Marineland denies the allegations made in this podcast by Phil Demers, their former animal trainer. They have launched pending legal action against the Toronto Star, Phil Demers, and others.
Marineland declined to appear on this program. They told CANADALAND that if we air an episode repeating Phil Demers’ allegations, “you and your news site and podcast network will be sued to judgment.”
They referred us to court documents and third-party expert reports, which they say prove Phil Demers’ claims are false.
After the first Toronto Star report on Marineland was published, CAZA (Canadian Accredited Zoos and Aquariums) inspected Marineland and found “…that at the time of the site inspection the animals in question in the Marineland collection, including the marine mammals were in overall good health and there was no evidence of animal abuse, that water quality in all the pools was very good, and it appeared that staffing levels were adequate.
You can find Marineland’s complete list of documents and links to many of these documents below.
We have researched and reviewed these materials carefully, we have consulted with our lawyer, and we are proceeding with today’s show.
THE TORONTO STAR’S MARINELAND COVERAGE (link) NOTE: Marineland denies the allegations reported by the Star.
DOCUMENTS REFERRED TO BY MARINELAND
– THE ROSEN REPORT (link)
– HEARINGS ON BILL 80 (link)
– PHIL DEMERS COURT DOCUMENTS (link)
– MARINELAND PRESS RELEASES (link)
CANADALAND’S COMPLETE CORRESPONDENCE WITH MARINELAND:
I am writing you from CANADALAND, an independent news organization in Toronto.
For an upcoming episode of our podcast, I have interviewed Phil Demers about his conflicts with Marineland.
Demers makes many claims about the treatment of animals at Marineland, some of which are the subject of litigation between Marineland and Demers.
We would like to balance our coverage by getting Marineland’s side of the story. Would you, John Holer, or any other Marineland representative be available to record an audio interview this week?
Please let me know as soon as possible.
Our publication date (tentative) is Monday, December 14th, 2015.
Below is a response to your request attributable to Marineland.
We understand from your email that you have interviewed Mr. Demers regarding his “allegations” about Marineland and Mr. Holer and that you intend to publish those “allegations” on or about December 14, 2015.
Mr. Demers has not worked at Marineland since 2012. His “allegations” pre-date his departure or he was not a witness to the alleged events.
His “allegations” are no longer allegations. They have been proven false. They are, therefore, merely defamatory statements, the repetition of which, by anyone, is defamatory.
Any repetition by you in a podcast of such statements by Mr. Demers, whether represented as “allegations” or “unproven” or otherwise is defamatory and will not be excused.
There is no public interest in false “allegations” by Mr. Demers that are over three years old and have been conclusively proven false through extensive investigations by experts, the OSPCA, an independent panel of government experts and international water quality experts. There is, therefore, no public interest defence to the publication of such statements. Even if it is assumed, though denied, that any public interest remains in such dated and stale false allegations, you and your publication are still not excused from taking all reasonable steps to determine the truth of such statements in publishing them. The “public interest” exception to defamation does not provide for or excuse you or your news publication from your obligations to avoid publication of defamatory statements.
Given the, known to you, seriousness of the statements, the evident damage such statement cause, the public review of those statements over the last three years, and the extensive public investigations of such statements, your duty to confirm the truth of what you intend to publish is clearly heightened.
You know, or ought to know, that the statements by Mr. Demers are no longer “allegations”, they are merely defamatory statements.
Mr. Demers’ malice towards Marineland and Mr. Holer is evident from any basic investigation by you.
You should know or ought to know, that an extant court Order of the Superior Court of Ontario prohibits the use by demonstrators at Marineland of any sign that alleges “abuse” or “criminal” conduct by Marineland or Mr. Holer, because such statements are defamatory and by their very nature cause damage. That Order was not appealed.
You are provided with clear notice of the Order to the extent that you repeat Mr. Demers’ allegations against Marineland or Mr. Holer, in whatever form.
Deliberate repetition in any form by you, your podcast or anyone else of any of Mr. Demers’ statements about Marineland or Mr. Holer is done maliciously and with the sole intent to injure Marineland and Mr. Holer.
As you are aware, Mr. Demers has only a high school education and has no education, experience, qualifications or training to make any opinion regarding the health or welfare of any animal at Marineland. He further lacks all education, training, qualification or experience to make any comment on water chemistry or the quality of water. We assume you are also aware that he admitted to secretly and illegally taking drugs intended for animals for his own use while employed at Marineland and has not disputed Marineland’s public press release in that regard. We also assume you are aware that
Mr. Demers quit his employment as a consequence of his failure to persuade Marineland to permit him to “star” in a reality TV show he wanted to be made about him working at Marineland.
Despite those facts, you are also presumably aware that all of Mr. Demers’ “allegations” were extensively investigated over the last three years by qualified national and international experts, with extensive qualifications and experience, and that a large amount of publicly available information exists, which conclusively puts the lie to his statements.
There is no “other side” to the story. There is no “story”.
The statements by Mr. Demers are false and defamatory.
There is no excuse or justification for further publication of them.
As a “news website” you are under an obligation, prior to publication, to take all reasonable steps to confirm the truth of Mr. Demers statements. There are literally hundreds of publicly available documents that establish conclusively that his statements are false. You are under an obligation to review those documents, make reasonable inquiries of those involved, and check your facts, all prior to publication.
A statement that you would like to interview Mr. Holer to “balance our coverage” is not sufficient, does not satisfy your legal obligations, and does not excuse publication of statements you know, or ought to know, are false.
If you proceed with publication of Mr. Demers statements, it will not be excused.
Thank you for your timely response.
3. Can you provide any details of documents concerning your statement that “there are literally hundreds of publicly available documents that establish conclusively that [Demers’] statements are false.”
Also, I would like to renew my request for an interview with a Marineland representative, in person or on the phone. Can you let me know if this request is accepted or rejected?
3. the claim that there was (and still is) high turnover of animal trainers at Marineland and it did not take long until Mr.Demers was in a senior position regulating the diets and medicine of animals?
4. the claim that water quality at Marineland was poor during the last 8 months of Mr.Demers’ employment at Marineland because of a breakdown of the water disinfection unit?
5. the claim that Marineland was complacent about the poor water quality and its response was to add excessive amounts of chlorine to the pools at night when most employees were not there?
6. the claim that the poor water quality adversely impacted the health of the animals including loss of appetite, burned skin, damaged eyes and lethargy?
7. the claim that animals at the Marineland were given valium to increase appetite?
8. the claim that when told about Mr.Demers’ concerns a vet employed by Marineland said it was not her responsibility to report the alleged abuse but instead her responsibility was to the owner of Marineland to not say anything?
9. the claim that the OSPCA could not investigate allegations of abuse at Marineland because it did not have the power to do so where the animal was under the care of a vet?
10. the claim that the property where the OSPCA is located in Niagara was donated by Marineland?
11. the claim that not one baby dolphin born at Marineland lived beyond a few months?
12. the claim that a sick sea lion had to be moved out of the over-chlorinated water and later died in a small transport cage?
13. the claim that Marineland emptied the pools of the polluted water when Mr.Demers quit?
14. the claim that Mr.Demers shared his concerns with John Holer and the CFO at Marineland and the CFO advised Demers that he was bound by the terms of an NDA?
15. the claim that Marineland insisted employees sign an NDA after public statements were made about the death of Kandu the Orca whale?
16. the claim that Smooshie the walrus became sick about a month after Mr.Demers left Marineland and she had lost hundreds of pounds and was “bone dry”?
17. the claim that Smooshie’s health deteriorated after Mr.Demers left Marineland’s employment because she did not respond to other trainers and suffered due to Mr.Demers’ departure?
18. the claim that Marineland has commenced “SLAPP” (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) suits against a number of persons that have spoken out against Marineland including SLAPP suits against Mr.Demers and his girlfriend and John Hammond and those lawsuits are on-going?
19. the claim that Kiska the whale lost 5 calves and a number of tank-mates and was suffering because she was living in solitude?
20. the claim that Marineland has taken few steps to improve the conditions at the park except it dumped the polluted water, removed certain structures from the pools that were hurting the animals and culled the deer because there were too many deer on the property?
21. Mr.Demers’ claim that the lawsuit by Marineland against him are without merit?
22. the claim that there have been few improvements to Marineland since it opened except for the construction of new pools?
23. the claim that John Holer shot his neighbour’s dogs?
Thank you for your attention to this.
Attached is the index of materials publicly filed in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice which collectively establishes conclusively the falsehood of Mr. Demers’ allegations.
The affidavit evidence of Marineland has never been cross examined upon and is, therefore, admitted by the defendants to be true and accepted by the Court as true. No appeal was taken from any order obtained. The truth of the content of the affidavits filed by Marineland is therefore no longer in dispute and may not be contested.
The materials are publicly available to you and must reasonably be considered in their entirety.
In addition, reference must be made to the Rosen Report and the evidence of witnesses, and exhibits filed, in the Bill 80 hearings, all of which is publicly available.
Materials publicly filed on Marineland’s website must also be considered.
The foregoing materials provide the names of actual experts who have determined the falsehood of the allegations by Mr. Demers.
Those individuals must be interviewed.
The independent qualified experts are relied upon by Marineland for proof of the falsehood of the statements. Interview them if they are amenable to your request.
The evidence is utterly overwhelming. There is no “story”. The allegations are false.
The nature of your questions makes it clear that the purpose of your podcast interview is solely to repeat Mr. Demers’ falsehoods.
In the event you do so you and your news site and podcast network will be sued to judgment.
Dear Marineland representative,
Publication of the false allegations by Mr. Demers will result in a lawsuit in which you and your organization will be sued to judgment.
There is no public interest in his false allegations and if there ever was, it has long since expired.
Your allegation that the false allegations have any relationship to existing or proposed legislation is not logical and is factually incorrect.
The legislative history of the present legislation reflects no such relationship. Secondly, there are no proposed changes to the new legislation and none are related to any of Mr. Demers’ false allegations.
The repetition of false allegations under cover of a report of a lawsuit is not of any public interest, unnecessary to the story and is malicious.
The repetition of false allegations is irrelevant to a story about the press and a source.
Any reasonable journalist would necessarily require independent confirmation from a credible named expert witness of Mr. Demers’ allegations.
His allegations are specifically of abuse of animals and problems with water chemistry, of which he knows nothing.
To your knowledge Mr. Demers has no more than a high school education and lacks all required basic education, experience and training to provide any accurate opinion with respect to any of his allegations. He is not a vet. He has admitted open antipathy towards Marineland and seeks its closure. He is being sued by Marineland. He is not a reliable source to your knowledge.
Relying on his unsupported and uncorroborated allegations is like relying on the allegations of a random member of the public as proof of the “truth” regarding the medical condition or treatment of a person, when expert medical opinions by specialists in medicine are otherwise available to you, which clearly contradict those allegations.
All of his allegations were, to your knowledge, investigated by qualified independent experts over several years and proven false.
If there ever was any doubt there is none now, as you know.
Your request suggests there is a difference of opinion. There is not. To suggest there is a difference of opinion is simply the common logical fallacy of a false dichotomy.
The false dichotomy you seek to create has been used most recently by climate change deniers. Both Mr. Demers and climate change deniers share a refusal to accept the opinion of real scientists while dressing up their false allegations in pseudo-scientific language and without credible scientific support, evidence or qualifications.
In this case all the experts have concluded Mr. Demers’ allegations are false.
There is no excuse or justification for the publication of the false allegations.
The names and qualifications of experts are known to you. They are independent of Marineland. Interviewing a representative of Marineland, or not, will not and does not excuse or justify your failure to directly address the falsehood of the allegations with those experts.
You are on notice of the unequivocal falsehood of Mr. Demers’ allegations all of which are now at least three years old and irrelevant.