Powerful Norwegian aquaculture giant Cermaq has brought a defamation suit against anti-aquaculture activist Don Staniford in British Columbia, Canada, alleging Staniford’s campaign suggesting that “farmed salmon kills” was directed at Cermaq’s Canadian subsidiary, Mainstream Canada. The four-week trial began on January 16
HERE IS MAINSTREAM’S VERSION OF EVENTS THUS FAR
Mainstream Canada Begins Trial to Defend Reputation
CANADA – In response to a prolonged attack on the company and its employees, Mainstream Canada is defending its reputation against what it calls unfounded and irresponsible accusations by an anti-salmon farming activist.
The trial began 16 January, 2012. Before the trial Mainstream Canada commented: "We will defend the reputation of our company, which is proud to be the first salmon farm in the world to be certified to the Aboriginal Aquaculture Association’s Aboriginal Principles for Sustainable Aquaculture standard and the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices new standards for farmed salmon."
"Mainstream Canada operates under some of the strictest regulations in the world that govern the aquaculture industry. There are currently 73 pieces of federal and provincial legislation that regulate every aspect of the business, from environmental protection to fish health to food inspection for human consumption. Canada is also a signatory or member to several different international agreements or organisations which affect aquaculture."
"Mainstream Canada’s focus is on sustainable aquaculture. Our employees are proud of our reputation for producing quality salmon, and our respect for the local environment and the communities in which we operate."
"While healthy debate on issues is a vital part of healthy communities, false and injurious statements are detrimental to these values and harmful to the interests of a free and democratic society. Mainstream’s legal arguments will show that the damaging allegations published by the activist are malicious and unsupported by facts or fairness."
The statement of claim filed by Mainstream in the BC Supreme Court on 15 July, 2011, was due to the use of anti-fish farm graphics that mimic health warnings on cigarette packages by activist Don Staniford.
HERE IS STANIFORD’S VERSION
Round one of Mainstream Canada versus Don Staniford has come to a wrap, with round two beginning Monday, Jan. 23rd. Witnesses Ruth Salmon of the Canadian Aquaculture Alliance and Mary Ellen Walling for the BC Salmon Farmers Association will swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth with fingers and toes crossed as they intentionally manipulate the definition of truth with the Industrial lie of the Aquaculture industry. Room 52 of the Supreme Court may see more eye rolls than ever before.
The first five days of the case were not without tension; things looked bleak after Justice Elaine Adair made two rulings in favor of the plaintiff to narrow the scope of what could be brought forth by the defendant. Mainstream’s lawyer Mr. David Wotherspoon claimed that Mr. Staniford was “seeking to put Norwegian salmon farming everywhere in the world on trial.”
Don Staniford’s campaigning has always been of a global nature with a focus on Norwegian owned farms throughout the world.
Mainstream Canada, subsidiary of Norwegian owned Cermaq, flatters itself in thinking they are the specific focus of the 52 “stinging” allegations Don has made against the industry. Mainstream claims to be the victims of two “stings” in particular: “Salmon farms are cancer,” and “Salmon farming kills like smoking”.
Like kicking at a hornet’s nest, Mainstream has made a magnificent faux pas in bringing this case to court, so it is no surprise that they seek to diminish what evidence can be brought to the case. The international support of Don in this case must surely have them wishing they’d chosen to ignore the allegations!
Day one seemed set to establish the playing field for the 20 day trial, followed by the first witness, Mainstream Area Manager Brock Thomson. As might be expected, he was the perfect drone for the salmon farm industry. What else could bee expected of a Mainstream employee awarded the "Outstanding Performance " award by Marine Harvest’s "Positive Aquaculture Awareness"?
Day two continued with witness Brock Thomson and a drawn out legal argument ensued as Mr. Wotherspoon objected to Mr. Sutherland’s line of questioning to the witness. Wotherspoon plunged into great detail about cases “pleading innuendo”. In particular, he cited the case involving Nicole Kidman, Tom Cruise & the Church of Scientology vs the Daily Telegraph.
Some quotes from the case included;
"To say a man is a fornicator because he walks into a brothel, and is therefore unfit to be with his wife and family…"
"If it is said of a man that he is a fornicator the statement cannot be enlarged by innuendo. If it is said of him that he was seen going into a brothel, the same meaning would probably be conveyed to nine men out of ten”.
It seemed an appropriate, if not weird, analogy as the terrible Cruise/Kidman film “Eyes Wide Shut” came to mind, eliciting an image of the Aquaculture Industry pulling wool over the eyes of consumers while financially “fornicating” with government and shareholders.
Wotherspoon’s argument that “This is not an inquiry into salmon farming practices” finally swayed the judge to concede that this case could not be used as a “crusade” against Norwegian salmon farms globally, but only to address the perceived “stings” experienced by the plaintiff. To surmise the whole battle, Justice Adair addressed Mr. Sutherland with the words “You and your client will have some work to do this evening.”
Day three saw Don’s lawyer, David Sutherland, request that Madame Adair understand the matter of “alternative nested meaning”, to recognize that the meanings of what was published could be interpreted a number of ways with the final interpretation up to Justice Adair. One might hope that Justice Adair will also take to understanding the “meanings” to be accurate.
Following witness Brock Thomson was Wallace Jones Samuel of Ahousaht Aquaculture Committee, who swore upon the bible to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth only to deny having ever met the defendant Don Staniford, in spite of having shook his hand in introduction before. First telling a bit of the history of fish farms placed in environmentally sensitive areas in Ahousaht territory, he referred to the Ahousaht community taking their war canoes out to blockade a fish farm in Clayoquot. After the blockade, Mainstream negotiated a deal with Ahousaht, convincing the community that the financial benefits of the farms far outweighed other concerns, which were to be addressed in ongoing dialogue. One of the concerns that has yet to be addressed is the use of copper anti-foulant paints used on the farm nets.
The morning of day 4 saw Don Staniford sitting outside the courtroom hunched over his computer, researching while waiting for the doors to open. Refusing to let the hammering of the previous day’s rulings get him down, he laughed aloud as he found an article from the Philippines stating it had launched a new campaign promoting tobacco — not for smoking but for fish farming, as noted by the government tobacco agency. Mention of “tobacco dust” being a safer alternative to the "long-banned, highly-toxic chemicals" that the fish farmers have been using to address lice did not lose its irony on Don. “Well, there’s the connection between big Tobacco and salmon farms right there!”
Day 4 and 5 brought up witnesses Lise Bergan , spokesperson for Cermaq HQ in Norway, and Dr. Michael Gallo. Ms. Bergan all but discredited herself as a witness by refusing to concede that comparing salmon farming to the tobacco industry was controversial or that there were any grounds for Staniford’s claims to the point of ridiculousness. Another winning moment for Ms. Bergan was when she asked if she could confer with Mainstream’s lawyers during a break right after Justice Adair had strictly advised Ms. Bergan that she was not to speak to anyone about the case during break. Ms. Bergan’s interpreted meaning of the word “anyone” seemed about as skewed as her interpretation of the truth. The body language of Bergan was reminiscent of a naughty cat playing innocent, repeatedly sending "cute" and "confused" pouts to Justice Elaine Adair and Laurie Jensen while smirking and rolling her eyes at Mr.Sutherland.
Bergen refused to acknowledge any controversy regarding fish farming being compared to big tobacco or cancer. Mr.Sutherland brought up the point at which the tobacco industry, even when science showed the use of toxic chemicals, was not considered to be breaching regulations. He asked Bergan if she could acknowledge that such is the current state of the fish farming industry that it is knowingly using toxic chemicals but due to regulations, is not perceived through regulations as guilty for feeding toxic chemicals to the world. Bergan’s response was that it was before her time, so she did not know about the scientific case proving toxic chemicals in cigarettes. Would she also say that she doesn’t know about Nazi Germany because it was before her time?
After an objection from Mr. Wotherspoon, Ms. Bergan was asked to leave the room while Mr. Sutherland explained to Justice Adair his attempts to get her to acknowledge the existence of controversy. Judge Adair noted that the witness could give one of three answers; “yes”,” no” or “maybe”. Adair said that if her answer was ”no” then it would speak to her credibility as a witness, since Ms. Bergan cannot rightfully claim that no one is of the opinion that salmon farming being compared to big tobacco and cancer is controversial. She never did satisfactorily answer the question.
Toxicologist Dr. Gallo next approached the stand complete with maroon vest, navy blazer, bow tie and the look of someone who prefers to spend his time experimenting on critters with chemicals than appreciating the gifts of nature. Mr. Sutherland was on top of his game as he led Dr. Gallo into the realm of cancer causing agents used in the fish farming industry. The day ended before Sutherland could complete his line of questioning, leaving the judge to rule for his return on Wednesday via Skype. Mainstream PR darling Laurie Jensen left the hearing half way through the day, the righteous smile gone from her face completely.
The weeks to come should only get better as David Sutherland reaches his stride and the facts behind Don Staniford’s allegations are revealed. With G.A.A.I.A. back in action with the “Salmon Farming Kills” campaign at salmonfarmingkills.com, the message is going to be heard loud and clear that freedom of speech and expression will not be silenced.
At $3000 a day for this case to proceed, $34,000 more is what it’s going to take to see this case through to the end.
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