Saturday, July 02, 2016

"I Am Canadian" (Again) - Paul Watson's Epic Passport Odyssey

I am Canadian Once Again

Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

July 1, 2016

Back in May 2012 on my way to France my plane landed in Germany and I was arrested on extradition warrants by Costa Rica and Japan for my efforts to stop shark finning by a Costa Rican fishing vessel in 2002 and my efforts to stop illegal Japanese whaling. In both cases I did not injure anyone nor did I damage any property.

I was jailed for a week and placed under house arrest for two months. Both my Canadian and my American passports were confiscated by the German police.

After two months I received a call from a Sea Shepherd supporter working with the German Ministry of Justice who told me that I would be extradited to Japan the next day. That was not going to happen. I jumped bail, made my way to the coast of the Netherlands and set sail across the Atlantic and the Pacific to rejoin my ship the STEVE IRWIN in November 2012.

After Operation Zero Tolerance and a successful intervention against the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling operations, I transferred to the BRIGITTE BARDOT off the coast of Tasmania.

On board were two German reporters and one of them handed me my U.S. passport.

The German police had returned my passports to the U.S. and Canadian Consulates in Frankfurt. The U.S. Consulate handed my passport over to my German lawyer. Canada refused to do so.

I then spent the next eight months at sea on the BRIGITTE BARDOT, spending that time cleaning beaches in the South Pacific and on the Great Barrier Reef.

Finally I was allowed to return to the United States in November 2013.

I inquired about my Canadian passport and did not receive an answer from the Canadian government.

Why did I need a Canadian passport if I already had my U.S. passport? The reason is that when you have dual citizenship, you cannot enter the country of one citizenship with the passport of another country. This effectively barred me from entry into Canada.

I made numerous inquiries and each time I was stonewalled by the Canadian passport office.

In 2015, a reporter for Reuters made an inquiry and was told that all I needed to do was re-apply. This was strange since my passport in the hands of the government is valid until 2018.

I waited until Prime Minster Stephen Harper was voted out of office and prepared to apply for a new passport under the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

At the COP 21 conference in Paris I asked my long time friend Elizabeth May, a Canadian Member of Parliament and leader of the Green Party of Canada to sign as my guarantor. I still had to wait for my birth certificate, which I had applied for a few months earlier.

So in March of 2016 I went personally to the Canadian Embassy in Paris, forked over some 200 Euros in cash and turned in my application with photos and birth certificate. They told me it would take two weeks before my passport would arrive.

There was nothing in the mail two weeks later nor a month later so I called the Embassy and they told me the application was sent to Ottawa for further review. I called again at the end of April and the end of May and each time I was told it was under review.

Finally I called Elizabeth May in early June and she personally went to speak with the appropriate Minister.

And thus, a week before Canada Day I received my Canadian passport in the mail and it is now in hand.

I will continue to make inquiries as to how and why the government can confiscate a passport from a Canadian citizen who has not committed a crime in Canada nor is wanted in Canada for any violation of the law. Apparently the confiscation was based on a non-felony extradition request from Japan for opposing a whaling operation that has been found guilty of illegal whaling by the International Court of Justice.

It appears that Canada pulled my passport based solely on the request of a foreign country.

Nonetheless I would like to thank Justin Trudeau’s government. I am certain that I would never have received it back under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government.

But most of all I would like to express my appreciation to Green Party Leader and Member of Parliament Elizabeth May for her assistance in making the return of my passport a reality after four years of waiting.

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