By MPP Toby Barrett
Saturday, Sept. 16 is National Hunting Trapping and Fishing Heritage Day to recognize the importance of these activities to our economy, our identity and culture.
This year, Heritage Day coincides with Waterfowler Heritage Day – set aside for young hunters under the age of 18 to hunt ducks for a day before the regular opening day. The public hunting blinds at Long Point will be available for use that day, with a draw being held at 5 a.m. to select blinds. Note, early Canada goose and mourning dove season are already open.
And to set the stage for all this, the day before has been unofficially deemed Camo Day. So, if you come in my office and see my staff wearing camouflage clothing, this is not a fashion faux pas. I’m featuring squirrel hunting gear I picked up in North Carolina.
On the provincial legislative front, as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Natural Resources, I shepherded legislation in 2002 to enshrine the right to hunt and fish in Ontario. Our Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act passed and recognizes our outdoors heritage. Speaking to the bill at the time, I said, “In my riding, for example, hunting and fishing are, for many, much more than recreation. They are a way of life.”
Hunting alone accounts for 20,000 jobs in Ontario – many of which are in rural and northern areas, where jobs are at a premium. The hunting industry is worth more than the province’s television and film production industry. And these figures didn’t include fishing or trapping.
The federal legislation designating the heritage day passed in November 2014. It recognizes hunting, trapping and fishing are a part of Canada’s national heritage; the participation of Indigenous people in hunting, trapping and fishing; the contribution hunters, trappers and anglers made to the development of the nation by traversing and mapping the country; and the contribution these activities make to the national economy.
Hunting, fishing and trapping contribute $15.2 billion to our national economy every year. Breaking this down, a 2001 report chalked up $6.7 billion in annual spending to angling alone. This included jobs in tourism, transportation, retail, boating and other areas.
A 2012 federal government report: Sport Fishing and Game Hunting in Canada – An Assessment on the Potential International Tourism Opportunity looked into the tourism growth potential in the outdoors sector. It stated, “Canada has only tapped in a small fraction of the avid game hunters and enthusiasts for sport fishing from the US. And I might add the $124 billion duck hunting industry supports 737,000 jobs in the United States.
Trapping was one of the foundations on which Ontario was built. It no longer holds the same importance it once did as other materials have been discovered to provide warmth, but is still an important sustainable activity in rural and northern Ontario, and continues to maintain Canada’s reputation for quality internationally.
Two hundred years ago hunting often meant the difference between putting food on the table or not. Then, over the last century, it morphed into a recreational activity for the camaraderie. Now, a new generation of hunters is gain realizing the nutritional value of wild game, and the number of female and young hunters continues to grow.