This “Open Letter to Residents” was written prior to the “March on Marineland” to open the 2014 season. We will continue to host this statement though as we still stand behind it and believe in it. If you are local to the Niagara Region, or know those who are, this is our go-to message for those in the area.
Open Letter to the Residents of Chippawa and Niagara Falls
No one knows the issues that surround Marineland Canada like those who live in the area. Living near the facility, working at the facility or having friends or family who have, and the “grapevine” have all kept local residents up to date on the issues at this park long before the Toronto Star began to highlight them through an investigative series. Blu and Thor? That news broke in Chippawa long before it was front page news in Toronto. The local residents also know all the stories that still haven’t made print (and there are a lot).
We’ve always known that our campaign exists in a grey area locally – our organizing base is made up of residents and we’ve always had great support locally, but we also know how precarious the local economy is. Part time, seasonal and minimum wage jobs cannot grow healthy communities – but they now make up the majority of the jobs that are left in the area. The secondary impact of tourist attractions like this captive animal facility is also a concern for residents – a point which Marineland keys in on and tries to use as ammunition against advocates.
After three years of a steady campaigning against this park we now face a crossroads. We are not going anywhere and are unwilling to compromise on the question of whether or not it is ethical to rip a wild animal from the ocean and place it in a tank for the purpose of profit. Similarly, Marineland Canada refuses to budge, opting for press consultants and lawyers instead of any attempts to update the park or transition away from its use of animals as entertainment. Where does this leave local residents and how do we move forward to engage the people who exist in between these two poles?
For the past three years our focus has been on Marineland, but the issue does not exist in isolation. We have been critical of the monopoly that corporate owned has in the area, protested and been kicked out of City Council calling for accountability and transparency in local politics, pushed for people to remember the eviction of 47 families from Green Oaks Trailer Park and stood in solidarity with Canadian activists in Russian Jails, Onkwehon:we land defenders, migrant justice advocates and more. We know now that if we are going to move forward we have to connect these dots into a broader campaign that appeals to building a vision of the Niagara Region that people can support and would want to be a part of.
Is Marineland the best we can do? Are part time, seasonal and precarious tourist industries jobs what we will settle for? Are politicians who are more interested in advancing a brand then building a community the kind of “leadership” we will accept?
We want to live in a region that we can be proud of. A region were the residents unanimously take a stand against a practice and industry that has no future and work together to build a better tomorrow, a region where living wage jobs are the norm for all – no matter race, gender, creed or birth place and where politicians answer to the public – not just the business community, a region where the original people (Onkwehon:we) are our friends, family, brothers and sisters and not our mascots, and a region where other animals and the environment we share are seen as ends unto themselves – not dollar signs. We know we have to build a broader vision and work harder. We also know that when it comes to change on this issue, the animals captive at Marineland desperately need the help of those who call Chippawa, Niagara Falls, and the rest of the Niagara Region home.
To mark opening day this year we will be marching through downtown Niagara Falls to the facility. Although we could have done this before, we chose not to because we did not want to be seen collectively punishing or disrupting the lives of average folks for what goes on at this park. We write this letter to give insight into why we have changed our mind and to extend an invite to all those willing to take a stand and demand more. There is no reason why this facility cannot transition to a new ownership group and develop into a full theme park without animals. Canada’s Wonderland – another Ontario theme park – moved away from animal shows in the mid 1990’s and today operates successfully with thousands of more jobs than Marineland. We need to confront our criticism of Marineland not with the fear of what would happen without them – but mindful of the alternatives that we continue to let pass by while we accept the status quo. This isn’t working, and the longer we ignore that fact, the more those opportunities pass us by.
To local residents – is this the kind of place you want to live? Is this where you to be? If you think that we can do better than this, please join us on the streets of Niagara Falls on Saturday May 17th. The animals at Marineland need you.
Marineland Animal Defense