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Two groups at odds in determining the fate of the bears

By: George T. Baker

The Daily News
Prince Rupert

February 18, 2010

A local notice in the newspaper placed by the BC Wildlife Federation may have broken what little potential there was for an agreement between B.C.’s Coastal First Nations and the BCWF.

The notice questions First Nations in Prince Rupert on whether they are aware of representation on their behalf by an ad hoc group named Coastal First Nations, a body that is advocating for the end of trophy hunting of bears on the coast.

Art Sterrit, head of Coastal First Nations, told the Daily News – after seeing the open letter for the first time – that this would be likely to severe any relationship developed between First Nations and the BCWF.

“We thought we were coming to an understanding and eventually an agreement over sustenance hunting with the BCWF. So, now I find out they have tried to undermine the political autonomy of First Nations along the coast. It won’t be tolerated – though I am not surprised,” said Sterrit.

In the BCWF notice, which is signed by BCWF president Mel Arnold, questions are raised over who appointed the group and what gave them the right to represent the communities. They also wanted to know if local First Nations have been properly consulted by the CFN, and whether CFN had the right to restrict future generations of First Nations from hunting.

“Ordinarily we would not get involved in the business of First Nations people or their relationships with the BC Government; however in this case an effort is being made by the consortium to virtually eliminate residents’ long and established cultural right to hunt.”

The intent of the letter, said BCWF Skeena regional representative Ken Franzen, is to fight fire with fire.

A massive ad was purchased in the Vancouver Sun signed by an international network consisting of First Nations, conservation, animal protection and tourism groups – representing more than 15 million members and constituents from over 40 countries – calling on the government to ban the trophy hunt for ethical, cultural, conservation and economic

The campaign – which includes the Coastal Bear Viewing Association, Pacific Wild and the Humane Society of B.C. – is hoping that world attention on the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver will result in eyes turned towards their cause.

“We have no choice but to respond,” commented Franzen. “We have hunted bears for a long time in this country and its not like we have a conservation concern. That would be different.”

Sterrit, however, is not amused.

“Our attempts at a relationship with the BCWF are finished,” proclaimed Sterrit.

“[First Nations] teach our children not to make fun of animals  – we teach them that.”

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