Marineland’s Owner May Be Gone, But Campaign Against Animal Captivity At The Park Rages On

Activists Vow To Keep The Pressure On Niagara Falls Amusement Park

A News Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted September 4th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

As the morning arrived for this year’s Labour Day weekend demonstration in front of the sprawling Marineland amusement park in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Phil Demers wondered whether the usual 50 or more demonstrators would turn out.

John Holer is gone, but demonstrators were back this Labour Day weekend, at the Marineland park he founded more than 50 years ago, expressing their oppositon to keeping whales and other wild animals in captivity. Photo by Doug Draper

Or would something he called “Marineland fatigue” drive the number of demonstrators down?

After all, these demonstrations have been going on for three or more decades nowand still the whales and other animals are there, along with the crowds of people who keep buying tickets to go in to the park to see them.

Making their statement to passersby along a busy road in front of Marineland in Niagara Falls.

This Labour Day weekend would also mark the first time since Marineland opened in the 1960s that John Holer, the park’s founder and principal owner, would not be there to confront the demonstrators lined up oualong the street in front of the park with his usual staring them down as he does his drive bys.

John Holer died this June at age 81, barely more than a month after he did a few drive bys as hundreds demonsstrated in front of Marineland during the first full weekend of its 2018 season.

So with the man who so forcefully defended the park he had built around the showcasing of whales, dolphins and other animals gone, would most of the demonsrators be gone too?

The answer to that question came by noon this past Sunday, September 2nd when somewhere between 50 and 100 people from across Niagara and other regions of Ontario gathered in front of Marineland to demonstrate their opposition, once again, to keeping whales and other large mammals captive in amusement parks like this.

There was little doubt that Demers, a former marine mammal trainer at Marineland, would be there with them. He continues to face a $1.5-million lawsuit Marineland filed against him more than five years ago for, among other things, allegedly storming the gates of the park with others in October of 2012 “in order to steal Smooshi,” a walrus he had grown to care a great deal for during his time as an employee.

Protesters lining the busy road in front of Marineland in Niagara Falls, Ontario

It is a lawsuit he is determined to fight and defeat, as soon as possible, in the courts.

Catherine Ens, a leader of the longstanding citizens group, Niagara Action For Animals (NAFA), who has been protesting animal captivity at Marineland longer than just about anyone else, now wonders, as many do, what will become of the park now that Holer is gone.

“I think here are two options,” she told Niagara At Large as she stood with demonstrators in front of the park this September 2nd.

“Whoever is running the park now can carry on or the second option is for it to be sold and for the new owner to realize that if they are going to keep the animals in there, we are going to be out here.”

“So it is not a good business model,” said Ens, “for them to continue with this.”

In fact, Ens and many others at the Labour Day weekend demonstration are already planning to encourage as many other people as possible to join them at another protest early this October as the park gets ready to close its gates for the 2018 season.

These demonstrators have also joined many other animal advocacy people across the country in pressing the federal government to finally approve legislation that has been before it for some time now to completely ban keeping marine mammals in captivity in Canada.

For more information about legislation under consideration at the federal level to ban marine mammal captivity and for petitions you can sign to support such a law, here are a few links you can click on – – and Last Chance for Animals started this petition to Canada’s Green Party Leader Elizabeth May

Now here are some links you can click on for news and commentary Niagara At Large recently posted on the death of Marineland owner John Holer and the demonstration in front of the park on opening weekend this past spring – and –

Finally, just a word about the Niagara Regional Police officers who were on the scene  at the September 2nd demonstration, just as they were this past May.

And once again, the NRP officer who were there treated everyone – the demonstrators, people driving by in the cars and others – in a very fair and professional manner as they worked along a heavily trafficked road.

Police often take their share of hits when they are accused of doing something wrong and they certainly deserved to be praised when they do a good job in situations where sparks could potentially fly.

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space following the Bernie Sanders quote below.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at .

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



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