Oh Canada, Once My Home and Now a Very Strange Land

Commentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

It appears to be a trend in modern politics that the only way you can be elected is to be moderately insane or just plain stupid. There are not many "A" students getting the job these days. A "C" grade is enough to run the good old US of A but in Canada you can be a complete moron and be appointed as the Minster of Public Safety.

Stockwell Day, the Minister in question, actually believes that dinosaurs are extinct because they could not fit on Noah's Ark. He also believes that people who die of AIDS are receiving their just punishment from God and that Asian students should be banned from Canadian Universities because they are just too damn smart. Mr. Day is such a laughing stock in Canada that over one million people in a nation of 33 million voted in favour of a referendum to change his name to Doris Day.

He's a member of course of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government. It's a minority government and this right wing wacko party is kept in power because of the support of the leftist socialist party the NDP (New Democratic Party) also known as the Nature Destruction Party for their slash and burn policies that destroyed British Columbia forests in the Nineties. The current Conservative government believes the best way to combat global greenhouse emissions is to chop down more tress and increase growth the manufacturing, resource extraction and transportation industries and oh yes, to squeeze every drop of oil from the Alberta tar sands as possible.

The grandson of the founder of Canada's socialist party is now the number one right wing action figure in American culture, none other than Jack Bauer a.k.a. Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland. If nothing else Canada brings the right and the left together in a mixture that is absurd and just simply strange. And the Liberal Party is no better. They are not really liberals at all but rather corporate sycophants that traditionally have overseen the wholesale exploitation of Canadian natural resources.

Just this summer displaying the kind of ecologically ignorant attitude that they are famous for, they served shark fin soup at a Liberal Party function. This at the same time the Canadian movie Sharkwater by Toronto Film Maker Rob Stewart was the biggest box office documentary in Canadian history.

Last month the Governor of Montana condemned the destructive environmental policies of the Liberal Premier of British Columbia at the same time the Green Party leadership in British Columbia was lauding Premier Gordon Campbell as some sort of slimy green guru. The only green that Campbell understands of course is American greenbacks. He is certainly no friend of the trees. And the Green Party of Newfoundland supports the slaughter of the seals. 

Canada hosts the largest slaughter of a marine mammal population in the world with the horrific annual massacre of over 300,000 baby seals. And to keep people from protesting this slaughter, Canada has enacted a special law called the Seal Protection Act that makes it a federal crime to witness a seal being killed. In other words, club a seal and make a buck, film a seal being killed and go to jail. One journalist from Britain has been told recently that he may have to pay a $100,000 fine for approaching a man who was killing a seal.

Back in 1983, I was sentenced to 21 months in prison, fined $75,000 and had my ship confiscated for the crime of "conspiracy to break the Seal Protection Act and for breaking the Act by being within a half a nautical mile of men killing seals. I was also ordered to "not correspond directly or indirectly with any journalist anywhere in the world on any subject for three years." The Quebec Supreme Court saw the foolishness of this and quashed the charges and released me. I then retaliated and sued the government and they had to pay damages.

Needless to say that did not make me popular in Canada and when you live in a relatively small country (population wise that is) then you quickly find yourself being noticed by the bureaucrats and the politicians. In 1983, Conservative Justice Minister John Crosbie was quoted as saying, "I will see that his scalp is taken for daring to intervene against the seal hunters." The Crosbie family name lent a great deal of weight to justice in Canada then and what Crosbie did not say was that his family fortune was earned from the profits of the Crosbie Sealing Company of Newfoundland.

In Canada the Newfoundland sealers wiped out the Northern Cod through incredibly rapacious greed. Today less than 3% of these magnificent fish remain but instead of taking the blame for their own incompetence and mis-management the Canadian government blames the Harp seals for wiping out the cod despite the fact that Harp seals do not eat cod but instead eat the fish that prey upon the cod, thus the lower harp seal populations become the more predators there will be to eat cod.

I am a twelfth generation Canadian of both French and Scottish descent. My first ancestor arrived in New France in 1620 and we are an eighth generation Maritime family. My father was born in Northern New Brunswick, his father was born in Prince Edward Island and his father before him was born in Nova Scotia. I was raised in a New Brunswick fishing village and yet I have Toronto and Calgary raised politicians accusing me of being insensitive to the needs of Maritime people in fishing villages, the same villages whose economies were destroyed because of the gross incompetence of the politicians who now try to blame seals and conservationists for the diminishment of wildlife and habitats.

In Canada if you try to save a tree, a seal, wolf or a river, you will go to jail and your sentence will be severe because anyone who interferes with corporate profit is considered an eco-terrorist. You can't even defend yourself under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the Charter has a little thing called the "not-withstanding clause" that allows the government to ignore the rights and freedoms of a citizen if it is considered in the "public interest." Many environmental groups like Sea Shepherd and Greenpeace have had their charitable status stripped from them because according to the Canadian government, wildlife conservation and environmental protection "serves no public good."

I smile when Americans ask me why I don't choose to live in Canada. After all Canada is considered to be a bastion of freedom and liberal views. Great P.R. but not a grain of truth in it. It's more like fascism with velvet gloves. Yes we have government sponsored medical care but it's not free and despite what Michael Moore would have us all believe it's not that great. It looks good on paper but you'll have another view if forced into a Canadian hospital emergency room. I remember once filling out forms for fifteen minutes as my hand bled all over the desk before they would slap a bandage on it.  I had three crewmembers removed from my ship a couple of years ago in Victoria, British Columbia because they had visited a person in a Canadian prison at an earlier date. Apparently visiting a prisoner is now considered an act of subversion and will get you on the terrorist watch list.

I love Canada, the land, the lakes, the wilderness, the remote arctic vastness and the dark brooding forests. But the political entity that is Canada is just simply crazy. The history of Canada is a history of bigotry, greed and brutality. The Asiatic Exclusion Act charged Asians $500 each to come to Canada where Chinese workers were sacrificed to build the railroad. Even after fighting in two world wars for Canada, Chinese Canadian soldiers could not vote until after 1946. Canadian Indians were not allowed to vote until 1966. Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King refused to let Jews emigrate to Canada and his Immigration Minister said it was because there were too many Jews in Canada and when asked how many was too many, he replied that "None is too many." King by the way ran the country with the advice of the ghost of his dead mother and his dog who he said was the reincarnation of Jesus Christ.

Make no mistake. Canada is not and has never been a liberal nation. Ask the Indians whose land they stole. Witness the wildlife they have destroyed, the number of species extinct, the genocide of the Beothuks of Newfoundland, the destruction of the forests, the mercury poisoning of the rivers, and the contribution of nuclear technology to build atomic bombs for India and Pakistan.

Canada is a nation of club wielders. They swing seal clubs, drink Canadian club and belong to hockey clubs and they vote for morons to run the country. However, there is some positive light coming from Canada and it is that Canada has given birth to the age of ecological dissent. It is from Canada that Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society emerged. Canada is the home of outspoken courageous environmentalists like Dr. David Suzuki, Farley Mowat, Elizabeth May, Rebecca Aldworth, Anthony Marr, Rafe Mair, Simon Dick, Vicki Husband and so many others. Canada was also the home to the late Colleen MacCrory, Gary Gallon and Robert Hunter.

From out of the haze of greed and destruction, valiant voices have come forth to challenge the ecological ignorance of the Canadian status quo and these voices have resounded globally and not just locally. For when all is said and done, I still see the glimpse of my Canada, the Canada that I love hiding behind the curtain of destruction that the government has draped over the escutcheon of the true north strong and free. The flag means nothing to me, and the government even less. What I yearn for, what I fight for is the salvation of the very soul of Canada - the wilderness, the vastness, the wholeness and the living fabric of the nation of species interwoven into the interdependency of species that for millions of years defined the North, before it had a name, before the Europeans, before the emergence of humanity - when the voice of the loon echoed across the quiet lakes and the howl of the wolf serenaded the rising full moon. My Canada, the land of beavers, seals, bears, eagles, wolverines, musk ox, forests, lakes and mountains - the land before the right wing wacko doofus Stockwell Day became Minister for its public safety by persecuting any citizen who stood to defend the safety of the environment.

And I still admire the one great Canadian trait of character that has emerged from the Great White North. If nothing else Canada has produced legendary comedians from Buster Keaton, Jim Carey, John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, and many others.

The Canadian response to the insanity of Canadian politics was to establish the Rhinoceros Party with a baby rhino named Cornelius from the Montreal Zoo as its leader. This Party took so many votes away from the Liberals that former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau had Cornelius deported to Brazil in revenge.

And remember this is the nation with Bill 22, the Language Law which actually makes it a criminal offence in Quebec to speak English in certain circumstances and where a Montreal restaurant was fined $250 for having a parrot in the lobby that did not speak French.

I suppose that I should take comfort in this ridiculousness. If Canadians did not have a sense of humor they would be, gee I don't know - Americans I guess. Not many people realize that Canada was meant to be the perfect nation. It was to have the British system of government, French culture and cuisine and American economic know-all. What we got was French government, British economic skills and American culture and cuisine which pretty much explains the state of the nation as it is today.