Ontario man visited by police after tweeting about rescuing beloved walrus
When Phil Demers posted a tweet joking about stealing a walrus, he hardly expected it to result in visitation by the Niagara Police. But that’s exactly what happened.
Demers, a well-known Canadian animal rights activists, admits he’s no stranger to police—though the relationship isn’t hostile. His story has garnered media attention for nearing a decade at this point and has gained nothing but momentum in the last few years. Though Demers’ tweet was a joke, it’s the reality that surrounds his life that he considers funny.
“That’s the whole basis of my life these days, is just how funny it actually is,” said Demers to The Post Millennial in a phone interview.
Demers v. MarineLand
The context to fully understand Demers’ story is what makes the situation all the more unbelievable. For 12 years of Demers’ life, he was an employee at MarineLand, an Ontario animal theme park, where he’d gained media attention for his “anomalous” relationship with a walrus named Smooshi.
Smooshi, the last remaining walrus at MarineLand, believes that Demers is her mother. That incredible relationship led Demers to a brief appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
Demers’ activism stems from what he saw in his time working for MarineLand, and the literally unlivable conditions the walruses have had to put up with. Demers cites the stunning fact that within the last two years alone, four walruses have died in the theme park’s captivity.
“The fact of the matter is, more than four walruses have died in less than two years. Smooshi is the last walrus alive.”
Blackfish was “paradigm-shifting”
In 2013, a documentary titled Blackfish caught international attention for shining light on the conditions experienced by marine mammals in parks like MarineLand and SeaWorld. The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2013, and was picked up by Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films for wider release. Though Demers’ activism efforts pre-date the film itself, he credits the film for grabbing the world’s attention.
“I call [Blackfish] the paradigm shift. My story came out before that,” said Demers. “The world didn’t seem prepared to accept the things MarineLand was doing to its animals.”
At the time after Blackfish’s release, stock for SeaWorld went sinking. The company’s stock price fell nearly 60 percent,
“I kind of had to trench these crazy tides before the paradigm shift, but it’s the paradigm shift that I largely attribute to Blackfish that took me to a new echelon that’s raised my voice in a way that I’m able to sustain this crazy MarineLand assault in excess of six years.”
And an assault it has truly been. The culture’s “awakening” to the harms marine mammals face in parks like MarineLand have been noticeable, says Demers, who says he sees attendance dwindling at the park every year.
“I’ve diligently watched their parking lot grow emptier and emptier, year after year. They’re hanging on by a thread.
Canada bans whale and dolphin captivity
Demers believes the culture has changed, and it’s a welcome shift. “They’re living in a world that rejects them. These companies are trying to thrive in a time that rejects them, in a country that rejects them.”
Here, Demers refers to the Canadian law which outright bans the captivity of whales in dolphins, nationwide. The bill, which passed in June of 2019, was “huge,” and it was a bill which Demers says he worked on “from inception.”
“I was there when we tabled the bill. I had a heavy hand on the bill.”
What the future has in store
As for what’s next for the animals still in captivity, Demers’ points to the innovative projects taking place on Canada’s east and west coasts; orca and beluga sanctuaries.
“These animals wouldn’t survive in the wild. But what they are doing on the East and West is called the Whale Sanctuary Project, where they release beluga whales on the east, and orcas on the west. This is the future,” said Demers, in what sounded like the most excited he’d been the entire interview.
Demers says the sanctuaries would be “One-hundred fold” the size of any pool made to kept whales in. The whales would be in an environment that much more closely resembles a natural habitat, where they can experience cleaner waters and the feeling of tides.
You can hear more about Demers’ story through one of his several appearances on The Joe Rogan Experience.
To support Demers in his ongoing fight, you can click here to donate to his GoFundMe.
Several mid-sized Canadian cities followed the trend of raising rental rates in January according to Huffington Post. However, larger metro areas slowed down on hikes, says recent data from Padmapper.
Data from Statistics Canada shows that wage rates were up 3.8 percent on average, this January from January of last year, which is fairly high. But in 14 of 24 cities that Padmapper covered, rent inflation overshadowed that by sometimes tripling and even coming close to quadrupling the growth of wages.
Many cities in Ontario have risen one-bedroom rates by close to 15 percent over the last year. Some of these cities include Ottawa, Kingston, the Kitchener-Waterloo area and London. A 10 percent increase in rental rates was seen in both Windsor and St. Catharines.
Halifax, Victory and Saskatoon have also seen large rent hikes.
Padmapper noted that the numbers point to “a hot market that will most likely continue to grow as we enter into the spring months.”
The largest cities in Canada have slowed rising rental rates after many years of growth. Toronto saw one-bedroom rates stay the same in January while two-bedroom rent went up by 4.6 percent.
Vancouver saw one-bedrooms rise 3.4 percent and two-bedrooms actually fell by 8.8 percent. In Montreal, rent for two-bedrooms went up 7.3 percent and one-bedroom rents stayed the same.
According to experts, rental housing demand jumped when interest rates went up in 2017-2018 as new policies were introduced to slow the growth of house prices.
Also, growing populations―partly due to the rising number of immigrants in Canada―have caused shortages in rental housing.
Some have speculated that developers have been more drawn to building condos than rental housing in the past decades. This is starting to change though, as rental rates go up. In 2019 the amount of rental housing units being built doubled from the amount five years earlier.
Analysts are suggesting that the anti-pipeline protests that have blockaded railways, roads and certain ports are likely to result in a spike in gas prices.
The railroad tracks in Belleville, Ont. have now been halted for the last 12 straight days and don’t have an end date in sight at this time. The protestors vow to remain there until the government cancels the proposed Coastal GasLink pipeline that will partially run through the unceded land of the Wet’suwet’en First Nations.
The consequences of these blockades are already being felt across the country as the movement of goods has been greatly delayed. Experts now say that gas prices in Lower Mainland BC are expected to rise as a result of these protests.
Kent Fellows, an Alberta-based economist at the University of Calgary predicts the spike could be anywhere from 10 to 30 cents per litre. “If blockades persist you will definitely see an increase in fuel prices… A lot of the volume that is coming in from Alberta refineries to the Lower Mainland is now on rail.”
CTV News Vancouver interviewed commuters in the Vancouver area and they expressed their frustration.
“I mean, everything goes up all the time. Especially in this city (Vancouver). So it’s just another thing to endure,” driver Mike Freides said.
“You can’t go without gas, much like you can’t go without utilities or food. It’s above my paygrade to solve that problem.”
Trudeau recently held a meeting to attempt to remedy the problem of growing frustrations on both sides of the issue.
“I understand how worrisome this is, and difficult. We are going to continue to focus on resolving this situation quickly and peacefully,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Port of Vancouver has also been affected by the demonstrations, preventing the loading and unloading of cargo.
“Demand for anchorage is currently exceeding the availability, causing a backlog of ships waiting to get into port,” said a spokesperson for the Port.
Teenage Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted her support for the anti-pipeline protests that have stalled Canada’s economy and left tens of thousands stranded without train transportation.
On Tuesday she tweeted, “Support the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the pipeline protests happening now in Canada! #WetsuwenStrong.” Thunberg included a link to a “Wet’suwet’en Supporter Toolkit.”
The toolkit speaks of “revolution” and claims that reconciliation is dead: “The Wet’suwet’en have been violently invaded and ripped from our ancestral lands, sparking a REVOLUTION. Reconciliation is dead. The time is NOW to recognize indigenous sovereignty around the world! We are asking for folks to continue, harness the power of this catalyzing moment, create sustained action in solidarity, and #ShutDownCanada!”
Many Canadians were unimpressed including prominent conservative pundit Stephen Taylor who pointed out the negative affects these continued protests are having on the environment. “Thanks to the rail blockades, I’ve been flying more. So… win?”
The protests and blockades throughout Canada are a response to the raid of an anti-pipeline camp in northern British Columbia that was set up to oppose the building of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory.
Despite the protests, the Wet’suwet’en Tribal Council and the majority of hereditary chiefs support the pipeline project.
According to Global News, Premier Doug Ford’s house is currently being investigated by Toronto police’s hazardous materials team for a suspicious package. The package was reportedly opened by Ford’s wife, Karla.
There was reportedly white powder in the package that authorities have not yet been able to identify.
A spokesperson for the Toronto police informed Global News that officers received a call to show up at a house in Etobicoke on Tettenhall road where the Premier’s house is situated.