© By Othmar Vohringer
When I think of Parliament Hill I think of politicians mindlessly bickering and pointing fingers at each other like kindergarteners. Imagine my surprise when I learned that an all-party team made up of such opposites as former Liberal cabinet minister Wayne Easter, Conservative House Leader Peter Van Loan and Diane Ablonczy, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and some NDPers happily sat together in a collegial atmosphere and for once were in agreement on a single subject.
Perhaps it is not so surprising that this group of people get along so well. They are all members of the Canadian Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus. I guess the common love of fishing, hunting and the great Canadian outdoors can overcome political divide and agendas. The point of this five-year-old Outdoors Caucasus is to bring like-minded MPs together to the benefit of Canada’s hunters, anglers, trappers and sport shooters. The Canadian Outdoor Caucus with an estimated 81 MPs and Senators is the largest all-party group in North America of this type. The goal of this group is to protect hunting, fishing, trapping and the shooting sport as a unique Canadian heritage.
Outdoors Caucus co-chair, NDP MP Bruce Hyer said the caucus is trying to address the increasingly large, but little known, “nature deficit disorder” which many Canadians suffer from today. “Hunting, fishing and trapping are a big part of the Canadian roots. It’s a huge part of our history and even today it’s an important element in many people’s lives. It’s not just recreation. I think a lot of people don’t understand it isn’t just getting food and it isn’t just fun—it’s a connection to the land in a very different way than from people who interpret the outdoors through television and who think meat comes in Styrofoam.” Conservative MP Garry Breitkreuz, caucus co-chair, said heritage activities are healthy pursuits that can help keep young people from getting “involved in other unsavoury activities.”
The all-party outdoors caucus, founded by Garry Breitkreuz in 2006, is often visited by industry members such as Ducks Unlimited, Fishing Alliance of Canada, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, plus many others. The groups share the goals of the caucus and provide input. One of the goals of this caucus is to provide a much needed counter balance to anti-hunting, anti-fishing and anti-shooting culture. The outdoor caucus was responsible for bushing legislation such as the anti hunter harassment laws and Bill C-261, a bill to create a National Hunting, Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day in Canada.
As can be expected the Humane Society International/Canada, an affiliate animal rights group of the notorious Humane Society of the United States, and others like it are not pleased about the existence of the Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus, they much rather would prefer if hunting and fishing did not have a “government sponsored lobby”.
I on the other hand appreciate that the government realized that our unique outdoor sports and their economic contributions are the foundations upon which Canada was built and grant us their support and protection trough the Parliamentary Outdoors Caucus.