Even if you don't care about beluga whales or how animals are treated in captivity, you may still be interested in what's happening at Marineland. In this age of widespread protest -- from the Occupy Movement to the Québec student protests to the Arab Spring -- Marineland reminds us that it is not just governments that may seek to silence their critics.
Marineland, a marine mammal park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, was the subject of an investigative series by the Toronto Star last year. The series was based in part on allegations by former employees, of abuse and mistreatment of animals. Marineland has denied and responded to the allegations, and is suing the Star as well as several of the former employees. Marineland has also set its sights on protesters and activists who demonstrate outside the park -- launching lawsuits against at least two protestors -- and has gone to Ontario courts for injunctions to order that protestors refrain from certain activities.
The Ontario government recently introduced a Bill that would make it easier for individuals faced with lawsuits like Marineland's to get the cases dealt with quickly. Where the lawsuit aims to curb expression on a matter of public interest, it could be dismissed on an expedited basis. This anti-SLAPP legislation (a SLAPP is a strategic lawsuit against public participation) is designed to keep threats of legal action being used as a way to silence debate and discussion on issues of interest to the public. We should encourage the government to pass this legislation promptly to send a message that freedom of expression deserves robust protection in a democracy and that our scarce justice resources shouldn't be used to halt peaceful protest activities.
The Marineland lawsuits are a case in point.
Make no mistake, Marineland has a right to deny some people entry to its park and to try to ensure that those who want to visit the park can access it safely. However, the steps that it has taken in court to date, and those that are threatened by its legal team, go well beyond these rights. Marineland has used the courts to prevent protesters from using certain words, like "abuse," on their protest signs. A Court in St. Catherines, Ontario granted this order, effectively restraining, pre-emptively, what activists can say about Marineland.
Never mind that some individuals believe that even keeping marine mammals like orca whales in captivity is abusive -- the Court has determined that, at least for now, this is an opinion that protesters can't express.
Marineland also sought to create a "bubble zone" around the park, arguing in Court that protesters should not be allowed to demonstrate within a certain distance of the park. While the Court didn't grant this order to Marineland, the park managed to purchase its own bubble zone by leasing land close to the park from the City of Niagara Falls. Now protesters found on these lands will be trespassing.
Clearly the paradigm of protests is shifting: increasingly we need to watch not only the tactics of the state, but also consider how private corporate actors can use our justice system to further their own ends and skew discourse on subjects of public interest in their favour.
Earlier this month, on Labour Day, a relatively small number of activists demonstrated outside of Marineland, encouraging visitors to go spend their hard-earned dollars elsewhere. Some of the messages that activists wanted to convey may have been stifled by the court orders in place and the aggressive tactics of Marineland and its legal team. In the days before the weekend, a lawyer for Marineland wrote to a lawyer for one of the activists, threatening all manner of legal action if any person demonstrating violated a Court order that, at least on its face, appears to apply to only one individual.
The Court's order has also been used by Marineland's legal team to threaten more legal proceedings if certain web postings reporting on allegations against Marineland are not removed from websites. Effectively, the Court's orders are being used as a way to try to dictate the narrative on the issue of animal treatment at the park. Regardless of your views on animal rights, those who care about freedom of expression should be worried about these tactics and the use of our courts to silence ordinary individuals.
I don't know the truth about what is happening inside Marineland. The Star did their investigation and Marineland has responded. It is up to each of us to decide what to believe and to ask the questions of all sides that will allow us to come to our own, informed conclusions. And importantly, we all have a right to hear responses from all sides. Further, we should all be allowed to protest on issues that we believe in without fearing a lawsuit and without being told which words we can use to make our point. And we should all be concerned when our courts, already overburdened and inaccessible to so many with pressing legal needs, are used by a corporate actor to silence its critics.
Cookie Smith shows off a normal egg and a "super egg" Wednesday, May 30, 2012, in Abilene, Texas. Cookie Smith went to collect eggs from her three laying hens on Monday afternoon, and discovered one normal egg and one "super egg" in her coop.
Bruschi, a four-year-old black and white Boston Terrier, who lives with his owner, Victoria Reed, in Grapevine, Texas, holds the Guinness World Record for "dog with the largest eyes" -- a whopping 1.1 inch in diameter.
This May 9, 2012 photo provided by the New England Aquarium in Boston shows a rare calico lobster that could be a 1-in-30 million, according to experts. The lobster, discovered by Jasper White's Summer Shack and caught off Winter Harbor, Maine, is being held at the New England Aquarium for the Biomes Marine Biology Center in Rhode Island. The lobster is dark with bright orange and yellow spots. (AP Photo/New England Aquarium, Tony LaCasse)
Bee removal expert Gary Schempp removed a 25-pound hive from the attic of a home in Cape May, N.J. The hive had 30,000 bees living in it.
An English man named Brian Watson killed a large rat his granddaughter's boyfriend found while cutting grass on April 21, <em><a href="http://news.sky.com/home/strange-news/article/16213384" target="_hplink">Sky News</a></em> reports. The water rat was so large, Watson broke a boat paddle trying to kill the critter.
Two fishermen in northeastern Mexico claim they netted a dead great white shark estimated to be near 20-feet-long on April 15, 2012.
This March 8, 2012 photo shows Nicole Andree feeding a hamburger to her dog, Prada, a 4-year-old pit bull mix, at an animal control facility in Nashville, Tenn. Andree is fighting a lengthy legal battle to save her dog's life after the animal was ordered euthanized for attacking other dogs.
The Stargazer fish which bears an uncanny resemblance to Homer Simpson. (Caters News / Getty Images)
After driving about 85 miles to Santa Cruz, Calif., a man discovered that this runaway kitten had been inside his car's engine in March 2012.
At two weeks old, Beyonce, a Dachsund mix born at a Northern California animal shelter, is just under four inches long and is in the running for the title of World's Smallest Dog. Here she is pictured resting on an iPhone.
This adorable injured baby pig was found roaming a hotel lobby near Honolulu's airport. The Hawaiian Humane Society renamed her Pukalani and says she'll be available for adoption later in March.
TOKYO - JANUARY 20: A woman strokes a cat at Nekorobi cat cafe on January 20, 2009 in Tokyo, Japan. Changes to Japan's Animal Protection Law threaten the future of these furry bars by imposing a curfew on cats and dogs. (Photo by Junko Kimura/Getty Images)
This newly released video taken during the summer of 2011 allegedly shows a living woolly mammoth crossing a river in Siberia. There is much speculation and debate as to whether this is, indeed, a living specimen of prehistoric elephant-related animals that were thought to be extinct.
A rare, mostly white-colored penguin was discovered in Antarctica in early January 2012. The picture was snapped by naturalist David Stephens.
This stray orange tabby in Houston earned the nickname 'Cupid' after he survived a piercing shoulder to shoulder wound in January 2012. A vet safely removed the arrow and 'Cupid' is expected to make a complete recovery.
Lucy, a mini Yorkshire terrier from Absecon, New Jersey, is now in the Guinness Book of World Records. Weighing just 2 1/2 pounds, Lucy was named the world's smallest working dog last week, bumping out a 6.6-pound police dog in Japan.
Undated Cats Protection handout photo of 4-month-old polydactyl kittens named Fred (left) and Ned (right), currently in the care of Cats Protection, Gosport Town Branch in the United Kingdom. They will shortly be going to their new home once they've been neutered. Ned has an extra eight digits, while his brother Fred has 10 more than the usual 18, making a total of 54 digits between them.
A man holds a crocodile with tape around its mouth, as workers from the Natuurhulpcentrum, a wildlife rehabilitation center, collect several crocodiles at a villa in Lapscheure, near the Dutch border, on Dec. 22, 2011. Police discovered eleven Nile crocodiles and one alligator (all alive) in a villa rented by a German man, Rolf D., during an investigation into financial fraud.
Booie, a chimpanzee that kicked a smoking habit and used sign language to beg for candy, died at the age of 44 at a California animal refuge in mid-December.
Rick Nadeau has saved up quite a nut by creating taxidermied squirrels that he puts in unusual outfits. He sells his works starting at $65 all the way up to $200.
In this Sept. 4, 2011, photo, Mayor Cox Elorde of Bunawan township, Agusan del Sur Province, pretends to measure a huge crocodile, known as Lolong, which was captured by residents and crocodile farm staff along a creek in Bunawan late Saturday in southern Philippines. Elorde said that dozens of villagers and experts ensnared the 21-foot (6.4-meter) male crocodile along a creek in his township after a three-week hunt. It was one of the largest crocodiles to be captured alive in the Philippines in recent years.
Skywalker, a rodeo bull in Hawaii, could not eat or drink while a 50-pound tire was stuck around his head. A ranch hand was able to pry it off after Skywalker exhausted himself, allowing the worker to get near the cranky animal.
Yakini the gorilla received a medical check-up from vets at Melbourne Zoo before being moved to a new multimillion-dollar exhibit at Werribee Open Range Zoo, on Oct. 28, 2011, in Melbourne, Australia.
Fishermen landed a three-eyed fish in Argentina near a nuclear reactor in October 2011.
Roman Akisen carries Cip, a 5-year-old German shepherd who found 18-year-old Imdat Padak alive under the rubble of a collapsed building more than 100 hours after a magnitude 7.2 quake, in Ercis, Turkey, Oct. 28, 2011.
Dr. Doug Luiten drills the tooth of Kunali, a 300-pound, 7-year-old Siberian tiger, during root canal surgery at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, Alaska, Oct. 20, 2011. This was the first procedure in a recently opened operating room and the first for the zoo's new veterinary table, complete with hydraulic lift and fold-out leafs to accommodate limbs and tails.
This New Hampshire moose was swimming a little too deep, forcing nine rescue workers to help remove it from the pool.
Gil Florini, of Saint-Pierre-d'Arene's church, blesses donkeys with holy water after a mass dedicated to animals on Oct. 9, 2011, in the southeastern French city of Nice.
Fizz Girl, a Munchkin Cat from San Diego, Calif., has grabbed the record title for Shortest Living Cat. Measuring in at just 6 inches tall from floor to shoulder, Fizz Girl weighs 4 pounds, 2.3 ounces. Munchkin cats are a special breed that have little legs caused by a naturally occurring genetic mutation.
This is the jaw-dropping moment a canoeist landed a 6-foot shark after it dragged him through the water for 10 minutes. Brave Rupert Kirkwood, 51, had paddled a mile off the United Kingdom's Devon coast when he suddenly felt a snag on his line. The 70-pound beast nearly pulled him overboard, before pulling his 16-foot canoe through the water as he desperately clung on. After 10 minutes of wrestling with the beast, he eventually hauled the massive fish on board.
A newborn African elephant lifted his trunk in search of his mother at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In this rare moment, the calf stood alone after he had wandered off a few steps, but shortly thereafter, his mother, 5-year-old sister Khosi (koh-see), and 2-year-old brother Ingadze (in-Gahd-zee) rushed over to tend to the unnamed calf. The Safari Park is now home to 18 elephants (eight adults and 10 youngsters).
Elephant polo players from the Spice girls team (left) and the British Airways British Army team battle it out for 5th place during the final day at the King's Cup Elephant polo tournament Sept. 11, 2011, in Hua Hin, Thailand.This year marked the 10th edition of the polo tournament with 12 international teams participating for the unusual annual charity sports event.
An orangutan in Malaysia is kicking its smoking habit. Wildlife officials have removed Shirley from a state zoo after the captive primate was regularly spotted smoking cigarettes that zoo visitors had tossed into its enclosure.
Tha Sophat, a 20-month-old Cambodian boy, suckles from a cow in Koak Roka village, Siem Reap province, Cambodia, Friday, Sept. 9, 2011. Tha Sophat started suckling the cow in July after he saw a calf do the same since his parents moved to Thailand in search of work, said his grandfather UmOeung.
This tiny porker has an excuse for making a pig of himself at mealtimes. He really does have two mouths to feed. The bizarre two-month-old youngster -- part of a litter born on a farm in northern China -- can use both his mouths to eat and appears otherwise normal, say his owners.
A moose is seen stuck in an apple tree in Gothenburg, Sweden, September 6, 2011. The police believe the moose was trying to eat apples from the tree and became intoxicated by fermented apples. The moose was freed by police officers and after a dose on the lawn, he sobered up and returned to the woods.
Brook Collins holds her dog, Fudge, at her home in Juneau, Alaska on Tuesday, Aug. 30, 2011. Collins punched a black bear in the snout after the bear attacked Fudge on Sunday, Aug. 28.
Motala, age 50, rests in the afternoon sun with the new prosthetic made for her at the Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE) elephant hospital in the Mae Yao National Reserve August 29, 2011 Lampang,Thailand. Motala lost a foot many years back after stepping on a land mine and now is on her third prosthetic, as they need to be changed according to the weight of the elephant. The world's first elephant hospital assists in medical care and helps to promote a better understanding of the elephant's physiology, important in treating them for illness. For generations elephants have been a part of the Thai culture, although today the Thai elephant mostly is domesticated animal, since Thailand now has few working elephants. Many are used in the tourism sector at special elephant parks or zoos, where they perform in shows. In some cases Thailand is still deals with roaming elephants on the city streets, usually after the mahout, an elephant driver, becomes unemployed, which often causes the elephant serious stress.
Indian army personnel use a bulldozer during a rescue mission to save a wild elephant trapped in a water reservoir tank at Bengdubi army cantonment area some 25 kms from Siliguri on August 30, 2011. A wild elephant fell into the water reservoir tank as a herd crossed the area. Army personnel of 16 Field Ammunition Depot along with wildlife elephant squad of Mahananda wildlife sanctuary joined forces to save the animal.
Lisa Marie Bach leads her pet rabbit Marie through an obstacle course in the middle-weight category at the 5th Open Rabbit Sport Tournament (5. offene Kaninchensport Turnier) on August 28, 2011 in Rommerz near Fulda, Germany. Eighty rabbits competed in light-weight, middle-weight and jumping-for-points categories at today's tournament in Rommerz that is based on Kanin Hop, or Rabbit Hopping. Rabbit Hopping is a growing trend among pet rabbit owners in Central Europe and the first European Championships are scheduled to be held later this year in Switzerland.
North Carolina Zoo Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis recently returned from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, where he helped perform a dental procedure on a 3,000-lb. old friend. Loomis, along with veterinarians and keepers from the Parque de las Sciencias museums in Bayamon, conducted dental surgery on "Tomy," a 39-year-old male hippopotamus that the N.C. Zoo veterinarian has been treating on a semi-regular basis for two decades.
Winter, a six-year-old dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in Florida, lost her tail when she was three months and now uses a prosthetic tail made especially for her.
"Otis'' the pug gets his harness put on him before making his 64th skydive at the Parachute Center in Acampo with his master, veteran skydiver Will DaSilva of Galt. Otis knows that harness means he's going skydiving and sits patiently while it is put on him.
John Huntington poses with one of his chickens on a lead in Sydney, Australia, on Aug. 15, 2011. Mr Hungtington's 'City Chicks' are chickens for those living in an urban enviroment, complete with small walking leads and harnesses and elasticised nappies. 'City Chicks' will be showcased at Sydney's ABC Gardening Australia Expo.
A dolphin flips in the air and splashes water over a watching crowd during a summer attraction at an aquarium in Tokyo on August 17, 2011. Theme parks and attactions such as this one are booming in August when many people try to beat the summer heat by visiting indoor attractions.
'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia, August 9, 2011. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Veterinary specialist Dr Rod Straw holds 'Sprinkles' the Koala following her life saving radiation treatment at the Brisbane Veterinary Specialist Centre in Brisbane, Australia. Suffering from an extremely rare case of excessive drooling, sprinkles developed a skin infection due to the excessive moisture flowing from her mouth.
Inside Walter Kidd's North Carolina trailer home were 154 reptiles, including cobras, vipers and Gila monsters. About 100 of the animals were dead and frozen, according to the Henderson County Sheriff's Office.
It's not every day you can say that a camel has shared your breakfast - unless you're Nathan and Charlotte Anderson-Dixon. Each morning they and their 18-month-son Reuben are joined by pet camel Joe, who pokes his head through their conservatory window to help himself to something to eat. The three-year-old happily munches eats bread, fruit and cereal plucked from the table at the family's detached country farmhouse. Joe, who measures 17.5 hands, loves bananas on toast but hates toast with cheese or Marmite. He lives with four other camels but is the only one to share breakfast with his owners. The others have to eat hay, barley, straw and corn mix in their stable in Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Nathan, 32, has owned Joe for two years and uses him for camel racing.
Charlotte Anderson-Dixon pushes her 18-month-old son Reuben on the swing as Joe the camel watches.
Nathan Anderson-Dixon, his wife Charlotte, their 18-month-old son Reuben, Joe the camel and a reindeer.
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