On Thursday, September 15th, Prince Edward Island Attorney John Mitchell Q.C. filed papers in the P.E.I. Provincial Court to challenge the constitutionality of regulations protecting sealers from being observed and documented without government permission.
The challenge was filed in the name of the eleven Sea Shepherd crewmembers charged earlier this year for allegedly violating these regulations that prevent the witnessing and documentation of a seal being killed. Captain Paul Watson's name has also been added to this challenge after he was charged last week for allegedly violating the same regulations.
The legal challenge was filed before Provincial Judge Nancy Orr.
Judge Orr set aside a number of potential days in November and December for the precedent-setting challenge, and she ruled that all materials regarding the challenge will be filed at the Charlottetown courthouse.
According to the Charlottetown Guardian: "No one has ever challenged the legal validity of the East Coast seal hunt before and the case could mark a historic precedent in the wrangling over whether the hunt is inhumane and should be stopped."
The Sea Shepherd crew believe that their rights were violated because they should be allowed to freely witness and document the slaughter of seals and that the government of Canada is bias in the application of the law for the purpose of shielding the sealers from bad publicity and from evidence that could result in criminal charges for illegal and unethical acts of cruelty against seal pups. The government is also refusing to protect both the rights and the safety of citizens who oppose the slaughter of seals.
This past March, Sea Shepherd crew members were punched, kicked, elbowed, head-butted, and struck with sealing clubs by crewmembers of the Newfoundland sealing vessel the Brady Mariner. The entire assault was caught on videotape. [Click here to view footage]
Despite the documentation, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have refused to lay charges against the sealers who assaulted the Sea Shepherd crew because the Mounties claim that the sealers were provoked into violence by the presence of the Sea Shepherd crew on the ice.
Attorney John Mitchell intends to argue that federal legislation regarding the regulations
of the seal hunt are unconstitutional.
This is a precedent-setting legal challenge to the regulations which provide crucial support for the slaughter of seals in Canada. If the Society can win this legal challenge, it will benefit all organizations and individuals who wish to document, protest, and shut down this barbaric and cruel annual massacre of seals.
This legal challenge will be expensive and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is requesting donations to be made to help pay for the legal fees. [Click here to make a donation]
Sea Shepherd is challenging the slaughter of seals in the courts and in the marketplace with our support of the boycott of Canadian seafood and we are challenging the hunt each year on the ice, face-to-face with the cowardly killers of baby seals.
The Sea Shepherd Twelve are Captain Paul Watson; First Officer Alex Cornelissen, 2nd Officer Peter Hammarstedt; ship's surgeon Dr. Jerry Vlasak; engineers Andre Casavane, Laura Dakin, and Ian Fritz ; deckhands Colin Biroc, Ryan Goyette, and Lisa Shalom; and cooks Matt Schwartz and Megan "Turtle" Southern.
The following article appeared in the Charlottetown Guardian on September 16, 2005:
Note: The article contains some errors, and we will correct these errors by including the correct information in brackets [ ] following the errors.
The Guardian (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island)
September 16, 2005 Friday
NEWS; Pg. A1 (Front Page)
Anti-sealers launch court challenge on legality of annual hunt in gulf
A constitutional challenge against federal fisheries legislation will be undertaken in provincial court here Nov. 22 by a dozen anti-seal hunt protesters who were charged with violating the hunt last spring in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Lawyer John Mitchell, who is representing the 11 protesters and Sea Shepherd Society captain Paul Watson, filed the constitutional challenge before provincial court Judge Nancy Orr Thursday.
A number of potential days for the precedent-setting challenge was set by Orr, who ruled that all materials regarding the challenge will be filed at the Charlottetown courthouse.
No one has ever challenged the legal validity of the East Coast seal hunt before and the case could mark a historic precedent in the wrangling over whether the hunt is inhumane and should be stopped.
The Canadian government bowed to anti-seal hunt pressure in the 1990s, but has since endorsed the hunt as a cultural right for many Newfoundlanders and a source of life-sustaining existence.
Orr was involved in a conference call on Tuesday about the legal challenge. The case involves the action of 10 Americans and one Canadian who traveled to the ice floes in the Gulf of St. Lawrence last March to protest the annual seal hunt. The individuals allegedly strayed too close to the actual kill sites and some became involved with the hunters. [The Sea Shepherd crewmembers were from many different nations including New Zealand, Holland, Sweden, the United States, and Canada.]
The RCMP has not laid charges against the sealers, suggesting their reactions were due to the provocation of the anti-sealers.
Sea Shepherd Society Captain Paul Watson was also charged under Canada's Shipping Act with a number of charges related to seal hunt interference. He is also part of the court challenge and, like the protesters, was not present in court. [Captain Watson was not present for the constitutional challenge appearance, however, he did appear for the Canadian Shipping Act Charges - see additional article]
Watson gave a public lecture in Charlottetown Monday night and raked the Department of Fisheries and Oceans over the coals about the seal hunt.
Also charged is Dr. Jerry Vlasak of California, who has been quoted as saying anti-seal hunt protesters are "freedom fighters."
He has advocated that physically attacking people such as research scientists and sealers is an "effective tactic" that may be justified in the quest to save animal life.
His inflammatory comments prompted Canadian Sierra Club president Elizabeth May to resign from the Sea Shepherd Society. [This is false. Elizabeth May did not resign from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and remains a member of the Sea Shepherd Advisory Board. His comments did result in him being removed from Sea Shepherd's board of directors.].
Mitchell intends to argue that federal legislation regarding the regulations of the seal hunt are unconstitutional. He could not be reached Thursday and was represented in court by firm lawyer Mark MacDonald.
Orr set aside a number of days in November and December to hear the case.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is urging supporters and those who oppose the slaughter of seals to write letters to the Charlottetown Guardian in support of the constitutional challenge and to oppose the continuation of the government's policy of supporting the killing of the seals.