“It has been a long decade,” says former Marineland trainer of the lawsuit the Niagara Falls, Ontario amusement park filed against him
A News Commentary by Doug Draper
Posted September 22nd, 2022 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – At long last, we have some good news to report about former Marineland trainer Phil Demers and a walrus he befriended and has fought so hard to save from what he has always considered to be unsuitable conditions for marine mammals at the 61-year-old Niagara Falls, Ontario amusement park.
In a statement Marineland released this September 21st, park officials said a nine-year-old, $1.5 million lawsuit it slapped on Demers, at least in part for his role in alleging substandard conditions for mammals at the park, “has been resolved amicably.”
More importantly to Demers, the resolution includes an agreement that Smooshi, the walrus he has become so associated with in a 2020, award-winning documentary film called “The Walrus and the Whistleblower”, and the walruses 18-month-old offspring, will, according to the Marineland statement, will be “rehoused” in a facility elsewhere “as soon as reasonably possible.”
“I feel really happy about that,” Demers told Niagara At Large this September 22nd of the prospect that Smooshi and her offspring will be transferred to what he trusts will be “a world-class facility” outside of Canada that cannot yet be named – a move that will be “profound” in and of itself, he said, because it will close the chapter on walruses kept in captivity in Canada.
“It has been a long decade,” added Demers in our interview of the lawsuit that wreaked havoc on the life of the Niagara resident who was also accused in Marineland’s action against him of wanting to somehow sneak the walrus out of the part – an allegation that seems a bit of a stretch given Smooshi’s size and weight around 800 pounds..
Compounding all of the frustration and stress that came with fighting the lawsuit, he racked up about$250,000 in legal costs that are not covered in the settlement with Marineland.
Fortunately, more than $225,000 of that cost has been covered by donations he has received from supportive citizens in Canada and other countries around the world.
You can find out how you can donate to Phil Demers’ defense fund by clicking on – https://www.gofundme.com/f/wpxc9-defend-animal-abuse-whistleblower .
Demers stressed in our discussion that if donations continue to come in and total over and above the costs he suffered while fighting the lawsuit, the money will go to continue his advocacy work and that of others to free marine mammals on captivity.
He said he has absolutely no plans to quit advocating against the continued captivity of marine mammals at Marineland or at any other amusement parks like it. Nothing in the settlement with Marineland bars his right to continue speaking out, he said.
And by the way, there are reportedly still some beluga whales at Marineland and an Orca (also known by a more negative name “killer whale) named Kiska – possibly the last marine mammal of its kind in captivity in Canada) in ponds at the park site.
And there are apparently still enough tourists to the Niagara Falls, Ontario area willing to pay good money to view these great animals in a venue like this.
Phil Demers told Niagara At Large that this September 21st, as part of the settlement with Marineland, he was allowed to enter the park where he once worked for 21 years and have a short visit with his old friend Smooshi.
Although the visit took place under strict supervision, he said he is sure Smooshi recognized him. “It was powerful and it was vindication. She looked quite healthy,” he said of the visit, adding that he looks forward to one day seeing her again in a new home, under better circumstances.
For a documentary CBC’s The Nature of Things aired more than a year ago about Phil Demers, Smooshi and the controversy over keeping marine mammals in captivity, click on – https://gem.cbc.ca/media/the-nature-of-things/s60e14
To view a trailer on the award-winning documentary produced by Nathalie Bibeau, called ‘The Walrus and the Whisteblower’, click on – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YKyQP3EgzE
For a Toronto Star article on the orca named Kiska at Marineland, click on – https://www.thestar.com/news/2021/marineland-orca-kiska.html
Following is the statement released by Marineland this September 21st, 2022 on the settlement with Phil Demers –
NIAGARA FALLS, ON, Sept. 21, 2022 – Litigation between Marineland of Canada, Inc. (“Marineland”) and Phil Demers has been resolved amicably. The parties have agreed to the termination of their respective claims and counterclaims without costs.
Mr Demers acknowledges Marineland’s evolution towards education, conservation and research, and its commitment to enhanced animal care.
Marineland has a historic obligation to care for the marine mammals in its care. Mr Demers acknowledges that Marineland must care for its animals and there is no simple or obvious solution to re-house them.
Marineland and Mr Demers agree that rehousing the two walruses at Marineland where they can join other walruses is in the best interest of the walruses. The walruses are being rehoused as soon as reasonably possible.
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whatever Marineland has to say for itself …. i believe Phil will not rest, til such animal exploiting places find homes of sanctuary for the animals. I know I won’t. It’s past time such ‘Victorian’ so-called entertainment ended
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