After 29 years, Brigitte Bardot returned to Canada.
She came with a powerful message to the Prime Minister to end the barbaric slaughter of baby seals.
Actress Persia White and Captain Paul Watson had the honor to accompany her as she held a media conference at the Marriott Hotel in Ottawa.
At 71 years old, she still commands the attention of the international media. The room was packed with journalists and the flashes from three dozen cameras went on for five solid minutes.
Bardot, always captivating, always controversial, was not afraid to speak her mind on the issue of Canada's annual massacre of seal pups.
The press conference was held primarily in French. Some questions were friendly, some were hostile, and a few were just plain stupid. When one journalist asked Brigitte what she had accomplished in the last 30 years, Brigitte replied sharply, "What have you accomplished in the last 30 years?"
The reporter was obviously unaware that Brigitte contributed greatly to the decision to ban seal pelts into Europe in 1984, a move which shut down the commercial seal slaughter for over 10 years.
Another "reporter" wearing a fake seal coat asked if she was against killing fake seals for coats, to which replied, "Don't be ridiculous and don't waste our time."
Captain Watson officially welcomed Brigitte to Canada and relayed that instead of welcoming her as an honored guest, the Canadian government had harassed her at the airport and forced her to pay a fee of $240 to enter the country after making her wait for two hours in an immigration office.
Brigitte showed a 10-minute video that illustrated the horrific cruelty of the seal slaughter.
Yet despite seeing for themselves, the evidence of seals writhing in pain and choking on their own blood, some journalists asked what proof we had that the hunt was inhumane. Captain Watson told them to use their eyes and told them that the claims by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans were lies.
Brigitte said that the recent election of Stephen Harper had given her hope for the seals. But, Harper refused to see her, and Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn made the ridiculous statement that celebrities contribute nothing except to publicize this issue worldwide sending a message about how Canada is a cruel nation.
Well, at least he recognized that her trip was effective. She has indeed sent a strong message to the world that the Canadian Prime Minister is insensitive to suffering.
Despite Loyola Hearn's effort to stifle publicity by refusing to meet with her, Brigitte's visit to Ottawa made headlines around the world.
"The Fisheries Minister and the Prime Minister have created more publicity for the seal slaughter by refusing to meet with Brigitte Bardot. The fact is that because of the visit to the ice to see the seals by Paul McCartney and Bardot's return to Canada, the world has become very much aware of the atrocities Canadians inflict upon baby seals," said Captain Paul Watson.
As the media conference took place, the Canadian government worked on attempts to spread disinformation. They organized a group of naïve young Inuit protestors to demonstrate outside the hotel despite the fact that the commercial seal slaughter does not employ any Inuit people at all. If anything, the 325,000 seals the sealers plan to kill means less seals for the Inuit who do hunt adult seals in the far north where they have a quota of 10,000 seals.
Brigitte Bardot addressed this concern and stated that she did not come to Canada to oppose aboriginal sealing of adult harp seals in the high north; she came to oppose the barbaric mass commercial slaughter of seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. Not a single Native person participates in this slaughter and the Inuit of Greenland have condemned the killing of baby seals as a disgrace.
The Canadian government is attempting to connect this subsistence seal hunt with that of the atrocities committed by Newfoundland and Maritime commercial sealers.
The Inuit of Greenland have condemned the Canadian slaughter saying that associating the bashing in of baby seal skulls is embarrassing to their more traditional sealing activities.
Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette held a press conference at the same time as the Sea Shepherd Bardot conference. Payette, who is wealthy and lives in an elite part of Montreal, said she was defending the rights of poor sealers who are trying to make a living.
Hervieux-Payett, who is unelected because Canadian Senators are appointed until the age of 75 by Prime Ministers, said that Brigitte Bardot does not have a right to come to Canada to condemn the seal hunt. "We are no longer a French Colony," she said.
Brigitte Bardot said the Senator's comments were just stupid.
Captain Paul Watson added to Brigitte's dismissal of Senator Hervieux-Payette's accusation. "If Canada is no longer a colony, then Canada should stop acting like a colony. The mass slaughter of fur-bearing animals for foreign markets is a colonial occupation. This massacre of seals has no place in a nation that has any pride it its reputation. The seal slaughter is obscene, wasteful, cruel, undignified, unnecessary, and a stain upon the national identity of all Canadians."
After the press conference, the Sea Shepherd contingent headed to the Parliament building where they met with a representative from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office to hand off the petitions gathered over the last year. The reams of paper hold the thousands and thousands of names of concerned people from all around the world who are petitioning the government to put a permanent end to their so-called "hunt."
After the delivery of the petitions, Captain Watson appeared live on the Mike Duffy program on CTV to debate Senator Hervieux-Payette. Mr. Duffy told Captain Watson to not pull his punches with the Senator. "She'll get in your face," he said.
As out turned out the Senator folded like a house of cards.
She started pushing the lie that the Inuit were dependent upon the hunt. Captain Watson quickly corrected her and added that the Inuit of Greenland had condemned the slaughter as an embarrassment. She retreated to saying that Canadians were dependent upon it, and Captain Watson countered that Sea Shepherd had offered real alternatives that were violently rejected.
She said that it was not true that baby seals were being killed anymore, another lie that Captain Watson dispelled easily. "A baby seal is a baby seal. If it is helpless on the ice and cannot swim, it is a baby seal," he said.
The Senator sat silently and then muttered "no" when Captain Watson asked her if she had been on the ice to witness the slaughter.
She said the hunt was humane. When Captain Watson said that he had witnessed cruelty she replied that that was not possible.
"Are you calling me a liar? Go to the hunt, see for yourself before you call me a liar," Captain Watson said to her.
After the debate Captain Watson said, "I almost felt sorry for her. She does not know much about the seal slaughter. She is just echoing the party line. Just political cannon fodder for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. She is a wealthy Senator from Montreal telling me, a person raised in a fishing village in the Canadian Maritimes, that I don't know what is going on with the seal hunt. I've been going to the ice for over three decades. She has never been there and she has the gall to talk down to me about it! Brigitte Bardot is right – the woman is an idiot."
The next day saw articles around the world about Brigitte Bardot's plea for the seals. Predictably, the Canadian papers were negative but even negative reporting is better than the fact that they have usually ignore the annual seal slaughter.
The media was much more positive in the rest of the world with stories running in Europe, Australia, South Africa, and Asia etc. These nations all got the message – boycott Canadian seafood products until Canada ends this barbaric ritual of blood and cruelty!