The Grizzly Bear Foundation’s inaugural Grizzly Champion Award, to recognize and reward outstanding Canadian individuals or groups who have advanced the well-being of grizzly bears either through education, research, conservation, or advocacy, went to the Coastal First Nations, who are also the first-ever recipients
The Foundation, which is supported by private businesses and organizations such as Bell Canada and the Cactus club Cafe, said it “wanted to recognize them for an outstanding contribution to the advancement of the well-being of grizzly bears through their efforts to terminate the hunt of grizzly bears in the Great Bear Rainforest. Their years of passion and dedication has truly made a difference to the grizzly bears of B.C., and has inspired us all!”
Doug Neasloss of Kitasoo/Xai-Xais First Nation, Alena Ebeling-Schuld of the Coastal First Nations’ Central Coast Bear Working Group, and Jennifer Walkus of Wuikinuxv, were on hand to receive the award from Grizzly Bear Foundation Chairman Michael Audain and Vice-Chair Stuart McLaughlin.
The Coastal First Nations have been pushing for a ban on grizzly hunting both in their traditional territory and across B.C. since 2012, and this fall marks the last time grizzly bears will be hunted for sport in B.C.
While the BC NDP announced in August that a new grizzly bear trophy hunting ban will take effect in November of this year, the fall 2017 bear hunting season remains unchanged. This means that both resident and non-resident hunters of BC are still able to hunt a grizzly bear for sport this fall, according to a predetermined quota.
The CFN said in a press release that some BC resident hunters are turning in their hunting tags to show their respect for the CFN trophy hunting ban under Indigenous law. Before this hunting season opened, one such hunter surrendered their hunting tag to the Heiltsuk Nation.
“The Coastal First Nations and Bear Working Group applaud individual hunters such as this one who are taking a stand and following their moral compass,” says Jess Housty, Heiltsuk tribal councillor and CFN board member, who received the surrendered permit. “Thanks to this hunter who complied with Indigenous law, a life of a grizzly was spared.”
“This bear hunting season, the Coastal Guardian Watchmen will continue to monitor and implement the Coastal First Nations trophy hunting ban, which has been in place since 2012,” says Bear Working Group member Chief Douglas Neasloss, of the Kitasoo/Xai’Xais Nation. “Trophy hunting is closed in the Great Bear Rainforest.”
“Our Nations have made it clear,” adds Housty. “Even as the Province of BC works to bring their regulations into line, our original rights holders and title holders have long since banned trophy hunting in the Great Bear Rainforest.”
The fight against the hunt has recently gotten a celebrity boost from singer Miley Cyrus, who made waves in B.C. in 2015 when she visited the Great Bear Rainforest to voice her opposition to the province’s planned wolf cull.
Pacific Wild has teamed up with Cyrus once again for a new campaign called #SaveBCBears aimed at ending the “barbaric hunt.” In a video released last week, Cyrus is singing Teddy Bears’ Picnic alongside clips of empty wilderness.
The group takes issue with the recent “ban,” saying that if the NDP continues to allow the bears to be hunted for meat grizzlies are still likely to be killed as hunters throughout the province can circumvent the law by removing a portion of meat from a bear’s carcass and claiming the kill as food, the group said in a statement.
According to Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, banning possession of the hide, paws and head leaves open the possibility that hunters could shoot a grizzly bear and leave the entire carcass behind.