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May 6, 2015

Canadian Senators Discuss Banning Media and NGO Documentation of Seal Slaughter

Senate Fisheries Committee holds closed door session to review proposal that would violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Humane Society International/Canada

  • Image from the 2015 commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland. Michael Bernard/HSI

The Canadian Senate Fisheries Committee reportedly held a closed session yesterday to discuss a proposal by Liberal Sen. Céline Hervieux-Payette to outlaw filming the commercial seal hunt. The proposal advocates requiring all observers be accompanied by a federal inspector to enforce the photo ban, increasing the distance at which licensed observers must remain from seal hunting to nearly one kilometre, and increasing the cost of observer permits by 10 times.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, issued the following statement in response:

“What these Senators are proposing and discussing behind closed doors is a blatant attempt to block freedom of the press, and in direct violation of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. 

“The Canadian seal slaughter occurs in public space that belongs to all Canadians and targets wild animals that are the responsibility of all Canadians to protect. A ban on filming the seal hunt would violate fundamental rights, as would all the other elements of this shameful proposal.

“If our government can stop NGOs from filming the commercial seal hunt, it can stop documentation of any event happening in public Canadian space. Every journalist and all citizens in this country should be gravely concerned about the implications of these discussions.

“If the Canadian sealing industry operated in a humane fashion it would have nothing to fear from our cameras. Yet every year we document horrific animal suffering. Instead of taking action to protect the seals and stop this senseless slaughter, Canadian government officials are once again trying to outlaw our cameras.”

Call for a federal buyout of Canada’s commercial sealing industry.


  • Conservative MP Greg Kerr introduced Bill C-555, An Act Respecting The Marine Mammal Regulations, in 2013 which would increase the distance that a person without an observation permit must maintain from the commercial seal slaughter. Bill C-555 would not impact on observers holding government issued observation permits.
  • In Senate debate during Second Reading, Sen. Hervieux-Payette proposed an amendment “to prohibit all types of cameras.” Senators voted to refer the bill to committee for consideration before it receives Royal Assent.
  • NGOs have coordinated independent observation of commercial sealing since the 1960s.
  • For the past few decades, the federal government has required observers to be permitted to witness commercial sealing. As a condition of their permits, observers on the ice are required to remain at least 10 meters away from commercial sealing activities and cannot in any way disrupt the seal hunt.
  • Changing sea ice conditions has made it impossible for helicopters to land on the ice in recent years, and observation of commercial sealing is now conducted by helicopter using high-powered cameras. Helicopters filming commercial sealing must remain at least 500 feet away from sealers. In recent years, HSI has been the only NGO coordinating independent observation of the commercial seal slaughter and has had just one helicopter filming the slaughter.
  • Canadian Press, Associated Press, Reuters Canada, the CBC, the Cape Breton Post and many other news agencies have directly filmed and/or photographed the commercial seal hunt in recent years.

Media Contact: Christopher Paré, 514 395-2914, cpare@hsi.org