government says it will permit the harvest of 50,000 grey seals this year.”

“This year, the animal-rights organization (the Humane Society of Canada) is bringing a photographer from a European-based wire service so pictures of the young seals being clubbed to death can be transmitted to the bloc of countries that has banned Canadian seal products.”

The Cape Breton Post reports today that, “While the grey seal hunt opened on Hay Island last week, a lot of uncertainty surrounds when the hunt will occur. A winter storm that brought heavy, wet snow to the region kept sealers at bay over the weekend and again today, although anti-sealing activists were expected to arrive in Sydney on Sunday.”

As we’ve noted in previous campaign blogs, the European Union is opposed to the seal hunt and it has been identified as an obstacle in the continuing Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations. In May 2009, the European Parliament voted by a 550-49 margin to impose a ban on the import of Canadian seal products. Postmedia reported earlier this month that, “Sealing and oilsands, two issues that have darkened Canada’s image in some sectors of European society, could affect ratification of the proposed Canada-European Union free trade agreement, suggests a report from the House of Commons parliamentary committee on trade. …The European Parliament, which holds sessions in Brussels, Belgium and Strasbourg, France, gained veto powers over trade deals in the Lisbon Treaty that took effect in 2009.”

Postmedia News has also reported that, “The federal government is requesting that a World Trade Oranization dispute settlement panel be established on the issue. (Fisheries Minister Gail) Shea said the government is deeply disappointed the EU has not changed its position regarding the ban – which took effect in August 2010 – despite intense Canadian lobbying efforts. …The (Harper) government’s request is to be heard at the next WTO dispute settlement body meeting on Feb. 24. At that time, the EU will have the chance to block the request. However, Canada can then make a second request at the following meeting on March 25, and the EU would be unable to block it again. A panel would then have to be set up.”

Newfoundland and Labrador is not participating in the Canada-EU CETA talks, it is only there as an observer. In February 2009, then-Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams said that the federal government would be abandoning his province if Harper did not demand that the EU drop the ban. Williams said, “At this point, we are not willing to sign on to support the negotiation of a new and comprehensive economic agreement with the European Union.” Harper replied that he would defend the sealing industry, but that he would not allow the ban to “contaminate” a potential CETA deal.

Two August 2010 campaign blogs on CETA and the seal hunt can be read at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4390 and http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=4392. Today’s Globe and Mail article is at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/ottawa-notebook/animal-rights-groups-ready-their-cameras-for-canadian-seal-hunt/article1914480/.