Cat. 3, Activism 5 – BL-42 – 120 Hunters vs 1 Anti in a hot room

Cat. 3, Activism 5 – BL-42 – 120 Hunters vs 1 Anti in a hot room

Ch. 42 –  120 Serial Killers vs 1 Man of Compassion in a hot room

[FUR FLIES AT MEETING TO BAN BEAR HUNTS – It was barely civil, and sometimes downright ugly… Anthony Marr was interrupted, shouted down and generally abused by hunters that dominated an audience of more than 100 that spilled out of a conference room at the Civic Centre Thursday evening… Marr had barely begun… before he was attacked…]

These are the opening lines of an article on Page A1, upper-half, of the Prince George Citizen newspaper, dated July 5, 1996, by Gordon Hoekstra. To add a little to the ambiance of this article: Prince George, with a population of over 70,000, was the largest city in northern British Columbia and nicknamed “the Northern Capital of BC”. In 2011, it won the dubious honor of being “the most dangerous Canadian city” (CBC). Presumably back in 1996 likewise, since Prince George was the only city on this tour to bring out over a hundred hunters to my meetings.

Let me back up a few days to Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert, pop. ~12,000, deserves special mention because its geographical location defines the northwestern-most reach of this tour.

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From field journal:

July 2, 1998, Tuesday, sun & cloud, showers en route from Prince Rupert to Prince George (494 km / 307 miles)

As predicted, it was a very busy day.

10-11 a.m. – the first time I’ve interacted with a native band. Met with and gave a slideshow and video presentation to Cecil Paul Jr. and another elder at the Natalika Institute. Cecil occasionally exclaimed “Jesus!” when I got to the graphic parts regarding various mistreatments of animals, especially bears. By the end of the presentation, they pledged their whole-band support.

Left the cell phone behind at the Institute and didn’t realize this until I was well on my way back to Terrace and had to turn around to retrieve it. Cecil welcomed me back and said that he had already spoken with some others, and was keen on helping out with the referendum. He also asked for a copy of the video that I showed them – re. Global bear parts trade; I promised him in August. I also asked for a letter of recommendation to access other native bands.

As suggested by Bruce Will, I asked Cecil for the contact numbers of Bill Newsome, and also of Caroline M. Getti, and he gave them to me on the spot.

Media-wise, the following:
– finalized article on the phone with Paul Anderson of the Prince Rupert This Week (SWN 9,000),
– in person interview with David Taylor of the Terrace Standard (VCC 7,988)
– in person interview with Jennifer Lange of the Terrace Times, with photo
– in person interview with Mary Vallis of Kitimat’s Northern Sentinel (CIRC 2,500)
– dropped press package to Patty Edgar of Smither’s Interior News (VCC 4,319)
Didn’t leave Terrace till about 17:00. Arrived back at the Lyndens’ close to midnight, not half an hour ago.

July 4, 1996, Thursday, cloudy, with showers en route from Fort St. John to Prince George (back to PG by 17:45).

The biggest confrontation yet. Read on.

Today’s media:

the Fort St. John Northerner (08:45 in person interview by Wendy Coomber at her office, SWN 4,000),

the Dawson Creek Mirror (11:20 in person interview at the Dawson Creek Dinner & Deli by Diana Stephenson, CIRC 5,300),

the Chetwynd Echo (13:00 in person interview by Rick Daison at his office, VCP 1,412).

19:00-22:15 – Open presentation at the Prince George Civic Centre on 855 Dominion Street, attended by Gordon Hoekstra of the Prince George Citizen (ABC 23,000) and MCed by Carolyn Lynden of the Nechako Environmental Coalition which sponsored the event, at whose home I am staying. It was Port Alberni all over again, only bigger and even hotter – both the room and the crowd of about 10 environmentalist and easily 120 hunters and guide-outfitters who stuffed the room and spilled out into the hallway. Again, as in Port Alberni, I hardly sign up anybody on the spot, but the A1 article will work its magic.

Carolyn’s friends Susan and Julie who were there said that they were sickened almost right from the start by the atmosphere of hostility and hatred. Julie Johnston, an elementary school teacher, said to me after the event, with tears in her eyes, “Now I know how some of my kids get to be so screwed up. How can they not be with parents like these?” Susan said that she would have left had it not been for her friend Carolyn.

This time, they didn’t even wait for me to begin before hammering me with whatever abuse they could muster. Some of them were from Port Alberni. I know this because they were quoting what I said – in Port Alberni – misquoted, rather. Some maintained that WCWC and Bear Watch were one and the same, and that WCWC had unlimited funding, and that the Bear Referendum was nothing but another fund-raiser.

Some blatantly said, “This is not what I heard you say in Port Alberni.” Was the guy who chased me on the highway among them? Is there another chase in the works waiting for me? So, they’re stalking me, and will continue to do so for the rest of the road tour. One thing I haven’t noted in this journal up to this point, and that is the almost continuous presence of video cameras aimed at me wherever I speak, with their red eyes staring at me unblinkingly. Tonight is the same. We should do the same back to them, if only to serve as a deterrent against overly aggressive behaviour. Also, it would help me recognize those who have been tracking me. The next big presentation will be in Kamloops July 8. I’ll see if any by-now familiar faces will show up there again.

In the crowd was also a conservation officer who operates in the Prince George Omineca region. He didn’t say much, but differed sharply from the hunters in one point. The hunters always argue that poaching is insignificant, to support their contention that the bear are under little or no pressure and could therefore tolerate the extent of legal hunting they themselves exert upon them. International experts such as Doggett estimate that for every bear legally killed by legal hunters, at least one is poached – 1:1. Slobodian estimated even 2:1. The hunters, on the other hand, and collaborated by the BC Environment Ministry, say only one bear poached for every three to four bears legally hunted – 1:3 to 1:4. This, combined with what environmentalists and preservationists believes to be an inflated official Grizzly bear population estimate of 10,000-13,000, versus independent biologists’ much more conservative estimate of 4,000-7,000, would give the general public the false picture of there being so many bears in the province that not only can they be hunted, but they should be. The conservation officer, on the other hand, reported that in his region of Prince George Omineca, the poaching to hunting ratio could be as high as 10 to 1, i.e. 10 bears poached for every one legally hunted! He himself found 14 bear carcasses with just the gall bladders and paws removed over the last few weeks alone. There being only 140 conservation officers to patrol the entire province, a lot more would be found had there been a larger force. After the event, he came to shake my hand. I pledged to him that I will do all I can to persuade government to hire more conservation officers.

One or two of the hunters also came to shake hands and tried to make peace somehow, in spite of which I was far from being reassured that some post-presentation harassment a la Port Alberni wouldn’t happen. I didn’t tell Carolyn about the highway chase, but on her own accord she suggested that a few of us go to a nearby Tim Horton’s for a night snack. This sounded like a reasonable deterrent, so we went. We were joined by Susan, Julie and Julie’s spouse Dr. Peter Carter.

Julie said, “You must have taken logic and philosophy courses.”

Peter remarked that he perceived the audience undergoing a subtle change, from flat out hostility to a low keyed respect even though they remained sternly in opposition. “You remained calm and respectful and were obviously genuine,” said Peter. “You didn’t change any minds, Anthony, but you converted a few hearts.”

After the night snack, we said good night and god speed, and Carolyn drove me back in her car to her place. I check behind us several times without Carolyn noticing, and saw no one tailing us.

Tomorrow, the real boonies – Dunster. I am currently skirting the far reaches of the province, the outback, in Aussie lingo. The highway I’ll be driving tomorrow is the back road parallel to the BC/Alberta border. I don’t have to be reminded yet again, which the audience tonight again did, that I’m an outsider coming into their communities to tell them what to do, or rather, what not to do. The confrontation this evening is about as close to a mass lynching as a country like Canada would allow.

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July 8, 1996, Mon.
Alaska Highway News
Fort St. John
by Tanya Wilson


Banning trophy and sport hunting of bears in British Columbia may help prevent bears from becoming an endangered species, said wildlife activist Anthony Marr at a meeting in Fort St. John last week.

In an effort to preserve BC’s bear population, the Western Canada Wilderness Committee has launched a campaign for a referendum to ban this destructive hunting which has the potential to damage the long term security of the province’s bears when combined with uncontrollable poaching.

Marr presented WCWC’s case to a group at the offices of North Peace Community Resources Society. With the aid of slides and video, showing the effect of poaching on entire ecosystems, Marr launched the Fort St. John leg of his campaign…

… “As the Asiatic Black bear population plummets, people trading in bear gall bladders and paws are looking elsewhere for their merchandise, and have found a large supply in Canada – the last in the world,” says Marr. “There is no way that our bears, particularly the Grizzly, can take the pressure of hunting and poaching combined. Poaching is by definition out of control, so we must control what we can, and that is hunting.” . . .

… One local hunt summed up the feeling of the people who were present at the meeting when he said, “I am not against hunting for sustenance, but hunting body parts such as gall bladders and paws is insidious and barbaric.”

Marr replied that head and hide, which bear hunters hunt bears for, are also body parts, and the practice of bear hunting is also insidious and barbaric…

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July 9, 1996, Tue.
The Echo/Pioneer,
Chetwynd (way up north)
by Rick Davison


It will be a tough fight, particularly in these parts, but Anthony Marr of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee is determined to stop the killing of bears in BC.

Marr is spearheading the WCWC’s Bear Referendum project . . .

His first step will be to find the people willing to register themselves with Elections BC as “volunteer canvassers” to help collect some 220,000 signatures required to force a public vote on the issue.

He hopes to have those canvassers ready to start the 90-day signature-drive starting September 10. . . .

Marr opposes what he calls the European-Canadian tradition of recreational hunting and trophy hunting that he says is really killing for pleasure, and for body part, as well as the Asian-Canadian tradition of killing bears for medicinal purposes.

“Most people in BC and Canada, including hunters, are not aware of the extent of poaching,” said Marr, who added that while there are about 120,000 Black bears and some 10,000 Grizzlies in BC, there is, according to international experts, at least one illegal kill for every legal one.

He said the Grizzly bear population is long-term-declining, and while poaching is difficult to stop, the number of legal licenses issued can be reduced or eliminated. . . .

His stand has won him the admiration of some and the scorn of others. . . .

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From field Journal:

July 8, 1996, Monday, sunny, 30+C, Kamloops (population >80.000)

In a call from a woman called Bronwin, who is helping local host Ruth Madsen organize tonight’s presentation, and also a media person herself, she told me that she would mobilize all the Kamloops media to the event, and sure enough, CBC-TV called me within minutes for a live interview at 13:10.

… The 13:10 TV interview by Gary Aldus of CFJC (CBC/CTV) went just as smoothly. After that, I called Bronwin who told me that all media had been contacted, and many would attend the presentation tonight, and that she saw the TV interview (which I missed), and said that I did an “excellent job”.

… This evening’s presentation was a success. About as big as Port Alberni, hunters vs antis about 2 to 1, … but thanks to the capable MCing of Bronwin, whom I now see has a strong and dynamic personality, much more orderly. She laid down the rule of engagement right from the start – no interruption until I had finished, then one at a time, and only after he/she had stated his/her name, and organization he/she represented. No abuse would be tolerated. Challenge it now or hold your peace. No one challenged it. Absolutely nothing got out of line, not that the hunters didn’t try. I felt totally protected. The debate was there, but it felt more like a discussion. In the end, I was applauded by over half of the audience, meaning, including some hunters. Still, when some of those who did not applaud were leaving, I waved at them, and they waved back. Signed up about a dozen people.

A woman remarked to me when I was packing up, “Seeing you dispel their challenges one by one, it’s like intellectual magic.” I didn’t know what to say, but I guess there is a first for everything.

The downside is that the tightness of rein cut out most of the drama that launched the Prince George Citizen article to Page A1. So, whatever media coverage for this one would be relatively subdued.

In the audience were at least three media people: a young woman called Michele Young of the Kamloops Daily News, another young woman from Kamloops This Week, and Clair, yet another young woman, of CHNL-AM, whom I talked to by phone this morning. All three were quite openly sympathetic. Before Clair began our interview, she shielded her mic and said, “Off the record, I’m with you.”

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July 9, 1996, Tue.
The Kamloops Daily News, Page A2
by Michele Young


With calm and respect, Anthony Marr faced rapid-fire questioning from hunters and threw back a plea for them to stop hunting bears.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s bear campaigner stopped in Kamloops Monday night on his province-wide road tour to get awareness and supporters for his bear-hunt ban referendum project.

Marr, a Chinese Canadian, went after Asians for their use of bear and other animal parts in medicine. While he talks to high school kids in Vancouver, especially at schools with high Asian numbers, and tries to get information back to China and Hong Kong, changing centuries of tradition isn’t fast or easy.

Canadian Grizzlies are threatened – one step from being endangered, Black bears are not, yet. But Marr is afraid legal hunting and poaching will take its toll on both.

Hunter Gordon Chamberlain asked Marr why he didn’t work with hunters, guide-outfitters, trappers, conservation staff and others who are against poaching. “Can’t we work together to achieve the same end?” he question Marr.

Marr said the problem is hunting and poaching combined, and both have to stop.

Another hunter noted that most conservation funding comes from hunting. If hunters are alienated, that money will disappear, he said.

Marr said that the funding comes from hunting license fees, not donations from hunters out of the goodness of their hearts. “If hunters really do care for wildlife, they would donate funds as WCWC members do, whether they could continue to hunt or not. As a result of members’ donations, WCWC has succeeded in working with government to preserve South Moresby, Carmanah, Clayoquot, the Stein, the Kutzeymateen, among other wildlife habitat.”

… And he challenged the hunters listening, “If you believe that the public is on your side, you could hold your own referendum to reinstate hunting the bears once their security has been assured.” . . .

This picture is not from the 1996 anti-hunting road tour, but from the 7th Compassion for Animals Expedition (CARE-7) in 2010.


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