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I didn't do it, activist says

http://www.thetelegram.com/
September 29, 2006
I didn't do it, activist says
By ROB ANTLE AND JAMIE BAKER, The Telegram

A British Columbia animal-rights activist says she is not involved with a fake tourism website that disparages Newfoundland and Labrador.

But Sinikka Crosland acknowledged this week that her e-mail address was used as a contact point for technical inquiries about the controversial Internet portal when it first went online.

The creators of the site  www.tour-newfoundland labrador.com have shielded their identity by using an Arizona-based privacy-protection firm to register it.

Crosland acknowledged she knows some of the people behind the site, but said she is not one of them.

"From what I understand, the people that have created the website, and are involved in the website more closely than I am, just simply want to remain anonymous," she told The Telegram in a phone interview this week.

"They're members of the public. They have families and jobs and that type of thing. They just don't want to be out there in the limelight."

Technical liaison

Crosland said she was approached earlier this year to act as an initial liaison for technical inquiries.

The site's creators have since created an e-mail address to handle such questions.

"If people (had) a technical problem with (the site), I was quite happy to send the messages on," Crosland noted.

News of the website's existence created an uproar when revealed by The Telegram last month.

The site -- which claims to be "created in Canada by caring Canadians" -- is constructed to look like a typical tourism portal.

But it is largely dedicated to anti-sealing messages -- including purported quotes from Newfoundlanders and gory photos of dead seals.

The site features less-than-flattering stories about "many of the newsworthy highlights" about life in the province.

One example: "Booze Ban Sparks Mass Resignation at Newfoundland Fire Hall."

The authors compare the seal hunt to female infanticide -- the practice of killing newborn girls in favour of boys -- and female genital mutilation.

The site also facilitates the bulk sending of e-mails to tourism-related businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Nobody has taken responsibility for the Internet portal. But the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is actively promoting it on its website.

Instructions posted by ALF say the campaign "targets vulnerable, small tourist-based businesses in Canada's sealing communities" and is "designed to inflict economic pain on a personal level."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security considers ALF a domestic terrorist threat.

Crosland said none of her contacts are related to ALF.

Crosland is president of The Responsible Animal Care Society (TRACS), an animal-protection group based in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley.

She said TRACS has nothing to do with the anti-sealing initiative, although the group's e-mail address was the one used as point-of-contact for inquiries to the fake tourism website. Her involvement was personal, Crosland said, noting she routinely uses that address on her computer.

Crosland has been extremely active on Internet news groups posting information in protest of the seal hunt, which she calls a "black eye for all of Canada."

She has also helped organize anti-sealing demonstrations in B.C.

rantle@thetelegram.com

jbaker@thetelegram.com

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