Saturday, December 21, 2013

God guards those who guard themselves

The following letter to the editor is published in today's Weekend Telegram (Dec. 21st).

Dear editor,

What would Captain Abram Kean — the most successful Newfoundland seal hunter, the ‘Admiral of the Fleet’ — think of Pamela Anderson and her million-dollar tease?

No doubt that kind of cash would have went a long way back in the 1920s, when Kean, in his 70s by then, was a living, sealing legend.

A sealer lucky enough to sign on aboard a ‘wooden wall’ such as Kean’s (the Australian convict vessel Success was described as ‘luxurious by contrast’) earned $10 to $12 a week, if they were ‘helbows in de fat’ long enough.

I imagine Kean would turn his back on Anderson and the offer, once he realized the Canadian beauty sees him, and his outport ilk, as baby killers.

What would Kean, with a half-century of seal killing and a million pelts under his belt, think of militant activist Paul Waston for elevating the harp seal to “lamb of God?"

I imagine Cap’n Kean would rise from his icy grave, as would his loyal crews, and set sail immediately for the heavenly front.

The 1985 report of the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada quoted a sealer/fisherman in describing himself as an “endangered species.”

“I am endangered but I still fight back. I will survive. I will not let animal rights become more important than human rights. I will not let people give souls to animals while they rob me of my human dignity and right to earn a livelihood."

Today’s sealer is more endangered than ever, as products from the yearly harvest are banned in country after country, but the fight is vicious in us yet.

Moreso than any other slight, Newfie on down, Newfoundlanders take any criticism of the seal hunt as a direct personal attack. Not just against us, who we are as a people, but against our forefathers, our very outport soul.

To attack the seal hunt is to attack Newfoundland. To attack the seal hunt is to poke the bear that is the fighting Newfoundlander. 

While it’s always a relief to see that the spirit lives, it could be better focused. 

We stood by as the Conservative government failed to make the seal hunt a deal breaker at European trade talks. We did not stir in response to ban after ban of Canadian seal products.

Newfoundlanders were called to arms, but failed to rise en masse, just as we have yet to stand up, to any great measure, for the Grand Banks and what were once the planet`s greatest fisheries.

The sealer today is as endangered as the fisherman, they are one and the same. There is no vision, no blueprint for rebirth. 

The latest salvation is the surrendering of the provincial law that protects our right to process fish. Fish plants are on the trade table, and the filleting knife is out.

The lifting of European fish tariffs is hailed by most as a victory, but have we grasped the trade off? 

Nothing is free, trade included.

Well done, Mark Critch, for dismissing Pam Anderson to That Far Greater Baywatch with such honourable flare.

As for the future, we seem content to defend our right to a seal hunt, above our right to an industry. And that’s fair enough, but we can’t be afraid to have the conversation about the current sea state. 

What would Cap’n Kean have to say of the fishery/seal hunt today? Better yet, what would his crews think? I imagine they’d be ashamed of our apathy. 

God guards those who guard themselves.

Ryan Cleary,
MP, St. John’s South-Mount Pearl

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