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Vancouver Observer’s grizzly trophy hunt investigation hits legislature

“Is this how the BC Liberal government shows they are committed to Aboriginal reconciliation with First Nations, by ignoring their hard-fought rights?” asks NDP of Liberals on grizzly hunt.

grizzly trophy hunt Minster Steve Thomson BC legislature Vancouver Observer
Relaxing grizzly bear. Photo by Andrew S. Wright.
First photo: Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations responds to questions on Monday in the legislature about the grizzly hunt he tripled in the Tshilqot'in lands in 2015. BC government video still. Second photo: relaxing grizzly bear. Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

The Vancouver Observer's months-long investigative work into the controversial grizzly trophy hunt in the province was quoted in the B.C. legislature on Monday.

The investigation included poring over 1,600 pages of FOI-released government e-mails that showed: the BC Liberals approved the expansion of the grizzly hunt against overwhelming opposition last year; bureaucrats musing about the potential benefits of an uptick in grizzlies for mining in B.C.'s interior; and a wildlife biologist bickering that government grizzly bear maps had not been updated in three decades.

The findings prompted journalistic travel to Tshilqot'in lands where local First Nations leaders said the hunt in their area is "illegal." Although consultation did occur, ultimately the province pulled the trigger to re-open the hunt in 2014 against strong local views.  

By summer 2014, the Tshilqot'in won an historic Supreme Court land rights decision, and an an agreement was made to allow five guide outfitters to operate on Title land, none of which have grizzly hunt quotas. The issue is still contentious regarding grizzly hunting for the wilderness areas that are just off the Title lands but still on Tshilqot'in territory.

Tshilqot'in Chief Roger William, of the Xeni Gwet'in band, was surprised when a Vancouver Observer reporter informed him recently that the province had tripled the hunt in the non-Title Tshilqot'in areas from three to nine for the 2015 grizzly hunt. He said that increase in hunting licences was made with no consultation, and was "mind boggling."  

Chief William said recently there needs to be much more scientific research to determine the facts about grizzly bear numbers.  

The NDP’s Aboriginal relations critic — Alberni-Pacific Rim MLA Scott Fraser — rose to raise questions of the BC Liberals.  

“Madam Speaker, the Chilcotin spent more than two decades in the courts in order to get an historic judgement that recognized Aboriginal Title over a significant portion of their traditional territory.”

NDP asks questions of BC Liberals in legislature about the controversial grizzly trophy hunt on Monday.  B.C. Legislature video.

“I want to remind this house that the Supreme Court said, and the nature of Aboriginal Title is that confers on the group that holds it, the exclusive right to decide how the land is used, and the right to benefit from those uses.  

“Now we find BC Liberals blindsided the Tshilqot’in by increasing the number significantly of grizzly hunt licenses in the area that includes their Title lands without consent and without indiscriminate science being done.”

“Is this how the BC Liberal government shows they are committed to Aboriginal reconciliation with First Nations, by ignoring their hard fought rights?”

Liberal Steve Thomson, Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources Operations rose in response, reading well repeated statements:

“The decision to re-open the grizzly bear hunts in the Cariboo and Kootenays last year was based upon the best available science. That’s what informs the regulations around the grizzly bear management, the grizzly bear hunting regulations.”

Relaxing grizzly bear. Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

Relaxing B.C. grizzly bear. Photo by Andrew S. Wright.

“Consultations with First Nations on wildlife management issues is conducted, it was conducted, on the proposed regulations in the 2014 for the Cariboo, including the grizzly hunt."

“In the Title lands, as the member opposite knows now, hunting is not taking place on those lands by resident hunters, [that’s] part of the respect of the Title land.”

“They have provided provisions on a conditional basis for guide outfitter licences to continue in the current year, while the longer-term arrangements with the Tshilqot’in are worked through in terms of the ongoing management of the wildlife in the Title lands.”

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