It’s been five long years since a team from the Fur Institute of Canada last descended on Parliament Hill, thanks in part to travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic. So, the revival of Fur Day on the Hill this April 18 is a cause for celebration! It’s also to be hoped that Fur Day becomes an annual event that Members of Parliament, Senators and other senior government officials can mark in their diaries with confidence.
Our delegation this year was impressive, not just in numbers but also in the breadth and depth of knowledge we represented. Leading our group was current FIC Chairman Jason White, supported by Board members Mike O’Brien, Emmanuel Dalpé-Charron, Corey Grover, Nathan Kogiak, Francois Rossouw, Scott Sears, Robin Horwath, Rob Bollert and Brian Dicks.
Also joining us were Seals & Sealing Network Program Manager, Romy Vaugeois, the Ontario Fur Managers Federation General Manager, Lauren Tonelli, as well as Matt Moses of the Canada Mink Breeders Association. Ably supporting us at Fur Day headquarters was a team from Summa Strategies.
SEE ALSO: Doug Chiasson: What does the Fur Institute’s new ED bring to the table? Truth About Fur, June 22, 2022.
Strong Relationship with Government
The FIC has always had a strong and important relationship with government, going back to our establishment by Wildlife Ministers in 1983. For the last forty years, we have engaged closely with federal, provincial and territorial governments, particularly in fulfilling our mandate to test and certify trap compliance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards.
But good relationships must be nurtured, and after a five-year absence from Parliament Hill, our reappearance was long overdue. Of course, we wanted to connect with old friends we hadn’t seen in a while, but more importantly, we needed to meet a new cadre of MPs and Senators, and identify new champions for Canada’s sustainable, humane fur trade.
Many of these Parliamentarians, and especially those from rural and remote areas, represent communities where trapping plays a vital role in the local economy. So it was important for us to touch base with representatives from across the country, from the West, East and Arctic coasts and many points in between. It was also refreshing to be reminded that Canada’s fur trade is not a partisan issue, with strong support to be found in all the major political parties.
There is always room for improvement in the way federal government regulates businesses, and this was the thrust of our unified message on Fur Day.
Under the current arrangement, a long list of departments and agencies are involved in regulating different aspects of the fur trade. These include Environment and Climate Change Canada, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, Global Affairs Canada, Industry Science and Economic Development Canada, Fisheries & Oceans Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Export Development Canada, and the seven federal Regional Development Agencies.
All these departments and agencies play their own role in determining what form the fur trade takes, and the result is often misalignment and confusion. For example, if a fur business wants to know what federal support exists for them, and how to access it, they can get lost in a bureaucratic maze.
Given that the fur sector was, until quite recently, worth more than $1 billion to the Canadian economy, it is unsurprising that we enjoy strong support among politicians at all levels of government. But what is surprising is that there is no one department within the federal government dedicated to providing a home base for the entire fur trade, and acting as our Champion.
Such a department would advocate for the fur trade at internal government talks, and just as importantly, point folks in the trade towards the right decision-makers and appropriate pots of funding to support new initiatives for fur.
After a long day with many meetings, we held a reception for Parliamentarians and friends of fur from Ottawa and the surrounding area. But this wasn’t just a chance to wind down and relax.
Rather, it was an important opportunity to let Parliamentarians meet others from the fur trade, while also giving them a chance to appreciate the unique feel and beauty of natural fur.
To this end, our reception featured a display of fur garments, home décor, and pelts. Most of the garments and décor were provided courtesy of Rob Cahill of Cahill’s Furs in Peterborough, from his Further Upcycled line. And FIC Board member Robin Horwath, who was also formerly General Manager of the Ontario Fur Managers Federation, showed dressed pelts of the various furbearers harvested across his province.
Fur Day on the Hill has just taken place for the first time in five years, and that’s far too long. It was always intended to be an essential part of the FIC’s lobbying efforts on Parliament Hill, on behalf of the entire fur sector.
For this reason, it is my hope that Fur Day becomes an annual event, as we strive to bring the full power of the federal government behind the fur sector, where it belongs.