Final Thoughts from Charlottetown
Post by Sheryl Fink
We're still weathered in, looking out my window I can't even see the buildings across the road through the blustering snow. As we pack up our base camp, I am thinking a little about this year's trip to the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
I had been a bit worried about how we would be received in Atlantic Canada this year. There has been a lot of talk in the media about people trying to "boycott" seal hunt observers, that we would not be given food or accomodation, that locals don't want us here because we bring negative attention to the areas we go to, and so forth. After the stories of the angry mob scenes that greeted hunt observers last year, I was expecting much hostility and anger to be coming our way.
But I have to say, over the past two weeks everybody I have encountered in Charlottetown, the Magdalen Islands, and Newfoundland has been nothing but friendly, helpful, and kind to us. They say that Atlantic Canadians are the friendliest people in the world, and in my 6 years of coming here I'd have to agree with that. When we are out at the hunt, we try to stay low-key. We aren't there to protest or attract attention to ourselves: we are there to document and observe the seal hunt, not cause problems. We try to treat people the way we would want to be treated ourselves, and even in Newfoundland - where there is somewhat of a deep-seated resentment of IFAW - people there were respectful and friendly, even when they knew who we were. Last summer I spent my vacation in the Magdalen Islands, and hope to return to PEI this summer with my family. I love it here: this is a wonderful place, with wonderful people.
I sympathize with those people who are concerned about negative media attention being placed on their region. But it is the seal hunt itself - not those of us who come here to observe it - that is the cause of any negative attention that may occur. And just as people in Charlottetown might not like their reputation being tarnished by the annual seal hunt fracas that arrives on their doorstep each March, so are Canadians all across the country embarassed by the image this seal hunt gives us as a nation. Canada's commercial seal hunt is a stain on our reputation. But until our government has the cojones to stand up to the powerful fur and fishing industries, it will continue. And it will continue to hurt all of us.