Elizabeth May (Saanich—Gulf Islands)
2021-04-15 15:49 [p.5690]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join in the tribute today to a remarkable human being, a royal, and someone who cared deeply about Canada, and the nature and wildlife of this country.
It was a hot June day in 1987 when I was walking across a farmer’s field in Saskatchewan and had the huge honour of meeting His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. He was performing the kind of duties that I think he loved the most, which were helping to increase public awareness and support for endangered wildlife.
We were in the field of a farmer. I remember his name is Grant Fahlman. He was one of the first farmers in Saskatchewan to help with something called operation burrowing owl to try to preserve this very endangered bird, which has sadly become even more endangered since 1987.
However, His Royal Highness was there in his very strong engagement, as we have just heard from the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, in the work of the World Wildlife Fund. His Royal Highness was there to increase awareness and increase support. His tour of Saskatchewan in June 1987 included the stop at Grant Fahlman’s family farm, as well as going to Last Mountain Lake to see the endangered whooping cranes and sandhill cranes.
However, what I remark about the most when I think back on that trip was His Royal Highness’s extraordinary interest in detail. He had a very sharp eye, and he did not miss a thing. I will give two brief examples. We were walking across the field when he spotted a bit of desiccated excrement, and he stooped down to pick it up and examine it. He handed it to a wildlife biologist who was with us in the field and said, “What do you suppose this is? What animal do you suppose it is?”
The biologist said, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s a coyote” and tossed it away casually. His Royal Highness said, “Excuse me, you don’t know what it is, and you’re going to discard it? Surely we should look into it.” The biologist scampered and found the piece of desiccated excrement, took it with him and promised His Royal Highness that he would study it. Nothing escaped his attention.
I was there in my capacity as policy advisor the federal minister of the environment at the time, and the burrowing owl relieved himself in the minister’s hands. I very discreetly passed my boss a piece of old paper napkin from my purse, so he could wipe his hands off. Somewhat later in the day it was my turn to be presented. Tom McMillan, my boss, turned to His Royal Highness and said, “I want to present you with a member of my staff and she—” at which point His Royal Highness said, “Oh, I know, she provides you with Kleenex”. He did not miss a thing. He had the sharpest eyes I have ever seen and was absolutely attentive to detail.
He was there also fundraising for Ducks Unlimited to protect our migratory waterfowl, our wetlands and Prairie Pothole. He was there in his capacity as president of the World Wildlife International, a role he held from 1981-96. That is not a small degree of commitment. He was also the vice-president of the International Union for Conservation of Nature from 1981-88.
His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh was dedicated in a way that was more than show. It was not just the occasional event. He went to 50 different countries advocating for wildlife and preservation of key areas of ecosystems. He contributed to saving Canadian old growth in the campaign that took place in those very years to protect the area that is now Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve in Haida Gwaii.
The member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford referenced that Prince Philip was known for the occasional gaffe, but I think that people, wildlife and endangered ecosystems around the world owe an enormous debt of gratitude to this member of the royal family whose sense of duty was extraordinary. His inspiration and his love of the natural world was second to none.
I join with all of my colleagues today in expressing the deep condolences of the people of Canada to our Queen, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. This is an enormous loss to her and to the whole royal family. We express our condolences, and I personally want to express my thanks for the extraordinary honour of having met someone so dedicated to the wildlife, wild spaces and wilderness of Canada.