Cat. 3, Activism 6 – BL-43 – Second Victory! Grizzly Bear Hunting Moratorium.

Cat. 3, Activism 6 – BL-43 – Second Victory! Grizzly Bear Hunting Moratorium.

Ch. 43 –  Success Out of Failure

“On December 8, in BC, if the WCWC has its way, bears will have a date with democracy… WCWC’s gladiator in this fight is Anthony Marr, a Chinese Canadian… Mr. Marr feels a special ethnic responsibility and status in this crusade, which he has been pursuing with extraordinary intensity, barnstorming the province…”

The above passage is from Canada’s preeminent national newspaper the Globe and Mail – [THE BEARS AND THE BALLOT] by Gordon Gibson, dated November 19, 1996.

Having fought about 40 battles by then, the battle-scarred “gladiator” had learned a few tricks to maximize impact, or just to survive. Here are two:

First, there are two alternatives for organizing meetings: overt and covert. Both have advantages and disadvantages. COVERT meetings are secret, under-the-radar, and by-invitation-only. They have the advantage of excluding hunters (unless leaked), and the disadvantage of zero drama and therefore media exposure and therefore zero awareness raised in the population. OVERT meetings are openly publicize beforehand and invariably attended by media, which has the apparent disadvantage of attracting large numbers of hunters, but which I see as a tactical advantage in terms of raising the profile of the article and the campaign. I much prefer the Overt format, without which most of the newspaper articles presented in these few chapters could not have materialized.

Second, hunters often loitered around in the parking lot after the event, intentionally or incidentally blocking my way to my car. When that happened, I had three options:

  1. to turn back into the building and wait for them to disperse,
  2. to slink around them under the cover of darkness, hoping they wouldn’t notice me, and
  3. to walk right through them.

My favorite was and still is #3. Especially if I could identify their ring leader, I would walk straight up to him, extend my hand and say something like “Thank you for coming and making this event a great success!” He would shake my hand automatically and his cohort would part like the Red Sea. Except this one is no myth.

So thanks to the Overt method and the Red-Sea approach, the Bear Referendum campaign garnered some 250 newspaper articles, local, national and global, and I survived the adventure to tell about it.

I will present some excerpts from a few choice articles generated between August 1 and December 31, 1996, to outline this period, plus a couple from 1998 and one from 2001 to round out the story.


*     *     *


August 1, 1996, Thur.
The Georgia Straight, Vancouver
by Charlie Smith




During a recent province-wide tour, Western Canada wilderness Committee wildlife campaigner Anthony Marr discovered how difficult it will be to achieve a ban on bear hunting… in public meetings to promote holding a vote on the issue, he was usually hounded by dozens of angry hunters who tried to intimidate him…

Elections BC reported as of July 26 that 87 groups and individuals had registered themselves as Opponents to WCWC’s proposed initiative on prohibiting bear hunting.

“Our association will certainly be opposing the initiative drive in various ways, because I don’t think that the Western Canada Wilderness Committee should be allowed to get away with spreading misleading information about this particular issue,” Guide-Outfitters of BC general manger Dale Drown told the Straight. . . .

Marr will speak about this issue on Thursday, August 8, at the H.R. MacMillan Planetarium at 7:30 p.m. – and he expects to see angry hunters in the audience. “The more the better. I’m beginning to enjoy being confronted by them,” he chuckled.


*     *     *







September 4, 1996, Sun.
Sing Tao Sunday Magazine (global, translated from Chinese)




As of September 9, the WCWC will begin its 90-day Initiative Petition to try to force a province-wide referendum on the issue of banning bear hunting in BC…

Since 1994, conservation officers have killed about 1,500 “nuisance” Black bears.

Of the 34 Black bears studied in a 3-year research project on Vancouver Island, 3 were killed by legal hunters, 3 by poachers, 4 by vehicles and 9 (3 females and 6 cubs) by other bears…

Chinese Canadian bear hunter Wong Wing-Sing reported that over the several years he hunted bears, he’d been approached by a number of hunters and poachers who tried to sell him bear gall bladders. Most of these were Caucasians, and some were Aboriginals.

Hunter Med Crotteau said that groups like Bear Watch has no sincere wish to protect bears, but instead to wipe out bear hunters. He said that such groups are criminals and terrorists. . . .

Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaigner Anthony Marr, who is a Chinese Canadian, says that the government’s bear information – to overestimate total population and underestimate poaching extent – is slanted in favour of hunting, and is often quoted by hunters…


*     *     *


October 12, 1996, Sat.
The News, Parksville/Qualicum
by Bruce Whitehead




Anthony Marr has become the leader of a movement attempting to put an end to bear hunting in BC. The 52-year-old man’s family fled the tyranny of Red China in 1949. Almost 50 years later he goes face to face with hostile opponents in the West.

No matter how open-minded you are, you likely wouldn’t pick Anthony Marr out to be an environmental activist – much less one that some have called “public enemy number one”, or else “the most hated man in BC”. But the 52-year-old Chinese Canadian physicist, who looks in his thirties, has almost single-handedly managed to fire up emotions in every corner of the province as the lead campaigner of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee’s bid to end bear hunting in BC.

News reports from places like Prince George and Kamloops tell the tale of this mild-mannered army of one as his provincial tour has resulted in explosive confrontations with opponents in the pro-hunting lobby.

The slender scientist traces his roots in the animal protection arena to the days of his emigration from Hong Kong in 1965…. “I had seen lots of animal cruelty in Asia and I thought at that time that it was a distinctly Asian phenomenon,” Marr says. “But then, gradually, I came to discover cruelty over here.”

After graduation from the University of British Columbia, Marr began working in a series of jobs in the mineral exploration industry that took him deep into the BC hinterlands. “It was then I really began to bond with nature and value wilderness,” he says.

“A lot of people seem to think it is a very negative thing to see a bear. A regular thing in debates is: ‘We see bears up around where we live, so keep on hunting them, or else…’ But that attitude would change if the bears are all gone, as in Hong Kong and many parts of Europe.”

Last year, Marr started what media called a “one-man-crusade”… But knowing the task was too big for one man, Marr approached the WCWC . . .

“I chose the WCWC because they were known for their integrity, effectiveness and capacity,” he says. “My only condition was that they retain me to be the campaign director of BET’R, which they did.”

Never doubting the cause for which he sacrificed his employment and lifestyle, Marr set off on a speaking tour from hell… It comes with the territory, however.

“If the meetings get unruly, then we get more media exposure,” Marr says, with his gentle habit of turning a negative situation into positive ones.

“People have hounded me everywhere I’ve been. I’ve never been so harassed in my life, but at the same time I’ve never felt happier or more at peace.


*     *     *


October 15, 1996, Tue.
The Times Colonist, Victoria
by Malcolm Curtis





In areas where hunting is as common as walking the dog, canvassing for signatures is not for the weak-hearted. In a 12,000 km road trip to promote the referendum last summer, Marr often found himself confronting hallsful of angry hunters.

The photos aren’t pretty… the gruesome pictures are featured in a four-page tabloid newspaper just issued by the Western Canada Wilderness Committee. The publication is the latest PR effort by the organization in its uphill fight to force a referendum on the banning of bear-hunting in BC…

The BCWF is one of almost 90 groups registered as opponents to the bear hunting referendum… The pro-hunting group has already been forced to apologize to WCWC for commentary in its magazine, The Outdoor Edge, that referred to WCWC as a terrorist group.

Anthony Marr, campaigner for WCWC, points out a report in the Vancouver Sun that BCWF members would be “Shadowing” people canvassing for signatures…

Beyond jockeying for public support, the WCWC appears to have an insurmountable task to bring the bear hunting issue to the ballot box…

In spite of his earlier encounter of a very hostile audience in Port Alberni, Marr plans to return there to generate more support. . . .


*     *     *


October 18, 1996, Fri.
The Trail Times, Trail
by Lana Rodlie




Anthony Marr knows his chances of getting a provincial referendum on banning bear hunting is about as probable as a snowflake’s chance on a hot plate, but he is trudging along garnering support anyway.

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee, of which Marr is a campaigner, began the Initiative Petition phase of their project on September 9, collecting signatures…

“Every observer says we can’t do it,” Marr told the Times…

Marr, however, doesn’t care if he is up against insurmountable odds, he still pushes as hard as he can to get his message out…


*     *     *


November 4, 1996, Mon.
The Trail Times, Trail
by Lana Rodlie




Usually, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But some people just can’t stand to let others have an opinion if it differs from their own. This seems to be the case whenever hunters and environmentalists are pitted against each other, as they were last week in Trail.

The problem stemmed from a visit to Trail several weeks ago by Anthony Marr, a campaign director of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee… Although Marr was scorned, yelled at, threatened and slandered in other parts of the province, these are just words until such tactics were used here.

Unfortunately, for John and Rachele Kratky, intimidation reared its ugly head after Marr left.

The Kratkys volunteered to help Marr’s cause by locally obtaining signatures. They approached Waneta Plaza and asked if they could set up a table in the mall. The mall management saw no problem and said it was alright. However, the decision was quickly reversed.

“We were told that we couldn’t set up because the mall had received a bunch of phone calls from people threatening to picket,” said Rachele Kratky. “If they feel they are so right, if their cause is so righteous, what are they afraid of? Isn’t the general public entitled to an opinion?”

Kratky admits to being totally against hunting, especially trophy hunting, and is particularly sensitive to the subject after being hit in the foot by the pellet from a hunter’s shot gun while she was working in her garden. “It’s beyond my comprehension as a human being that anyone would do harm to an animal for entertainment. Surely we have come farther than that as a species,” she said.

Waneta Plaza manager Linda MacDermid confirmed that she received a number of calls from unidentified people threatening to boycott mall merchants if the bear petition booth went ahead on Saturday.

“The bulletin board was up on Monday and by Monday afternoon, we had phone calls,” she told the Times. “They said they would put up pickets and boycott the mall. As a landlord, we can’t cause anything or permit the use of the shopping centre for anything that will limit tenants’ ability to do business,” she said.

MacDermid said this is the first time anyone has ever called with threats over a proposal petition campaign or anything else.


*     *     *


November13, 1996.
The Citizen, Prince George
by Gordon Hoekstra




Unable to get permission to set up their ban-bear-hunting petition drive at any of the malls here, a Lower Mainland preservation group will try to gather signatures near the Civic Centre starting Friday.

In general, the malls told him that they didn’t want to alienate anyone, Anthony Marr said Tuesday… Marr believes many more people would have become bear petition canvassers in rural areas, but they’ve been intimidated by a strong counter reaction to the ban-bear-hunting campaign, especially in the Central Interior…

But he added, “We’ve got a job to do, and we’re giving it our best shot.”…


*     *     *


November 16, 1996
The Citizen, Prince George, BC
by Gordon Hoekstra


BEAR “BAN-WAGON” GETS COOL RECEPTION… Battling the wind and -10C temperatures, WCWC canvassers from Vancouver set up tables Friday at the intersection of Victoria Street and Seventh Avenue to gather signatures… Hunter Brad Davis stopped to protest the bear skin propped on top of the 24-foot, banner-decorated motor home, which he thought was in bad taste…

“It takes a lot of guts to be out here, and they need all the support they can get,” said Chris Leischner, an avowed environmentalist who signs the petition…

The 11-person “BEAR-CARE-A-VAN” caravan came to the North because the petition has predictably struggled here…


*     *     *


November 21, 1996, Thur.
The Tribune, Williams Lake
by Jonathan Desbarats




A group campaigning to ban bear hunting in BC was turfed out of Boitanio Mall yesterday after a confrontation with the president of the Williams Lake Sportsman’s Association, John Thomas.

Members of the Western Canada Wilderness Committee say Thomas deliberately interfered with their attempts to gather signatures of people supporting a referendum on the issue.

“He’s a bully, which means that he’s a coward . . . and he’s against democracy,” said campaigner Barney Kern. “People with that kind of attitude don’t want people to hear the other side of the story.”

Kern says Thomas came by the display and started making a lot of noise, before mall security arrived. He alleges Thomas then threatened to keep causing a disturbance if the campaigners were not removed.

Thomas vehemently denies the allegations…

Regardless of who started the confrontation, mall manager Chris Oliver says the group was asked to leave because “this is a shopping centre, not a political arena.” The campaigners were given permission to set up in the first place because mall administration were unaware of the group’s political nature.

The campaigners have no qualms with the mall, but they dispute the claim that their cause is political…

Government agent Erich Breitkreuz said there is no law under the Elections Act against a peaceful protest, but said the group could possibly receive protection under a restraining order if someone deliberately tries to prevent their ability to gather signatures.


*     *     *


December 7, 1996.
The Vancouver Sun
by Herb Gilbert




… I hope more people will come to see the big picture of what is happening to planet Earth. And when the light goes on in their minds, they will turn green, like the Paul Georges and Anthony Marrs of this world.


*     *     *


News Leader, Burnaby
by Rob Gerein




… The majority of the population doesn’t like guns, doesn’t like trophy hunting and, increasingly, they don’t like hunters…


*     *     *


January 21, 1998.
The Vancouver Sun
by Stephen Hume




Beaten but unbowed – Anthony Marr says he is undeterred in his campaign despite assault.

BC environmentalist Anthony Marr is recovering after being beaten by a burly man who said, “Let this be a lesson to you.”

An environmentalist known for his opposition to bear hunting and the black market for animal parts was recovering Tuesday after being attacked in Vancouver’s West End.

Anthony Marr said he was waylaid about 7:30 p.m. Monday in the 1600 block of Haro Street as he made his way to his car after a dinner with his parents at their home.

Environmental groups have been complaining about a sharp increase in threats of physical violence directed at their members…

“I was parked in the lane”, Marr said. “There was this guy waiting for me by my car. He advanced a few steps and said, ‘Are you Anthony Marr?’ I said yes and he immediately launched his attack.”

Marr… said his assailant was “over six feet and around 200 pounds” and rained blows upon his head and face, fracturing facial bones and damaging his eye socket.

“Then he said, ‘Let this be a lesson to you,’ and walked off,” Marr said.

The University of British Columbia Hospital confirmed that Marr was admitted and treated in the emergency ward shortly after 7:30 p.m.. Vancouver city police confirmed receiving his report of the attack about 8:40 p.m..

Marr recently led a controversial and widely publicized Western Canada Wilderness Committee campaign to have bear hunting banned in BC.

He has also been active in successfully pressuring government for controls in the black market on endangered species parts in the Asian community…

Marr’s silver 1993 Mazda sports car and its license plate became well known during the anti-hunting campaign… Marr drove 12,000 kilometers and visited almost every significant community in BC during the summer of 1996, holding public and private meetings that laid the groundwork for a province-wide initiative petition towards driving a referendum vote on banning bear hunting.

Campaigners obtained 93,000 signatures in a 90-day blitz that mobilized 1,800 volunteers, but fell well short of the 250,000 or 10 percent of the electorate – needed to force government action under recall and initiative legislation.

The petition campaign, however, gave Marr a high media profile… he was constantly harassed by pro-hunting (forces). Pickup trucks tailgated his car and he received anonymous threats of violence by phone.

“My reaction is that it merely strengthens my resolve to continue with this campaign…”

January 21, 1998.
Ming Pao Daily News (Chinese), global


… “It was so fast and sudden I didn’t even have time to turn the other cheek,” Marr added with a wry grin…

*     *     *

May 13, 1998
The Vancouver Courier
by Gudrun Will


Animal conservationist Anthony Marr is anything but intimidated after getting a fist in the face in a West End alley, delivered with the not-so-cryptic message: “Let this be a lesson to you.”

The January attack by an unknown assailant broke his nose, cracked his cheekbone and damaged his right eye socket. Rather than shutting him up, it inspired him to undertake another road trip to stop the grizzly bear hunt in BC…

*     *     *

July 3, 1998
The Globe and Mail, national


Vancouver – Anthony Marr is renewing his effort to ban grizzly bear hunting in BC despite a gruesome beating by an alleged critic that left him with facial bone fractures and a buckled eye socket.

The campaigner… hit the road yesterday to visit 30 BC communities to fire up support for a bear-hunt ban that has been criticized by hunters…

*     *     *

January 18, 2001

Richmond News
by Martin van den Hemel


With Asia’s tiger population on the brink of extinction, conservationist Anthony Marr made a dire prediction that the same could happen to B.C.’s grizzly bears if action isn’t taken soon.

Marr, founding director of HOPE-GEO (Heal Our Planet Earth—Global Environmental Organization), gave an in-depth 90-minute slide show presentation to about 70 students at London Secondary school Tuesday, during which he drew a parallel between the dwindling habitat of the magnificent striped tiger in Asia and the encroachment of man on B.C.’s bear habitat.

In 1900, the range of the Asian tiger stretched through southeast Asia, from India eastward. At the time there were an estimated 300,000 tigers in the wild and eight subspecies, including the Caspian Tiger, the Bengal Tiger, the Javan Tiger and the Bali Tiger.

But in the early part of the century, tiger hunting, deforestation and development severely shrank the tiger’s range and numbers down to just 100,000 tigers and seven subspecies by 1940.

By 1970, another subspecies of tiger, the Caspian tiger, had disappeared and the numbers further dwindled to just 15,000. The estimated population in 1997 was just 4,500 tigers living in remarkably tiny ranges.

Marr told London Secondary students that the hunting of bears in B.C. is putting a serious dent in the population. And if people wait until the numbers drop to the level of the Asian tiger, that may be too late.

In southeast B.C., the grizzly bear habitat has been severely been impacted and encroached upon by logging roads.

Although the province estimates the Grizzly bear population at between 10 and 14 thousand, some biologists feel that number could be as low as 4,000.

In India, deforestation has left huge scars on the once lush and verdant countryside. With a population of one billion people, 400 million cows and millions of goats, the land has become overgrazed and may result in an immense famine in the coming years.

For the tiger, the future is looking bleak, with conservationists like Marr hoping to make a difference before it is too late. India’s population is being taught alternatives to chopping down trees and using alternatives like solar devices for cooking.

Students were told that they too can make a difference by writing letters to political leaders and the leaders of other countries about their concern.

Marr will be making other presentations to Lower Mainland students in the coming weeks, including Hugh Boyd on Jan. 25 and Cambie Secondary on Feb. 12.

*     *     *

February 9, 2001.
Seattle Times
Seattle, Washington, USA
by Alex Tizon


For the first time in history, the grizzly bears of British Columbia will get a reprieve from hunters’ bullets as the government yesterday imposed a three-year moratorium on hunting the animals, just weeks before the spring season.

Premier Ujjal Dosanjh, in announcing the decision, said the hiatus would give independent scientists a chance to reassess the province’s grizzly population.
The number has been a subject of intense debate for years, with hunters claiming the population to be as high as 13,000 and conservationists arguing the number is closer to 4,000. Each side has its own set of scientists.

“Given the diversity of expert opinion,” Dosanjh said, the moratorium on the hunting of grizzly bears is a “prudent decision.”

Animal-rights and environmental organizations praised the move as a good first step, but hunting groups condemned the decision as “politics over science.”

Opinion polls have repeatedly shown that a vast majority of British Columbia citizens – as high as 90 percent – oppose trophy hunting of bears, and as many as 77 percent want it banned altogether…

Fulton said the weight of public opinion finally caused the government to move on the issue…


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