Animal Protection >
Interview with ELF/ALF POW
Jan 04 2006
When Tre Arrow taps on the glass of the visiting cubicle it startles me. He laughs when I jump, then picks up the phone on his side of the sound-proof
divide. Before speaking, he wipes the phone vigorously on his red sweat shorts. "People in here are full of germs."
He’s yelling but his voice is barely audible. He looks pale and has a sore on the back of his right hand. I clean my phone on my sweater before saying hello.
The visitors room is straight out of TV, with the glass barrier and plastic chairs. About 15 telephones line up side by side.
A young woman, looking miserable, sits down and waits at one of them. Arrow and I are using one of two glass-and-concrete cubicles, for slightly more privacy.
Visitors can’t bring anything with them, though I don’t see how anyone could pass a prisoner anything through the glass.
It took some discussion before the guards accepted that I would need some way to take notes.
Once I passed through the metal detectors (with my shoes off) they passed me a pad of paper so I could interview Arrow. They also handed me a pencil, saying Arrow preferred pencils over pens (presumably for environmental reasons).
"It is funny what they think I will prefer," says Arrow when I relay this anecdote.
But he appreciates the gesture. He says the guards are respectful and accommodating of his wishes, especially around his diet. Arrow follows a Buddhist Essene diet and only eats raw vegan food.
It’s a welcome change from the North Fraser Pretrial Centre, where he suffered from starvation and required a stay in hospital. The authorities at NFPC in Port Coquitlam refused to accommodate Arrow’s diet and even confiscated the piles of carrot and celery sticks he amassed from trading meat and cooked vegetables with other inmates.
In a well-publicized turn of events, a doctor refused to release Arrow from hospital until the prison promised to honour his diet. Soon after Arrow was
transferred to the Wilkinson Road jail in Saanich.
"They seem to be more accommodating here. Less rigid, less austere," says Arrow.
Some of the inmates at Wilkie are also respectful and curious of Arrow’s beliefs. But not all.
Clearly jail is no picnic, so the obvious question is why not go back to the states and be cleared by the courts •?? presuming he is innocent?
After all, Arrow denies he has done anything other than peaceful demonstration and says his charges are politically motivated. However, similar cases in the U.S. have led to sentences that appear out of proportion to the crime of lighting a vehicle on fire •?? like the 22 years for Jeff Lures who set an SUV on fire. Jacob Sherman, arrested for the concrete and logging truck arsons in Arrow’s case, was facing a potential 80-year sentence when he entered a plea bargain, offering up three co-conspirators in exchange, one of them Arrow. Sherman received three and a half years.
"I can’t get a fair trial," Arrow says. "Our position is that it is very hard to get an untainted jury."
Both the FBI and media label Arrow an eco-terrorist, he says, even though the judge in Sherman’s case said the word was inappropriate.
Arrow believes a Canadian jail is better than an American one and a B.C. jail is probably the best in Canada. He argues that going to an American jail would kill him because it would not allow him to follow his Buddhist diet. He cites an inmate who was beaten for not eating chicken in the Portland facility where Arrow would likely end up.
Arrow’s lawyer is amassing these cases as part of Arrow’s submission to Canadian authorities. This summer, Arrow lost an appeal to the Supreme Court of B.C., fighting his extradition to the U.S.
Now he’s waiting for an extradition appeal hearing in the Supreme Court of Canada and is making an appeal to federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler who has the power to deny his extradition. He is also seeking refugee status, so he can stay in Canada, should his appeals succeed.
Meanwhile, Arrow is making a life for himself. He is allowed a pen and paper for writing and he has access to books. Friends, family and strangers who read or hear about him write and visit. He has no access to computers, and cannot accept calls. But Arrow is allowed to make calls at certain times of the day, paying $1 per call. He has a network of friends who accept his calls, read emails from supporters and take dictation of Arrow’s responses.
Living with rules is hard for Arrow. So is the lack of contact with nature.
"But I get to see grandfather moon and grandmother sun through my window," he says, noting he relishes walking between sections of the jail that require a short jaunt across a courtyard.
"I’ve been through hard things before. I’ve got shelter, warmth, food, family," he says, shortly before our time is up. "I’m surprised at how fast time has gone by."
Guards pat him down, presumably to make sure I haven’t slipped him my pencil through the impenetrable wall.
He flashes me the peace sign and is gone.
Saanich News reporter Sheila Potter goes to jail to try and find out