Silver Donald Cameron

Posts Tagged ‘Loyola Hearn’

Paul Watson and the Armada of Death

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Let me get this straight. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, aided by the RCMP, boarded and seized the Dutch-registered protest vessel Farley Mowat in order to prevent injury to sealers — just a couple of weeks after DFO drowned four sealers itself in a terrifying display of incompetence.

And the European master and mate of the vessel have been jailed and charged with offences under a set of “marine mammal protection regulations” that were created specifically to stifle dissent by preventing protesters from approaching seals who are in the process of being slaughtered.

And all this hits the headlines just as the European Union debates whether to ban seal products from the EU completely. A triumph of Canadian diplomacy.

And the Minister, Loyola Hearn, contributes to the calm and rational discussion of the seal hunt by sneering at the internationally-venerated Farley Mowat, who had the effrontery to putup bail money for the jailed officers. Hearn also excoriates Paul Watson’s Sea Shepherd Conservation society as “a bunch ofmoney-sucking manipulators.”

If money-sucking manipulation is now a crime under the Fisheries Act, perhaps we should send a few fisheries officers to call on The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney. Whether or not Mulroney’s skulking encounters with Karlheinz Schreiber were otherwise illegal, there’s not much doubt that they represented “money-sucking manipulation” on an Olympic scale.

But that’s not true of Paul Watson. Say what you will about Paul Watson — and you can say, with some justice, that he’s intransigent, uncompromising, hyperbolic, pugnacious, rash and intemperate — you cannot ascribe cynicism to a man who has spent his whole life charging whaling ships with rubber rafts, getting himself tear-gassed and beaten and jailed, and confronting armed and angry sealers and whalers far out on the cold and lonely sea.

But Hearn, who has spent his entire working life in classrooms and legislatures, says Watson is “gutless.” Stunning.

Paul Watson is not a cuddly figure. He doesn’t mind risks, and he is not intimidated by the authorities. If they don’t give him a permit, he goes to the ice without one and takes the consequences. If he has to go to jail, he goes. If the authorities bar him from the ice, he organizes a shipload of others. If they harass his Canadian ship, he registers it in the Netherlands. If they tell him he can’t enter Canadian waters, he stays 13 miles offshore and lets the hunt come to him.

He is utterly devoted to what he’s doing. And his passionate commitment reduces DFO and its successive ministers to gibbering, frothing incoherence.

The truth is that two worlds are colliding every spring at the seal hunt. Loyola Hearn represents the fading world-view which holds that human beings somehow rank above all other beings, holding dominion over the living whole and exploiting it without restraint. Watson, a vegan, represents the leading edge of a new world of people who recognize themselves as part of nature, responsible for their stewardship of the natural world, and no more precious than any other species on the planet.

Watson was speaking for that new world when he said that the deaths of the four sealers was a tragedy — but the deaths of 270,000 seals was an even greater tragedy. The striking outcome of that remark — as I saw it on a CBC News poll — was not that many people were outraged by it, but that perhaps two-thirds of the callers agreed with him.

When I first met Watson, I’m quite sure that the proportion would have been reversed — that a single human life would have been considered far more valuable than the lives of any number of animals. That was in 1976, on the ice at the Front, north of Newfoundland. I was reporting on the seal hunt. Watson was there with Greenpeace, of which he was a founding member.

That year, the Front was covered by all the major American TV networks, the wire services, and influential papers like the Boston Globe. The gory images that flashed around the world were a disaster for the sealing industry and the Canadian government. Ever since then, DFO has worked implacably to prevent detailed coverage of the slaughter, and it has largely succeeded. Except for Paul Watson.

In those days we hadn’t begun to grasp the damage that human beings had already done to the oceans. We didn’t know about the fury of destruction that has eliminated 90% of the world’s large predatory fishes. We hadn’t watched while DFO “managed” the Atlantic cod and the Pacific salmon into commercial extinction.

But Watson understood in his viscera that we were confronting an armada of death supported by pliant and amoral authority. With growing support, he has fought them ever since — and, with his fellow green warriors — he has changed the world.

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Dance of the Icebreakers

Friday, November 23rd, 2007

Halifax Sunday Herald column, November 11, 2007

Samuel Johnson was wrong. The last refuge of scoundrels is not patriotism, but “budget constraints.” When governments want to do something, they can always find the money. When they don’t want to act – or when they want to do something indefensible — they cite budget constraints.

Last month, for example, Fisheries New Minister Loyola Hearn announced that “Canada’s New Government” — which is getting a bit long in the tooth now – was making “an investment of $12.2 million for the restoration of three buildings located on the Canadian Coast Guard base in Quebec City.” The objective is to “enhance the area’s architectural landscape” in time for the 400th anniversary of the city’s founding.

Fine. Quebec deserves it. But Canada’s New Government can’t then claim that it doesn’t have $6 million to repair and renew the decrepit Coast Guard base in Dartmouth, and that it therefore must close the base and move the Coast Guard’s two largest icebreakers to Newfoundland.

Canada’s New Government is awash in cash. Just like Canada’s Old Government, it’s running a massive surplus – maybe a record $20 billion. But if funds were tight? Well, the Coast Guard isn’t in the business of enhancing the streetscapes of the nation. It’s in the business of search-and-rescue, coastal patrol, ice-breaking and similar difficult and essential marine pursuits. Its most important assets are not buildings but ships and the facilities that support the ships and the men and women who sail them.

If you had to choose, that’s where you’d spend your money. But we don’t have to choose. So what’s going on with those icebreakers?

Go back to 1995, when Canada’s Old Government – claiming budget constraints – merged its two non-military fleets by moving the Coast Guard from the Department of Transport to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which had a fleet of scientific research and fisheries enforcement vessels. Where the two fleets had contiguous bases, the facilities would be merged. So the Dartmouth Coast Guard operations would move to the Bedford Institute of Oceanography.

Great on paper – but the BIO had no wharves adequate for the big icebreakers Terry Fox and Louis St. Laurent. Very well: new wharves would be built. Whoops: that would cost $6.4 million – almost exactly the same cost as upgrading the original Coast Guard base. All right, perhaps the Terry Fox could dock at a leased Navy facility, with the Louis St. Laurent being moved to Sydney or Mulgrave. Maybe.

Meanwhile, the merger of the two fleets didn’t go particularly well. For mariners, particularly fishermen, the Coast Guard represents safety and security. They’re the guys who pluck you off your burning or sinking vessel. DFO, however, represents law enforcement. They’re the guys who charge you if you break their regulations. Two different functions, two different cultures. Morale in the Coast Guard plummetted.

And then, last April, Loyola Hearn dropped a bomb. The two big icebreakers would move from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland “to avoid significant additional infrastructure costs which would be required if they stayed in the Maritimes Region.” In Newfoundland, “the infrastructure is already in place.”

Bosh. Louis St. Laurent goes to Argentia, a port where the Coast Guard has no presence and which affords almost no facilities for a ship this size. The only appropriate berth is a deteriorated naval dock which is barred to heavy trucks and cranes. St. John’s is 85 miles away — $125 by taxi — so bringing in crews and supplies will be costly and time-consuming.

And St. John’s? The Fox visited there this fall, riding relatively high after using up much of her fuel on an Arctic voyage. The harbour pilot refused to take her alongside the shallow Coast Guard wharves unless she was further lightened. Unless the wharf is dredged, the ship will have to lie elsewhere. She may have to lie elsewhere anyway, since the Coast Guard base isn’t big enough for the existing fleet plus the Fox.

And does anyone care about the disruption of the lives of 150 families associated with the two ships, or the loss to Halifax of about $15 million a year?

This reeking proposal produced a storm of objections from Coast Guard retirees, opposition MPs and MLAs, citizens, and even serving Coast Guard officers like Stewart Klebert, skipper of the Louis St. Laurent – though little from the muted mayor of Halifax and the muzzled premier of Nova Scotia. All hands agreed that the cheapest and simplest option would be to repair the Dartmouth base and keep the ships where they are.

So what’s motivating Loyola Hearn? Survival. With Danny Williams on the war-path, no federal Conservative seat in Newfoundland is safe. The Tories hold three Newfoundland ridings, and this proposal would put icebreakers in two of them.

Canada’s New Government? Phooey. The faces look different, but the smell is the same.

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