Canada’s annual seal hunt pales in comparison to the slaughter of innocent Iraqis at the hands of the U.S., according to a Liberal senator who defended the hunt to an American family.
Anne McLellan told CTV Newsnet in an interview Friday that her family was, in fact, so appalled by the seal hunt that they cancelled plans to vacation in Canada, despite the fact they love the country and have Canadian ancestry.
“We had thought that they had quit (hunting seals) for many years,” said McLellan. “So we thought, well then, we’re going to not give Canada our tourist dollars.”
Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette penned a terse response to the McLellans, suggesting they should be more concerned about their own government’s treatment of Iraqis.
She didn’t limit her comments to the war, however, pointing out that the true crimes being committed in the world are “the daily massacre of innocent people in Iraq, the execution of prisoners — mainly blacks — in American prisons, the massive sale of handguns to Americans, the destabilization of the entire world by the American government’s aggressive foreign policy, etc.”
Hervieux-Payette told Montreal’s La Presse that Americans should worry about their own country’s behaviour before pointing fingers at other nations.
She sent a copy of her blunt response to other senators, and told La Presse: “all senators received the letter from the McLellans and I was the only one to respond.”
Opposition Leader Bill Graham issued a statement on Friday saying those words “reflect her personal opinions and not those of the Liberal Party of Canada.”
Graham added the Liberals value the friendship and commitment to democratic principles that Canada shares with the U.S.
There is no suggestion that Hervieux-Payette’s comments might bring disciplinary action from her caucus.
McLellan, meanwhile, says her family isn’t about to get involved in the politics behind the debate.
“Our focus is on the inhumane treatment of seals. That’s what our main focus is, so we didn’t want to make it political at all,” she told Newsnet.
Sir Paul McCartney’s recent high-profile protest of the seal hunt brought international media attention to the issue. McCartney and his wife, Heather Mills McCartney, led an entourage of media and animal rights activists onto a Newfoundland ice floe earlier this month, where they posed with harp seal pups.
That led to a debate on CNN’s Larry King Live between Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams and the McCartneys. Williams later said the couple was badly misinformed about the hunt.
In her letter, Hervieux-Payette told the McLellans the centuries-old seal hunt is an important part of the economy for eastern workers and native hunters who rely on the proceeds from the harvest.
“This activity allows the livelihoods of our people in a region where they have been living for centuries,” she wrote.
The Liberal caucus has not issued an official response to the senator’s letter.
Former MP Carolyn Parrish was kicked out of caucus by former prime minister Paul Martin for her comments against U.S. President George Bush. Parrish also stomped on a doll of the U.S. president.
Hervieux-Payette was appointed to the senate in 1995 by former prime minister Jean Chretien.
In 2004 she introduced a private member’s bill to outlaw spanking of children.