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RETURN To a respectful Address presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor praying him to cause to… British Columbia. Legislative Assembly 1897

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 60 Vict. Grievances of Sealers. 965a
RETURN
To a respectful Address presented to His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor, praying
him to cause to be laid before the House a copy of the Order in Council relative
to the grievances of the sealers referred to in the answer of the Honourable the
Attorney-General on the 12th day of February last.
By Command.
JAMES BAKER,
Provincial Secretary.
Provincial Secretary's Office,
29th April, 1897.
Certified Copy of a Report of a Committee of the Honourable the Executive Council, approved
by His Honour the Lieutenant-Governor on the 3rd day of February, 1897.
On a memorandum from the Hon. the Attorney-General, dated January 18th, 1897,
referring to the unsatisfactory and uncertain conditions of the sealing industry so far as relates
to British Columbia, which are the result of restrictions imposed under the Award of the Paris
Commission of Arbitration, and calling attention to the danger which exists of further and
more stringent regulations being adopted.
The Committee of Council observe that such action as appears probable as the outcome of
an agreement between the Government of the Dominion of Canada, through the Government
of Her Majesty, and the Government of the United States, would practically destroy the sealing
industry in this Province, and jeopardize the financial position of a large number of persons
whose interests are involved.
The Committee call attention to the fact that the present regulations have seriously affected
the sealing industry, and that in consequence of the restrictions imposed thereunder the catch
of the season 1896 was 55,677 skins, as compared with 73,614 in 1895, and 97,474 in 1894.
This falling off, coupled with the low prices prevailing in the London markets, has resulted in
great loss to the owners of sealing schooners and all concerned. The two best months to catch
the seals on their way north, those of May and June, are closed bylaw, and the month of July,
which is one of the best in Behring Sea, is also part of the closed season. These and other
restrictions are ostensibly for the purpose of allowing the seals to breed; precautions, however,
which even if necessary in the interests of seal life are useless, so long as the present destructive methods are permitted at their breeding places on the islands.
The Committee point out that the present regulations are in many particulars arbitrary
and excessively severe, and that instead of increasing the restrictions any negotiations on the
part of Her Majesty's Government should be, in the opinion of the Committee, in the direction
of their modification and for provision against the hardships and loss to the fleet arising out of
seizures on merely suspicious circumstances or for technical violations of the law.
The Committee submit as an example of the hardships which the owners of sealing
schooners have to undergo at times the case of the schooner "Aurora," which was seized and
sent to Victoria on the suspicion that her crew had been using fire-arms, from the fact that
four seal skins showed evidence of having been shot. Upon investigation before a competent
tribunal there was no proof forthcoming of fire-arms having been used by those on board the
schooner. The "Aurora" was released, but lost the sealing season as a consequence, and the
claim for damages was disallowed. 966 Grievances of Sealers. 1897
The Committee further submit that in case of such technical violation of the law the
officers in charge of the British ship in Alaskan waters should be notified, and a preliminary
investigation take place, and instead of ordering the schooner to Victoria immediately, order
her to report at a date after the sealing season, and thus obviate the serious losses to sealing
owners which occur under the present regulations.
The Committee observe that the importance of the sealing industry, and the loss which
would result from its extinction are shown by the following particulars :—
Sixty-five schooners are employed in Victoria, at a net tonnage of 4,292 registered.
The value of these schooners is estimated at $614,500, including their equipments for
sealing, but not the supplies for the crew.
These schooners, which are all owned in Victoria, employ each year 807 whites and 903
Indians, and it may be assumed that each wage earner has five persons dependent upon him
for support.
The annual cost of provisions is $136,500, and on a rough estimate half of this is obtained
from the United States.
About $350,000 is paid out annually for wages to people employed, who are mostly
resident in the Province.
The value of skins sold has amounted to an average of $750,000 per annum for the last
three years, a greater part of which is paid to the citizens of, and remains in, Canada.
Out of the annual amount of $750,000 received from sale of skins, $500,000 is the product of Behring Sea.
In view of these considerations the Committee recommend that the inadvisability of
agreeing to further restrictive regulations be strongly urged upon the Government of the
Dominion of Canada, and also that any further negotiations on behalf of Canada should be in
the direction of their material modification, whereby the sealing industry of British Columbia
may be placed upon a more secure basis.
The Committee advise that a copy of this Minute, if approved, be forwarded to the Hon.
the Secretary of State for Canada.
A. Campbell Reddie,
Deputy Clerk Executive   Council,
victoria, b. c.:
L'rinted by Richard Wolfenden, Printer to the Queen' Most Excellent Majesty.
1897.

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