A new, 22-min documentary film released earlier this week by Coastal First Nations – a coalition of aboriginal bands which has led the campaign against the proposed Enbridge pipeline and tankers – aims to kill the grizzly trophy hunt on BC’s central coast.
“Bear Witness” tells the story of “Cheeky”, a grizzly well-liked by locals who was killed by hunters in the Great Bear Rainforest, his carcass abandoned to rot in Kwatna Estuary. The film also features a photo of BC-born NHL player Clayton Stoner posing with the paws and head of the dead bear.
Hockey star-hunter targeted
While the province had issued Stoner a legal permit, the coastal First Nations on whose territory the hunt occurred have banned the practice on their lands.
“I applied for and received a grizzly bear hunting licence through a British Columbia limited-entry lottery last winter and shot a grizzly bear with my licence while hunting with my father, uncle and a friend in May,” Stoner told media, in response to the controversy generated by the film.
The provocative film was designed to spearhead the First Nations’ campaign to pressure the government into respecting their trophy hunting ban. Its release has generated considerable media attention, putting Stoner and the controversial practice in the spotlight.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs had strong words for trophy hunting after viewing the film. “It is atrocious to see such waste, and to see such a majestic creature just taken for its fur,” he told The Tyee. “I thought we as a society were moving past our barbaric ways, and were starting to look at things from an ecosystem approach to everything.”
The minister responsible for regulating the trophy hunt, Steve Thomson, showed little intention of complying with Coastal First Nations’ wishes when reached for comment this week:
Provincial estimates peg grizzly populations at 15,000 – far below the 120,000-160,000 for black bears. Yet the methodology for arriving at these figures has been questioned.
A 2012 statement co-authored by four of BC’s top bear biologists – Wayne McCrory, Dr. Paul Paquet, Dr. Lance Craighead and Erica Mallam – declared:
The statement goes on to explain how experts retained by the government to assess the risks of the trophy hunt were later dismissed when their findings didn’t jive the the ministry’s wishes:
The grizzly trophy hunt has been attacked for years, yet little has changed in terms of government policy. But with the media attention now surrounding this new film and campaign – not to mention the movement’s discovery of an inadvertent “poster child” in Stoner – it’s conceivable that the controversial hunt may be on its last legs. Especially considering the formidable campaign many of these same First Nations have led against Enbridge.
If they can stop Big Oil, the trophy hunt should be a cinch.