Sea Shepherd Society’s lawyer says the organization does not respect Indigenous territories in Canada
In correspondence to a Canadian First Nation, a Sea Shepherd Society’s lawyer says the organization does not respect Indigenous territories in Canada, and the American organization’s vessels will do as they please this summer in seeking to remove aboriginal jobs from British Columbia waters.
Brett Sommermeyer of Seattle was responding to a demand by a BC First Nation that Sea Shepherd’s pirate vessel and its associated activism stay out of traditional waters, and a request from the Nation’s leadership that Sea Shepherd meet with them to explain their interest in the traditional territory.
In an email leaked to SeaWest News, Sommermeyer said First Nations wishes do not apply to Sea Shepherd and that by the letter of the law, his radical group is entitled to do whatever it wants to in traditional territories, with or without the acquiescence of Indigenous peoples.
Sommermeyer wrote that “…it does not appear that your reference to ‘traditional waters’ are to those within the Nation’s ‘reserve’… In any case, none of the provisions of that By-Law have been triggered by the Martin Sheen’s inadvertent, transient presence (if any) in your traditional waters.”
The lawyer claimed that “the Martin Sheen is not a ‘pirate’ ship” but is engaged in a peaceful scientific mission supportive of Sea Shepherd’s broader mission to protect marine wildlife and habitats.”
Sea Shepherd uses a pirate motif in all of its branding and its founder, Paul Watson, has an affinity for Seinfeld-style pirate shirts.
Sommermeyer’s letter claimed that if the Martin Sheen entered the Nation’s traditional waters, “any such alleged entry was purely inadvertent and transient.” But he also argued that “assuming the Martin Sheen entered your traditional waters, it was fully within its rights pursuant to its public right of navigation.”
The request for a meeting was ignored by Sommermeyer, closing the email by stating “At this stage, we consider this matter closed.”
At a recent press conference in Vancouver, Tlowitsis First Nation Chief John Smith also asked Sea Shepherd to stay away. “I have a message for them. Stay away from our territory, and our partners farms. You are not invited here,” he said according to a My Comox Valley Now report.
Sea Shepherd found Paul Watson responded by calling Chief Smith a liar and claiming Sea Shepherd has “right of free navigation anywhere we go in British Columbian waters.” Chief Smith’s request was echoed at the press conference by Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw Nation elder and businessman, James Walkus, WiumasgumQwe’Qwa’Sot’Enox Clan Chief Harold Sewid, and salmon farm manager and Tlowitsis Nation member Maurice Isaac, whose salmon farm and staff were targeted with harassment and verbal abuse by Paul Watson’s crew.
Approximately one- fifth of B.C.’s salmon farm workers are Indigenous.