Welcome To The Banana Republic of CanadaCommentary by Paul Watson
Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
When people ask me why I left Canada to live in the United States, my answer is very simple. It may sound cliché, it may sound trite, but it all comes down to freedom.
You see in Canada there is freedom of speech until you speak, freedom of expression until you express yourself, freedom of assembly until you assemble.
Once you have placed yourself in opposition to the policies of the Canadian government you effectively become an enemy of the State. The Canadian government only wants "good" citizens i.e. those who do not question authority.
I have been an enemy of the state since 1975 the day I stepped onto the ice floes off Newfoundland and challenged the ignorance of a small minority of sadistic thugs who believe it is their God given right to bash in the skulls of baby seals.
Over the last three decades I have been arrested, beaten by the police, beaten by sealers while the police looked on, placed on trial, fined, called a traitor to the nation, charged with conspiracy and with breaking the "seal protection regulations."
The truncheons of the Mounties and the steel toed boots of the sealers beat any sense of pride out of me that I once held for Canada, forcing me as a twelfth generation Canadian to abandon a country that will not tolerate any dissent against cruelty and ecological destruction.
This week we lost our appeal in our case against the Canadian government. Our legal challenge was to defend our right of free assembly and free movement by going to the ice floes off Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence to oppose and to document the brutal annual slaughter of over 300,000 seals.
We had argued that the restrictions placed upon us by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans were a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court agreed with this but ruled that the Government of Canada has the right to violate our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
At first I was stunned. How can a democratic government have the right to violate a Charter that was designed to protect the human rights of its citizens? The primary purpose of a bill of rights is to protect the citizens from their own government.
But there is the little matter of the small print in the Charter called Section 33.
You see the Canadian Charter has an escape clause and it's called the Notwithstanding Clause (Section 33) and it allows the government to ignore the Charter of Rights and Freedoms if the government decides that over-riding the Charter is in the interest of the public good.
Canada argues that the foundation of the Canadian government rests on the absolute authority of the reigning Monarch and that this is the type of government that Canadians (according to the government) are most comfortable with.
The government inserted the Notwithstanding Clause to ensure that the Charter would not be above the government and that the courts would have no authority over the government.
In comparison in the United States, the Bill of Rights entrenched the American Constitution and the Courts were given the freedom to strike down authoritarian laws imposed by the government.
Canada has become a nation of voluntary servitude to the government. Look up the definition of slavery in the dictionary. Funk and Wagnalls defines a slave as "a person over whose life, liberty and property someone else has absolute control".
This is the very definition of a Canadian citizen. The government of Canada has an ABSOLUTE right to demand at any time a DNA sample from any citizen of Canada. If you refuse, the agents of the government can legally and with force restrain you while the required sample is taken. You have no choice. In this instance, the government has an absolute right over your body. A slave cannot refuse if his master wishes to examine him in any way, and neither can a Canadian citizen.
This means that the Government of Canada can ignore the rights of its citizens if it rules that the rights are in opposition to the government's authority.
This also means that the government can dictate to Canadians where and when they can travel within the boundaries of Canada. A Canadian citizen can even be denied entry into Canada if the Canadian government so orders.
This allows the Canadian government to exercise favoritism, siding with corporate interests over the public when it is considered profitable to do so, especially when it is profitable for friends of the politicians in power. It can then justify this favoritism by saying it is acting for the good of the public at large.
Because of this system, the Canadian governments both Federally and Provincially have been plagued by corruption, scandal and abuse of power.
One of the most abusive governmental manipulations of the strangely named Seal Protection Regulations is the numerous arrests and convictions, imprisonment and fines handed out to conservationists, animal rights advocates, and media people, yet very few arrests of sealers for cruelty or quota violations. And when sealers have physically assaulted seal defenders and damaged their aircraft and cameras, the government has consistently refused to bring charges.
I was assaulted and beaten in 1979, 1983, and 1995. My crew were viciously assaulted and bloodied in 2005. In all cases the attackers were identified and the attacks were documented on camera. In all cases, the charges were dropped for "insufficient evidence." Meanwhile, seal defenders have been jailed and fined for simply witnessing a seal being killed on the ice.
The extreme prejudice of this position can be found in the fact that in 1983 I was found guilty of conspiracy to break the Seal Protection Regulations and of actually breaking the regulations by approaching within a half a nautical mile of a seal hunt without the permission of the government of Canada. I was sentenced to 15 months in prison on the conspiracy charges and an additional 6 months for breaking the regulations. I was fined $75,000 and had my ship confiscated. My Chief Engineer was fined $7,500 and each of the other 18 crewmembers were fined $3,000 each. On top of that I was ordered to be banned from the five Eastern provinces for three years and ordered to not correspond directly or indirectly with any journalist on any subject anywhere in the world for three years.
My conviction was overturned in the Quebec Court of Appeal not because the courts thought the sentencing was excessive, but because they had laid these charges against me in the Province of Nova Scotia initially. The charges were dropped by the Nova Scotia courts and the Mounties then flew us all in a military plane to the province of Quebec where a more politically motivated judge could throw the book at us. Canadian law does say that you can't be tried in Province B on Federal charges if the charges were thrown out by Province A. The convictions were quashed.
The judge in that 1983 case was Yvon Mercier, a personal friend of the then Minster of Justice for Canada John Crosbie who had publicly said after our arrests that he would personally see to it that our "scalps" were taken for disrupting the seal hunt. The reason for this personal involvement by the Justice Minister was that John Crosbie, the Member of Parliament for Newfoundland, is from the Crosbie Sealing Company family.
I have been banned from the hunt since 2005 and fined $3,000 because I observed a seal being killed from the deck of my ship. I argued that the regulations allowed a person to be within a half a nautical mile of a seal hunt if the hunt took place within a half a nautical mile of their place of residence. I argued that my ship was my residence. The Prince Edward Island Court agreed and I was acquitted but the government appealed my acquittal and I was found guilty by the Court of Appeal.
In the United States, the government cannot appeal an acquittal. Not in Canada.
However Canada is not satisfied with spending hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to successfully protect Canadian society from seal huggers. For the coming year, Canada wants to make the regulations tougher. After all, the objective of the imposed Orwellian laws are to protect the sealers and the seal hunt and the best way to do so is to keep the public from witnessing the brutality on the ice.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans has decided that if people cannot see the evil or hear the evil then they will not speak against the evil. Towards this end, the government of Canada is looking to enact even more draconian regulations to keep people from witnessing and documenting the slaughter on the ice.
The new improved Seal Protection Regulations are now open for public review.
The Proposed Amendments are below and I would encourage you to click on their website to give the Canadian government your views about these new dictatorial measures that will effectively prevent all independent observation of the seal slaughter.
I was actually quite flattered to see that my name is mentioned in the Amendments. This is because the government wishes to close any possibility of my arguments being used in future court cases involving the trial of nefarious baby seal lovers.
Proposed Amendments to Section 32 and 33 of the Marine Mammal Regulations
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans is proposing amendments be made to Sections 32 and 33 of the Marine Mammal Regulations. These amendments are intended to come into effect for the 2008 seal harvest.
Amendments to Section 32 will clarify that the criteria set out in subsection (2) are not exhaustive and that the Minister may take into account other relevant considerations when determining whether the issuance of a seal fishery observation licence will cause disruption to a seal fishery. The amendments will also ensure that the Minister takes into account whether an applicant for a licence has been convicted of a violation of a seal fishery observation licence condition within the preceding five years.
An additional Section 32 amendment is required to take into account changing harvesting activities in response to changing ice conditions. We propose that the text "on the ice" be removed in order to properly manage the fishery.
A Section 33 amendment is required to clarify that the purpose of the exception in paragraph 33(2)(e) of the current Regulations is to exclude people who live in a house or similar land-based residence that happens to be within a half nautical mile of a sealing activity. This is consistent with a recent decision of the Prince Edward Island Supreme Court Trial Division in the case of R. v. Watson (affirmed on other grounds, P.E.I.C.A., August 24, 2007).
Please send your comments regarding the aforementioned proposed regulatory amendments to [email protected]
OBSERVATION OF SEAL FISHERIES
32. (1) A seal fishery observation licence may be issued only if the Minister determines that the issuance of the licence will not cause disruption to a seal fishery.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Minister, in determining whether the issuance of a seal fishery observation licence will cause disruption to a seal fishery in a specific geographical area, shall consider
33. (1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall, except under the authority of a seal fishery observation licence issued by the Minister, approach within one-half nautical mile of a person who is on the ice fishing for seals.