Another Profile on Marineland’s Late Owner John Holer

The Creator of the Niagara Falls, Ontario Amusement Park Is Remembered This July 23rd in an Obituary in The Globe and Mail

A Brief Foreword to the Globe Obit from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted July 23rd, 2018 on Niagara At Large

For the past two or three decades, Marineland became a magnet for protests by animal activists from across the region and beyond. File photo by Doug Draper

Niagara, Ontario – A full month after Marineland creator and owner John Holer died this past June 23rd at age 83, it is still hard to believe that this person who loomed so large for so long in the history of Niagara, Ontario is gone.

Going back to my years as an environment reporter at The St. Catharines Standard, I had my share of encounters and run-ins with John Holer over his park’s history of keeping whales, dolphins and other animals in captivity for people’s amusement.

Notwithstanding John Holer’s repeated insistence that he must be giving people what they want because many hundreds of thousands of them pay money each year to visit Marineland, I remain just as insistent that these animals do not belong in places like this.

With that in mind, I hope Canada’s federal government will finally see fit to pass legislation – now of the parliamentary table in the form of Bill S-203 or the “Free Willy bill” as some have taken to calling it – that would make it unlawful to keep or sell whales and dolphins in Canada.

Call your federal member of parliament and urge them to support this bill too.

There was another obituary on John Holer that appeared this July 23rd in The Globe and Mail that I find to be about as fair and accurate as any one I have read since his passing.

I share the first few paragraphs of it here, followed by a link you can click on to read the entire obituary on The Globe and Mail website –

Entrepreneur John Holer created Marineland

By Susan Ferrier MacKay, Special to The Globe and Mail

Marineland creator and owner John Holer

‘John Holer, founder and owner of Marineland, one of Canada’s last remaining zoological theme parks, mastered the practice of keeping wild creatures in captivity for profit.

He started his business in the early 1960s with just three sea lions living in a tank on a small parcel of land in Niagara Falls, Ont., and it evolved into today’s 1,000-acre amusement facility with performing marine mammals, as well as assorted deer, bears and fish on display.

Despite the fact it receives 250,000 visitors a year, and contrary to its ubiquitous radio jingle and TV ad promising family fun, not everyone loves Marineland.

At the opening of its 57th season last May, hundreds of animal-rights activists lined the road in front of the park to rattle the cage of Mr. Holer, who frequently referred to protesters as “kooks.” In an interview for Niagara at Large, an online publication, Mr. Holer told the reporter, “I have a clear conscience. My animals are looked after A1. I would be the biggest fool walking on earth if I did not take care of these animals.” He stressed that a single whale or dolphin is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to a marine aquarium. “I couldn’t afford to lose my animals,” he said.

Mr. Holer, who died on June 23 at his home near Marineland at the age of 83, was a constant presence in the park. …’

To read the entire obituary from the Monday, July 23rd edition of The Globe and Mail, click on .

To read a profile Niagara At Large posted following John Holer’s passing, click on – .

Hundreds demonstrated in front of Marineland again this May, on the first weekend of the park’s opening for the 2018 season.

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders


2 responses to “Another Profile on Marineland’s Late Owner John Holer

  1. The Globe article states: “Mr. Holer was known for his acts of generosity, which included paying for an employee’s medical treatment in the United States and helping someone else buy a house. He had a habit of buying ice cream for children.” …he was also known for evicting 47 families from his mobile home park who had lived there for years. One woman becoming so distraught that she took her own life.
    As a long time advocate for animals, including those at Marineland, I can truthfully say we have seen another side of this man, that the general public did not.
    I will just add the words of Shakespeare which pretty much sums it up: “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
    The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones; So let it be with Caesar.”


  2. Brigitte Bonner

    I agree with your viewpoints Doug and Cath. I often wonder, why is there so much criticism of Marineland, but none of Safari Niagara in Stevensville? I have not been there lately, but when I was there years ago, I saw many deer standing in at least a foot of water. Therir entire enclosure was a swamp. I would like to see some pressure put on them to make sure these animals are being treated properly.


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