Jerry Vlasak Seeks Permission to Enter Canada to Serve His Jail Sentence
On the official first day of the 2006 Canadian seal hunt, 25th March, 2006, Dr. Jerry Vlasak journeyed to Prince Edward Island, Canada to surrender to authorities on a conviction of violations of the inappropriately named "Canadian Seal Protection Act."
Eleven activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel Farley Mowat were arrested, charged, and convicted on the 11th of January 2005 for violating the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regulations that prevents citizens from witnessing the slaughter of the seals without a permit. Captain Paul Watson, Founder and President of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was found not guilty because it was established that the ship Farley Mowat was a place of residence, and therefore, allowed to be within a half of a nautical mile of the place where seals were being slaughtered.
Peaceful Sea Shepherd activists were attacked on the ice by sealers as they witnessed and recorded the slaughter during the 2005 hunt. However, despite damning video footage, none of the sealers was charged.
The court ordered the Sea Shepherd crew to be jailed because they refused to pay the $1,000 fine the court imposed for the offense of witnessing the seal slaughter. The crew said that they would rather be jailed and agreed to enter the jail in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, on the beginning of the 1st day of the seal killing in 2006. The crew also indicated that they would go on a hunger strike for the three weeks they were expected to serve in jail and that supporters would pledge donations for each day they were interned. This would serve to raise funds for the seals without giving funds to the government in the form of fines.
In an effort to prevent the Sea Shepherd crew from turning this sentencing into a positive campaign, the government retaliated by issuing bulletins to the border authorities requesting that the 10 non-Canadian crew members be turned back at the border if they intended to enter the country. The conviction, however, was a misdemeanor, and it is unusual for a person to be excluded for a summary conviction. This would have made expulsion from the country a non-ordered part of the sentencing.
By not surrendering for their court-ordered internment, the crew can expect to have bench warrants issued for failure to appear despite the fact that they were prevented from appearing by the government of Canada. Failure to appear will also result in permanent expulsion from Canada until the crew members appear, which they can’t do unless they are allowed to enter Canada. If they enter the country illegally in order to appear to satisfy their sentence, they will be charged with unlawful entry in addition to the charges they were convicted on.
Despite the bulletins at the border, however, and to the surprise of his Canadian lawyer, Dr. Vlasak was allowed to cross the the Canadian border in Vancouver at 4:00 AM Sunday, 26th March. He is continuing on to Prince Edward Island where he faces a jail sentence of 22 days. He said he wanted to serve his sentence in conjunction with this year's seal kill in protest against both the unethical convictions of himself and his fellow crew members, and the egregious massacre of the seals who are right now being mercilessly clubbed and shot to death for greed and profit.
The Canadian commercial seal hunt is the largest marine mammal slaughter in the world. A worldwide boycott of Canadian seafood supported by a number of conservationist groups has cost the Canadian economy tens of millions of dollars, far in excess of the value of the skins removed from the baby seals and the male seal penises being sold to Asia for aphrodisiacs. The Canadian government continues to subsidize the slaughter with icebreakers that enable the sealers to approach the seals, despite the opposition to the hunt by a majority of Canadians, various organsations worldwide, and celebrities like Paul and Heather McCartney and Bridget Bardot.
According to a 2004 poll by Ipsos Reid, more than 70% of Canadians believe the commercial seal hunt should either be banned or limited to seals over one year of age. (Ninety-seven percent of the 365,000 seals killed in the 2004 hunt were babies under three months, and the majority were less than three weeks old.)