Bear hunters will be followed: CHN president Guujaaw

  • Apr. 3, 2009 6:00 a.m.

They’re coming to hunt bear, but the hunters themselves will turn into the hunted, as the Council of the Haida Nation increases pressure to end the bear hunt on Haida Gwaii. At a rally in Tlell on Wednesday (April 1), CHN president Guujaaw told the 35 people assembled that bear hunters are not welcome on the islands, and that the bear hunt will be ended. “We are going to seek the bear hunters out and follow them and give the bears a good fighting chance,” Guujaaw told the group, adding “We are going to put a stop to it.” This year’s action is not the first. Last year, activists protested at the end of Beitush Road during bear season (April 1-June 30), and later the CHN negotiated with the owner of the hunting licences-Kevin Olmstead-and the province to find a way forward. “We’ve tried diplomacy, we’ve tried fair market value, now we’ll make it stop”, said Guujaaw. He said the CHN deal would have given $2.5-million to Mr. Olmstead, part for the licences, part for the Tlell River House, with the money for buying the licences coming from the province, the rest from the CHN. “We put together a fair package of compensation. He wants more money, more than it’s worth,” Guujaaw said, adding that the owner wanted “a couple of million more”.”A trophy is something that you earn. Killing bears is not a hunt, not something you earn,” CHN vice-president Arnie Bellis told the group. “It’s a slaughter, it’s a blood sport. From what I understand, the majority of citizens of BC are against this too. The hunters are not welcome here,” he said. Mr. Bellis also said hunters would be welcome if they wanted to do something different, something that would add value, and suggested that photographing bears would bring in more money than killing them. “Photography is more economically viable,” he said. Reverend Lily Bell also spoke at the gathering. “I know our ancestors are with us today to use our voice for the animals. The animals are just as precious as we are,” she said, “I am so grateful for what is taking place for our big bears.” The CHN has established a camp on Beitush Road, which leads to the Tlell River House, the bear hunters’ base. As well, other camps will be established throughout the islands to protect the bears, and hunters can expect to be followed as they hunt this spring. The action is expected to be peaceful and lawful, as there was no hint of anything else during Wednesday’s gathering. Bear hunters operating out of Tlell killed 16 bears in 2006 and 15 in 2007. Figures for last year are not available. The province estimates there are 3,800 bears on the islands, not including Gwaii Haanas. But that’s an estimated figure not based on a physical count. It has set an annual harvest of 304 bears. The CHN has been trying to stop the bear hunt since 1995, when the Haida House of Assembly passed a resolution calling for it to end. As well, during land use plan meetings, the province agreed the hunt should be stopped, but hasn’t yet acted.”We expect an escalation not only here but elsewhere. The bear is as much a part of this island as we are and must be given respect, said Guujaaw, “We’ll stop it. It will come to an end.”