Canadian Odyssey - Report on the Canadian Speaking Tour

Commentary by Paul Watson
Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

September 11th - September 19th 2005

Despite the attempt by the government of Canada to prevent Captain Paul Watson from speaking across Canada, the tour has been a success. [For more details, see article Playing Trivial Pursuit with Canadian Petticrats].

After speaking to an audience of 300 people at the University of Victoria's David Lam Theatre on September 11th, Captain Paul Watson had to take a redeye flight the same evening to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, to answer a warrant on a minor violation of Transport Canada regulations.

Normally, an attorney could appear before the court to accept the warrant, but in an unprecedented move, the Federal government demanded an appearance and issued a nationwide warrant.

If exercised, this would have led to Captain Watson's arrest and detention for days to await extradition proceedings and would have sabotaged the speaking tour. The only way to vacate the order was to appear voluntarily in Charlottetown where he was immediately released without bail and allowed to return to the West coast.

Thanks to Sharon Labchuk of the P.E.I. Green Party, Captain Watson was able to speak to about 30 people in Charlottetown which was a good crowd considering that the scheduled date for the Charlottetown presentation was September 20th and it had to be changed due to the court appearance.

The Crown Prosecutor could have allowed Captain Watson to have appeared on the 20th to coincide with the scheduled speaking date in Charlottetown but refused to accommodate this request. This, of course, underscores the pettiness of the Canadian government in their continued harassment of anyone who dares to oppose the annual slaughter of harp seals.

Captain Watson was able to return to Vancouver in time to participate in a demonstration before the offices of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and to give a presentation to about 200 people at the Robson Square Media Centre during the evening of September 13th.  Vancouver was especially pleasant because Captain Watson's only daughter Lilliolani attended the talk and this gave him an opportunity to see her for the first time in many months.

The next morning he flew to Kelowna, British Columbia, to do media interviews and to speak at the Mary Irwin Theatre in the evening to a group of about 170 people.

On the 15th of September, Captain Watson arrived in Edmonton where he spoke to about 200 people at the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre.

Early in the morning of the 16th of September, Captain Watson traveled by bus south to Calgary, Alberta, to give a noon presentation at the W.R. Castell Central Library Theatre to about 75 people.

Captain Watson then flew to Winnipeg, Manitoba, to speak to a hundred people at the University of Winnipeg 17th of September.

After the talk, it was a wild dash to the airport where he arrived with only forty seconds left before the flight was closed. Captain Watson arrived in Windsor where Darryl Braun had arranged transportation.

As they drove up to the Detroit border and handed the Homeland Security officer their identification, an alarm was sounded and suddenly 18 armed Homeland Security officers surrounded the car and Captain Watson was ordered out of the vehicle and forced up against the back of the car where he was handcuffed and escorted inside to a holding cell and searched.

He was held for three and half hours until 3:30 am before being released. A special agent was brought in to question Captain Watson about his 1993 book "Ocean Warrior" which the agent said had "disturbing content."

Captain Watson assured the agent that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was an organization that intervened against illegal activities. He added that he was disturbed by the fact that writing was now considered a subversive activity.

Upon his release and permission to enter the United States where he is a legal resident, Captain Watson slept for a few hours before participating in a demonstration at Red Lobster and then giving a presentation at the Pease Auditorium at the Eastern Michigan University Campus at 2:00 P.M. on September 18th.

After the lecture it was back across the border to Canada without incident to catch a flight to Toronto.

On the 19th of September, Captain Watson began the day with a live interview on City TV. He attended a demonstration against Red Lobster with fifty Toronto activists and spoke at the University of Toronto's Medical Sciences Building at 6:30 to 8:00 pm before making a mad dash to the airport to catch a flight to Frankfurt, Germany, and on to Capetown, South Africa, to give a presentation to the Hermanus Whale Festival.

In total, Captain Watson was able to speak to over a thousand people in nine cities.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society very much appreciates all of the time, energy, and efforts of the organizers of this speaking tour and would like to extend our sincere gratitude to the following people:

We very much appreciate all of the hard work and great coordination efforts orchestrated by Sinikka Crosland of Kelowna, British Columbia. She did a fantastic job organizing this tour. It was a tight but well-organized schedule and worked out well despite the obstacles imposed by the Canadian government and the U.S. Border Patrol.

A very special thanks to Bruce Foerster for organizing the presentation in Victoria in addition to sponsoring two billboards opposing the slaughter of seals in Victoria. Thank-you also to Heather Steel for helping with the organization of the talk.

A big thank-you to Sharon Labchuk of the P.E.I. Green Party in Charlottetown, for her efforts in the last minute re-organizing of the presentation.

The Vancouver talk was organized by Sea Shepherd Vancouver representative Steve Thompson with assistance from Glynis Sherwood, Amy Meekison, and Ashley Fruno and Lesley Fox of the Vancouver Humane Society. The talk was attended by Sea Shepherd crewmembers Fraser Hall and Rhian McKee.

The Kelowna appearance was organized and hosted by Sinikka Crosland and Brenda Davis.

In Edmonton the event was sponsored by and hosted by David Parker of Vegetarians of Alberta and Tove Reece of the Voice for Animals Society. Sea Shepherd crewmember Antoine Lum (who is also Paul Watson's nephew) attended to help with the tabling.

In Calgary, the talk was hosted by R.J. Bailot and Marie and Marc Gaudreau.

In Winnipeg, the hosts were Twyla and Kelly Groening, Syd Baumel and Dave Nickarz.

The Michigan talk was hosted by Darryl Braun and Sarah Devaney.

In Toronto, the presentation was sponsored by Julie Woodyer and Melissa Ryall of Zoocheck Canada. About 200 people attended including Sea Shepherd crewmembers Lisa Shalom and Ryan Young along with Sea Shepherd Field Representative for Toronto Robert Rose.

The eight day whirlwind tour was well covered in the Canadian media with feature stories in the newspapers. City TV gave great coverage in Vancouver, Edmonton, and Toronto. The Winnipeg Free Press especially a wrote a long and very positive story about the tour [see SSCS in the News].

One important message that Captain Watson stressed and that was applauded at the talks and covered in the media was that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO)is the single most mismanaged and incompetent bureaucracy in Canada. It is responsible for the collapse of the fisheries on both the Pacific and Atlantic coast, and it is responsible for the irreparable damage caused to the Northwest Atlantic eco-system. This department that Captain Watson now calls the Doofus Department has no business managing seals after so grossly mismanaging the cod and the salmon. The DFO must be overhauled and those responsible for the crime of diminishing the seas be fired and replaced.