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Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora


Hon. Michael L. MacDonald: Honourable senators, the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES, was finalized on March 3, 1973. This year marks its fortieth anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, March 3 was designated by the General Assembly of the United Nations to be the first World Wildlife Day. In its resolution, the General Assembly reaffirmed the intrinsic value of wildlife and its various contributions, including ecological, genetic, social, economic, scientific, educational, cultural, recreational and aesthetic, to sustainable development and human well-being, and recognized the important role of CITES in ensuring that international trade does not threaten species' survival.

Raising awareness of the urgent need to step up and fight against wildlife crime, which has wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impacts, has never been more urgent. The illegal international trade in endangered species continues to plague all of us, threatening the survival of some of Earth's most magnificent animal species. Thousands of endangered elephants and rhinos are slaughtered for their ivory every year, and, similarly, threatened top predators, such as the big cats, are mindlessly killed for their body parts.

Canada is one of 170 countries that are signatories to CITES, and Canada has shown leadership in the area of enforcement through our involvement with Interpol, where we chair the Wildlife Crime Working Group. Canada also recently announced $2 million in emergency funding to fight poaching and trafficking in Eastern Africa.

This is commendable and should be acknowledged, but Canada has wildlife challenges of its own. It is important that we set a good example here at home to ensure that our words have credibility in all parts of the globe. In short, we must practise what we preach.

Last month, Nova Scotians discovered that the Port of Halifax received 10 containers of fin whale meat originating in Iceland. It was shipped by rail to Vancouver, destined for markets in Japan. The fin whale is a magnificent cetacean, second in size only to the blue whale. It is also an endangered species. The fin whale is also listed as a special concern on the federal Species at Risk Act. Although there is a moratorium on the killing of these animals, Iceland and Japan refuse to honour it. Both of these countries are using Canada as a conduit for the trade of this endangered animal. Environment Canada said, with respect to the shipment, that they had to allow it to proceed since Iceland and Japan do not agree to the listing of the fin whale under the convention. It also said that the convention provides an exemption for shipments of endangered species in transit to a country so long as the shipment remains in customs' control.

The ship that dropped off the containers in Halifax was destined for the United States, but American law would not allow for the transport of fin whale meat. So Canada was used to do the dirty work. Regardless of whether Canada complies with the rules, the government should adopt stricter measures to ensure it doesn't happen again. Canada's membership in CITES does not prevent it from adopting firmer regulations or taking stricter domestic measures, including the complete prohibition of the transport of these types of species. Canadians do not want our country being used as a conduit for the flesh of endangered animals. I strongly urge the Government of Canada to do a complete review of the situation so that our country can make the regulatory and legal changes necessary to avoid any future involvement in this odious commercial activity.