Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1996-06-06 Field Journal #1 @ Campbell River, BC

From the field journal of Anthony Marr

June 6, 1996, Thursday

[10:20 @ Wayne and Anita Gray’s house in Campbell River]

Finally, our road tour is underway. I say “our” because, although I haven’t seen you for more than three years, you are always in my heart. I think of you each and every day. This paragraph is the proof of this, if only for today. I have proven it in the days bygone, and I will do so in the days ahead.

I started with the wrong foot forward. To begin with, I succumbed to the flu four days ago, still running 102oF on the eve of yesterday’s departure. Even now, I am feeling weak. But through it all, you sustain me, for you are one of the two main reasons of my work: I save tigers for their own sake, and for you.

Now that the tour has begun, I will record it faithfully for you, such that we may share the experience across time, because, as I said, this is our tour.

Yesterday started with a highly successful media conference at the Terrace Room of the Waterfront Hotel – present: BCTV, CBC TV, CKWX (AM 1130), CKST (AM 1410), AM 1320 (Chinese), AM 1470 (Chinese), Ming Pao Daily News (Chinese), etc. About a dozen mikes in front of us, “us” being, from left to right (facing the audience of about 30) and in sequence of speaking: Paul George, Greg McDade (head of Sierra Legal Defence Fund), David Boyd (lawyer of SLDF) and myself. All four of us were dressed in suit and tie - perhaps standard attire for SLDF lawyers, definitely unusual for WCWC campaigners, and downright unheard of for WCWC’s founder.
The phrase that stuck in my head was McDade’s “magnificent quest” with reference to the “Bear Referendum”, when, by appearance and verbal prowess, the green-feathered legal eagles were magnificence personified themselves.

After the conference, we all went back to WCWC for final arrangements, and off we (Erica and I) drove (in my 1993 silver Mazda MX6 LS) to Tsawwassen to catch the “1-o’clock” ferry to the mid-Vancouver Island city of Nanaimo (crossing time 1 hour 45 minutes) from where we would drive two hours to the north-Island city of Campbell River for our first presentation-meeting slated for 19:00 at the Haig Brown House.

We got there in what we thought to be good time – 12:50 – but were told by the woman at the ticket booth that the ferry had left five minutes before, and the next one wouldn’t leave till 15:15! Both of us spontaneously swore up a storm and decided to switch line-up to catch the 13:00 ferry to the provincial capital of Victoria in south Island instead – driving time to Campbell River about four hours. But by loading time, we were the third car cut off, and the 14:00 Victoria ferry was delayed till 14:30. So we switched back to the Nanaimo line-up. By the time we finally got to Campbell River, it was 20:30.

To slow down things even more, since we didn’t know where the Haig Brown House was, we had first to meet a Bear Watch woman called Shari Bondi at the Marina Motel along the highway. My car was so stuffed to the gill that Erica had to go out so Shari could guide me to the meeting place, while Erica and Shari’s daughter Serena took a cab from the motel.

The meeting, by invitation only as organized by our host Wayne Gray, was small – about 12 people – but each was a key representative of a local group, including one Keith Urchuk of the BC Wildlife Federation, who, as soon as I entered the room, came to within inches of my face and said, “I saw you on TV. The price on your head just went up ten thousand dollars.”

I heard myself replying, “Is that all? I’m disappointed.”

But even as I spoke, disappointment was not the sentiment. Nor was it surprise, since we’ve been expecting trouble for weeks. The closest word I can find to describe what I felt is perhaps “disconcerted”. Erica had not arrived to witness the exchange and share the sentiment with me, and that was a little disappointing, since we’ve become a bit of a team.

Urchuk was also disruptive and confrontational throughout my presentation, saying that we had no right to threaten his “right” to hunt. Most of the others were supportive. Since the presentation started more than an hour late, I pretty well rushed through my untried slideshow presentation, followed by a Q&A during which Urchuk heckled me some more. One formidable older gentleman b the name of Noel Lax said that during the war people had to dismantle their iron gates so that the country could have the material needed to manufacture weapons against the Nazis, and that today, in our war to protect threatened wildlife, we have to make some sacrifices, including laying down our weapons. Urchuk, needless to say, was none too pleased. In the end, Erica signed up five volunteers from the group, not including Urchuk obviously, and two more later from the motel.

After the meeting, Wayne Gray led us back to his house where we were billeted overnight, and where his lovely wife Anita made us a late snack of bagels and Doukhobor borsch. Now, as I’m writing, Wayne is making me (Erica is still asleep) breakfast. If we’re treat like this every day by our hosts along the way, we could easily be spoiled.

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