Wednesday, April 17, 2013

1996-06-14 Field Journal #9 @ Qualicum Beach on Port Albernie

June 14, 1996, Friday, mostly sunny

[12:02 @ Annette and Scott Tanner’s in Qualicum]

TGIF - Thank God it’s Friday - if only because it is the day after Thursday. And what about Thursday? It was the night of the dreaded Big Confrontation in Port Alberni, and it lived up to expectations and more.

By the time I reached the Tanner’s house it was shortly after 17:00. 17:00 was the time set for the interview with Chris Beacom of the Parksville-Qualicum News. Expecting to be slightly late, I had called Erica and asked her to entertain Chris until I arrived. Erica had been given strict instructions by E-Team and myself not to act as a spokesperson, especially with media, but when I did arrive, which was about 17:10, Erica had gone deep into her own interview, and she carried on for another 15 minutes even knowing that I was there. I didn’t go into the room to interrupt them because I didn’t want to seem impolite. Chris, however, eventually asked if I was Anthony Marr and, once knowing that I was, turned the interview on to me. But even after that, Erica still did not desist, and kept on interjecting and interrupting me, as if competing for air time. And some of the things she said was not particularly in line with what we stood for and what we were doing, which would serve at best to distract from our road tour’s main thrust which is anti-hunting. I had no idea of what she had said to Chris. I guess the article will tell.

But this, compared to what happened in the evening, was just a tiny annoyance. What transpired was a horrific free for all, the “all” being the 60+ hunters in an audience of about 65, all crammed into a room meant for no more than 30. It was a hot summer night, and the body heat and the red hot verbal exchange made it resemble an oven, and the oven doors were jammed by hunters. Of the five or six supporters, at least two or three were so intimidated that they slipped away unnoticed, leaving Maureen Sager, my local host, and two or three other women to hold the bag.

The hunter group included two or three guide-outfitters and a conservation officer who was overtly chummy with the hunters. About two-thirds were men and one-third were women, the latter attired from T-shirts and jeans to business suits and high heels, but all with hints of blood lust in their eyes, especially as they unflinchingly stared at me. No doubt, however subconsciously, they looked upon me and Erica as their collective quarry tonight. And when they fired their verbal barrage, they did it in pack form, often when I was in mid-sentence. I estimate that of every ten sentences I attempted in my slideshow presentation, I could finish maybe two.

Maureen, an active woman in her 60s, did her best to keep order, but was totally ignored, and at times assaulted by such words as, “This guy flies in and out, but you have to live here. So watch your mouth, lady!”

Another jeered, “Not only is this guy from out of town, he is from out of the country, for God’s sake, and he has the gall to barge in here and tell us what we can and can’t do!”

An older man echoed, “All Chinese immigrants should be charged $100,000 for the damage done to the Canadian culture, like what this guy is doing right now!”

About a third thorough my slideshow, I found myself turning off the projector and saying, “Fine. If you want a debate, we’ll have a debate.” Strangely, this put some order into the proceedings, since then they would be interrupting one another if they spoke more than one at a time.

Basically, their message to us, obviously predetermined, was “scrap your campaign, or else”. The milder ones were thoughtful enough to say, “change your campaign to strictly anti-poaching but pro-hunting, and we’ll support you, or else”.

If the men were bad, like punching in the gut, some of the women were worse, like pinching your sensitive zones. One said, “What you’re trying to do is to deprive my son of a great heritage that his forefathers created and God condoned, and his father, and his mother, now enjoy.” Another said, “If you don’t play the game, honey, you don’t make the rules.”

Through the first hour, Erica sat on the sideline. Finally, she could contain herself no longer, and stood to make a point. Before she could finish her sentence, as was now the norm, another older man shouted, “Young lady, you are not old enough to lecture me.” I pointed at the “honey” woman, who appeared to be in her mid-thirties, and said, “I’ve been listening to this young lady for the last hour. It’s about time you listen to this young lady,” indicating Erica, “for a few minutes. Go ahead, Erica.” Strangely, the man acquiesced, and stranger still, the “honey” woman gave me a sweet smile.

In contrast to the physical heat which I found hard to tolerate, I found myself handling them in a surprisingly relaxed state, matching wits with them point by point without losing my cool, and in fact enjoying certain moments of this my first major confrontation with a large group of well organized hunters. They maybe good shots through a scope, but are lousy shots through their mouths.

At one point, a hunter said, “Who gives you the authority to do what you’re doing?”

“What do you think of the Chinese tradition of using bear gall bladders for medicine?” I asked back.

“I think that’s obscene.”

“Should it be banned?”

“Damn right! It should be banned, and it is banned, but by the law, not by some freelance environmentalist.”

“I agree with you on this, but I think killing a magnificent creature to hang its head on a wall is equally obscene, and it, too, should be banned, unless, like you, I have a double standard.”

At another point, when one of them was talking about “ethical hunters”, I responded with, “If there are ethical hunters, there must be unethical hunters?”

At another point, I asked them point blank whether they had never deliberately broken any rule, never taken anything on the side, never left any kills unreported, never taken more than their permits allowed, never wounded any animal that got away. “If you have never done any of these, raise your hand,” I challenged them. Almost every hand came up, but many after a few unmistakable seconds’ hesitation.

It is clear that the hunters, in spite of their oft-repeated claim that they are the original and true conservationists of wildlife, care first and foremost for the perpetration of their blood sport, and whatever conservation effort they may exert is first and foremost so that they will have something to hunt.
The intimidation tactic is evidently orchestrated by the BC Wildlife Federation whose own stated prime goal is “to promote the sport of hunting”, although many came close to admitting that for those who shoot from their 4X4s on logging roads, there is no sport at all.

They view our attack on the bear hunt as an attack on the entire hunting edifice from the top down, since the Grizzly bear is considered the apex predator of BC, and from the foundation up, considering that Grizzly bear hunt is pure and unadulterated trophy hunting. It strikes me as futile to present to them the government’s over-estimation of the Grizzly bear population and under-estimation of the poaching extent. These numbers suit them and they hang on to them as gospel truth. Their “faith”, like that of the Creationists who ignore all scientific evidence to the contrary, cannot be questioned.

It is clear that it would be futile for us to try to convert them. Our job here is to rally the already converted into a coherent fighting force. But in terms of this evening’s meeting being a work session, it was unproductive and even counter-productive. The few supporters who showed up either disappeared or were too intimidated to sign up, at least in the presence of the hunters. But not all is lost. The plus is that a reporter from the local newspaper was present, and from the readers of his article may emerge a certain number of volunteers. Partly because of his presence, the hunters at least maintained a sense of restraint in terms of physical violence, but they seemed determined to give him something dramatic to report, and I think they did an admirable job in that.

The hunters left the room while we were packing up with the help of our hosts. One of the ladies commended us for being “brave” and another said to me, “Anthony, now I have full confidence that you can talk your way out of any situation.”

Well, debating is one thing. Driving with the pedal to the metal is another. While loading my car, I noticed a truck parked in the shadows about half a block away, engine and lights off, but with two people inside. As I drove off, I noticed that it did the same. I made one or two random turns and the truck followed suit, staying about half a block behind. At a red light, the truck pulled right up to my rear bumper, with its high beam glaring into my rear view mirror. I looked for a police car but couldn’t find any. I looked for the police station and couldn’t find it. Finally, I took the plunge and got on to the highway due east back to Qualicum. The truck did too. I could identify it because it had one head light brighter than the other, and one of the parking lights was out. I did not bring it to Erica’s attention in order not to alarm her or show my own alarm.

We talked for a bit, and she surprised me by coming right out to say that she could sympathize with the hunters’ view point, and that maybe we should re-examine our anti-hunting stance. I thought I heard bits and pieces of this talk yesterday at the Tanners’ when she was talking to the reporter. She admitted that she had been thinking along those lines since almost Day 1. She said that if we dropped anti-hunting and just went for anti-poaching, namely to press for a ten-fold increase in penalties, we would get the support of environmentalists and hunters alike, and that we would certainly succeed. She even went as far as to say that she might start her own anti-poaching referendum if WCWC rejected her idea. She acquitted herself by saying that her first concern was the bears, and that if we won the anti-poaching referendum, lots of bears would be saved, whereas if we stayed our course against legal hunting as well as poaching, we would set up the hunters against us and would surely fail and end up with nothing, and that even if we could succeed, we would force many legal hunters to become poacher. So, she’s lost it, at least our original principle.

I listened to her with one ear, and kept an eye on the review mirror. Erica reclined her seat and soon fell asleep. I increased my speed, and the truck did the same. I slowed down to see if it would pass, but it did not, and if it tried, I wouldn’t let it anyway, not wanting to be blocked. I sped up again, and the truck did likewise, and pulled closer to my bumper the farther we left the town behind. Before long, it didn’t even bother to keep up a pretense and began tailgating. I’ve been tailgated a thousand times by highway loonies before, but these weren’t hotheads but cold-blooded killers. I thought about what I should do next.

I tried the cell phone, but we were outside any service area. Only one thing left. I had to out-run it. My car, a 1993 Mazda MX6 Mystere, is low, aero-dynamic, light and nimble, with a 2.5 litre 164 hp V6 engine under the hood, five-on-the-floor and four wide 205-55-15R V-rated new tires on the pavement, and according to the car magazines can do 0-60 mph in 7 seconds, which is right up there with the Mercedes and BMWs - in performance if not in price. Best of all, with its sport suspension, it has a .86g lateral-g-force tolerance, whereas that of a truck is less than .70g. This means that my car can take a corner much faster without losing traction. The highway was dark and twisty, and cresting and troughing, and hemmed in by thick forest on both sides, which sounds forbidding, but I deemed it advantageous to my car over the truck. So I floored it and took the curves at the limit. The truck, probably with a big V8, could probably gained on the straights, but on this highway it was left in the dust, or was it in the ditch. I kept this up for miles, until I was sure it had given up the chase, and still I maintained a fair clip until I saw the lights of Qualicum. Erica slept through the whole thing, but woke up about then and said, "Why are you driving so fast?" I kept the chase to myself, even from the Tanners, not wanting to sound melodramatic.

This morning, Erica relented and said that she would continue with the current campaign, but how firm would her resolve be? Is it just to keep a job?

This evening, we are going to Nanaimo to give a presentation at the Brecken United Church, 19:00. The event is arranged by George Gibson of Sierra Club. But we received a fax from Bonita yesterday, which Erica didn’t show me, which entailed Bonita to fax another copy directly to me, about Sierra Club being super-pissed-off due to a PSA having been placed in the Nanaimo Times about Sierra Club sponsoring WCWC’s anti-hunting campaign. Sierra Club has always been a moderate group who tries not to offend anyone on either side. I don’t know who put the PSA in, but George is in deep shit with Sierra Club. This is the second time George got into trouble because of us. The first time was when Erica told Diana Angus of Sierra Club, Cowichan chapter, that George had given us a list of Sierra Club members to call to invite to this evening’s Nanaimo event. Diana told Erica that George had violated Sierra Club protocol. I owe George one, no, two.

It is now 13:06. Thus far today Erica hasn’t done any work that I can see. We both know there is no end of work to be done. Now she’s out for a walk and has been gone for more than an hour. I fear that her spirit has gone even farther, and may not come back. Maybe if I had involved her in the highway chase, she might have regained some anti-hunting fire.

No comments:

Post a Comment