Former seal hunt defender Brian Peckford, 79, makes political last stand at expense of cattle, pigs, & public health
OTTAWA, Canada––Canadian cattle and pigs fed grain from the United States are going hungry. Some cattle and pigs en route from Canada to finishing and slaughter in the U.S. may be stuck aboard trucks.
Entering a third weekend, a blockade of major Canadian transportation corridors by truckers opposed to COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandates may be lifted by a court injunction reportedly issued late on February 11, 2022 and by a provincial state of emergency declared by Ontario prime minister Doug Ford.
Meanwhile the truckers––representing just a tiny fraction of the total Canadian trucking industry––have for two weeks obstructed access to the Canadian national capital district in downtown Ottawa, blocked traffic at the Ambassador Bridge between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan, and sporadically shut down other border crossings into the U.S., as well as disrupting traffic in the provincial capitals of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and British Columbia.
Behind the chaos lurks the ghosts of past political impasses over cod fishing quotas and the Atlantic Canadian seal hunt.
What the long depleted Atlantic Canadian cod stocks and the nearly moribund seal hunt have to do with horn-honking truckers, cattle and pigs mooing and oinking with hunger pangs, and widespread public and political exasperation with the anti-vaccination and anti-COVID testing truckers becomes clear only after looking behind the protests themselves to the people amplifying and orchestrating the truckers’ blockades and convoys––almost entirely from far behind the scenes.
Summarized Robin Levinson-King of BBC News, from the Windsor border crossing, “A ‘Freedom Convoy’ was organized last month in response to the introduction of a new rule that all truckers must be vaccinated to cross the U.S.-Canada border, or quarantine upon their return. The protest has since grown into a broader challenge to all COVID health restrictions.
“The vast majority of Canadian truckers are vaccinated and trucking associations have distanced themselves from the protests,” Levinson-King stipulated.
Peckford chairs influential leadership group
Nonetheless, thousands of demonstrators have gathered with trucks and farm equipment at potential pinch-points, where local obstructions of traffic can have national repercussions.
“The trade disruption has been estimated to cost some $380 million dollars each day,” Levinson-King said.
CTV News reporter Maggie Parkhill on February 10, 2022 identified Brian Peckford, 79, former prime minister of Newfoundland & Labrador, as “chairman of the group ‘Taking Back our Freedoms,’ which claims that COVID-19 restrictions and mandates are ‘unlawful.’
“The group also says it encourages Canadians to reject ‘forced’ COVID-19 vaccinations for children, a practice which is not currently happening in Canada,” Parkhill wrote.
Peckford in addition is “pursuing a lawsuit against the federal government,” Parkhill added, “claiming the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for international travel is unconstitutional.”
Seal hunt defense failed within Peckford’s own party
Peckford, heading the government of Newfoundland & Labrador from March 26, 1979 until March 22, 1989, helped to lead the Canadian defense of the Atlantic Canada seal hunt throughout his political tenure.
But Peckford, elected as a Progressive Conservative, found his position undercut when Brian Mulroney of Bai Comeau, Quebec, a fellow Progressive Conservative, rode a rare tide of Quebec support for the Progressive Conservative Party to become prime minister of Canada.
Mulroney, the first and only prime minister of Canada elected without substantial support from Newfoundland, responded to international pressure––and growing losses from lack of demand for seal pelts––by suspending the Atlantic Canada seal hunt in 1984.
The suspension held until 1995, more than a year after Mulroney left office in 1993.
“Grandfather spent 49 springs at the seal hunt”
Peckford entered politics in opposition to the Liberal Party domination of the Newfoundland & Labrador government begun by Joey Smallwood (1900-1991).
Smallwood, who led the former British Dominion of Newfoundland into Canadian confederation in 1949, served as Newfoundland prime minister until 1972.
Smallwood throughout his political career advocated for the Atlantic Canada seal hunt, against growing opposition not only from abroad, but from the rest of Canada, as many Canadians wearied of the annual bloodbath and of the mounting cost of subsidizing it.
Peckford, trying to establish his bona fides in dethroning the Newfoundland Liberals, “brags that his grandfather spent 49 springs at the seal hunt,” reported Douglas Martin of The New York Times in 1984.
Contributed to the Atlantic Canada cod stock crash
Earlier, during the negotiations that produced the 1982 Canadian constitution, Peckford unsuccessfully sought greater provincial authority over fisheries regulation.
This brought him into bitter confrontation with federal Liberal Party fisheries policy. Soon after the Liberal Party succeeded the Mulroney government, the federal Department of Fisheries & Oceans licensed three foreign factory trawlers to fish in Atlantic Canadian waters.
Peckford called this “a disaster of monumental proportions,” as it proved to be, albeit partly because of his own politically motivated fisheries management decisions, not just because of federal excesses.
The Atlantic Canada cod stocks collapsed three years after Peckford left office, and have yet to recover.
Moved to British Columbia
Loss of cod fishing, meanwhile, increased political pressure on a succession of Canadian federal governments to continue subsidizing sealing in a futile effort to quell Newfoundland resentment by creating makework jobs.
With no political future left for him in Newfoundland & Labrador, Peckford relocated to British Columbia, where in 1998 he conducted an inquiry into Fraser River salmon fishery management and became increasingly associated with right-leaning political extremism.