Part II - Bear referendum
Chapter 31 - 1997 Media Coverage
Hunting presentation called off in latest enviro-hunting clash
The Review, Richmond, BC
by David DaSilva
… Students in an environmental club at Palmer Secondary School arranged to have Anthony Marr… speak… But when Doug Walker of the BC Wildlife Federation heard about it, and (told the school to either cancel out on Marr or give them equal time), the event was (suspended)…
Vanderhorst misled with numbers
Daily News, Nanaimo, BC
by Anthony Marr
… WCWC’s stand on the anti-hunting campaign is to start and end with the bear, but for once, Vanderhorst is right about me. I am against recreational and trophy hunting… of any species… Ultimately, everything has to do with one species - our own, regarding how civilized we truly are.
(Bad Medicine cover pic)
Ross Crockford tells the story of a man who has stepped on toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to stop a pernicious trade…
New Internationalist magazine
by Ross Crockford
Anthony Marr knows what it feels like to be endangered. Last summer the Vancouver environmentalist was touring small towns in British Columbia... Often the reception he got was downright hostile. Many people in the countryside claimed he was trying to destroy their livelihood and their heritage...
Now, Marr is taking his campaign around the world... He knows there will be some risk; organized crime is directly involved in the endangered species trade... But after tangling with British Columbia's hunters, he should be ready.
Making BC's Referendum Act Workable
Common Ground Magazine
by Anthony Marr
BC's Recall and Initiative Act for citizen initiated referendums does not work.
Anthony Marr found that out the hard way, working for six months on a Bear Referendum that failed. Compared to California and Washington state, our act is designed to fail and does not serve the public. Here is a proposal to make the act workable.
In June 1989, thousands of Chinese students died in Tienanmen Square for democracy, some shot, others crushed in their tents by tanks. Had my family never escaped from China, I would likely have been in their midst. Living instead in Canada, I do not take my freedom for granted. I safeguard it with my life, and make sure I use it to its fullest extent towards making the maximum difference for as long as possible.
This is why, seeing that BC is the only Canadian province with the provision for citizens to launch referendums through the Recall and Initiative Act, I expended six full months of my life on Western Canada Wilderness Committee's (WCWC) Bear Referendum campaign last year. This is why, after the exercise in futility, I have come to abhor the true lack of full and real democracy in BC, and therefore in Canada.
What we have here is at best semi-democracy, if not downright pseudo-democracy. We have the right to vote for politicians who are usually little more than the least of several evils, who then behave more like dictators than democrats. Most of all, the Recall and Initiative Act is all semblance but no substance.
On July 13, 1996, the Editor-in-Chief of the Kamloops Daily News, Mel Rothenburger, wrote: "Nobody ever promised democracy would be easy. Anthony Marr, who grew up in Hong Kong, is learning all about that in Canada. Marr was in town this week as part of a tour of BC cities setting the stage for what he hopes will be a provincial referendum on bear hunting. Aside from the cogency of his argument, what struck me most about his objective is the near-impossibility of success . . ."
Having traveled 20,000 km from city to city debating trophy hunters by the hundreds face to face and on various media, generating some 200 newspaper articles around the province, working hard with some 2,000 volunteers in the Initiative Petition phase of the Referendum campaign in sleet and snow, and still ending up short of the impossible goal set by BC's Attorney General Ujjal Dosanjh, I declare the process unworkable-by-design, and the government's purported wish to share legislative power with the people totally insincere.
How our Act compares to those of California and Washington State
The fact that no other Canadian province has even BC's pretence of a citizen-launchable initiative makes Canada a less-than-first-class democracy. First, let me recap the current rules and regulations in Election BC's Recall and Initiative Act, and compare and contrast it against other proven, workable systems around the democratic world whenever possible:
To force a province-wide referendum, the Proponent must first collect signatures from at least 10% of the registered voters in each and every one of the 75 electoral districts in the province, which should total about 220,000 province-wide. If only one electoral district falls short by even 1%, all is for nought. In contrast, California and Washington state, for example, require only 5% of the number of voters who actually voted in the previous election, which given a 60% turnout is equivalent only to 3% of the registered voters, and at that from anywhere in the state.
The BC signatures must be collected by government approved and registered “volunteer canvassers”, who must themselves be registered voters. To register a canvasser according to Elections BC protocol requires five stages of mailing, spanning about three weeks. California and Washington state, on the other hand, have no such requirement; petition forms can be displayed, distributed and circulated by anyone.
75 different sets of petition forms are issued by Elections BC, one for each electoral district. This means that canvassers have to carry around multi-sets of forms, in case some of the people they approach in a certain electoral district, or who approach them, have come from another district. This also means that many people from other districts would have to be turned away if the canvasser happens not to have the right petition form.
In Vancouver and Victoria in particular, canvassers have to carry all 75 sets of forms, which makes the exercise extremely tedious, awkward, expensive and time consuming. California and Washington state, on the other hand, issue only one set of petition forms, applicable to every corner of the state.
BC's Proponent has only 90 days to collect the signatures of 10% of all registered voters, whereas California's and Washington's proponents have 150 days to collect the signatures of 5% of those who voted in the last election.
In BC, there can be only one Proponent, and at that it must be an individual instead of an organization, whereas there can be any number of Opponents, who can be organizations as well as individuals. In the Bear Referendum's case, there were 107 registered Opponents, comprising 38 individuals and 69 organizations headed by the 35,000-members-strong BC Wildlife Federation (a misleading title which should be more truthfully renamed BC Hunting Association).
This obviously is biased in favour of the Opponents in terms of fund raising and networking potential.
The disparity is made even more pronounced by that whereas the Proponent needs to work on all 75 electoral districts to ensure that they all succeed, the Opponents need concentrate on only two or three to ensure that at least one fails (see point #1).
While debating hunters, one of their arguments is:
"Who are you, from Vancouver, to tell us up here what to do?"
First, if the referendum succeeds, it would be the entire BC electorate's decision, not just the people of Vancouver. I can understand that some measure of regional representation is fair, but if hypothetically 74 districts get enough signatures, who is the one dissenting district to derail all the rest?
It would be fair, in my opinion, that the electoral districts also follow the democratic principle of a simple majority, namely that 38 out of the 75 should suffice.
In BC, unlike in California and Washington state, the success of the Initiative Petition does not automatically guarantee a referendum vote. In fact, the legislature still has the power to trash the petition as it sees fit.
When it comes to the referendum vote, California and Washington state requires the usual simple majority of those who turn out to vote, whereas in BC, a majority of the registered voters is required. In other words, if 50% of the registered voters turned out to vote, and 100% of them voted for the proposal, the Referendum would not pass. It would fail by one vote.
Even if the referendum vote is won, it still goes back to debate in legislature which still has the power to trash the vote, whereas in California and Washington state, legislative change is automatic.
Although there is a provision to prohibit direct interference by the Opponents in the Initiative Petition process, such as intimidating those who came to sign, which some Opponents did violate, there is no provision to prohibit indirect interference, such as the Opponents threatening to picket and boycott those malls that allow the Proponent to set up booths, which the Opponents took full advantage of.
Since the Recall and Initiative Act originated as a provision for citizens to recall politicians in whom they have lost confidence, the government sees itself being naturally in the Opponent camp, which in part explains the above anti-Proponent bias.
When Mr. Dosanjh was challenged by provincial Liberal leader Gordon Campbell on the unworkability of the rules, he cited the $18 million cost for a referendum vote as justification for the difficulties imposed to rule out wanton launches of referendums on “trivial issues”, which the bear-hunting issue certainly was not.
Indeed, as a lone-standing event, an Initiative Vote would be exceedingly expensive -cranking up the entire voting machinery throughout the province in terms of voter registration, setting up and manning polling stations, publicizing the event, counting of votes, etc.,
But this is circular argument in his own favour. It was Mr. Dosanjh himself who caused the process to be expensive by making the Initiative Vote a lone-standing event in the first place. In contrast, referendums in California and Washington state are appended to political elections at minimal cost, and there is no disadvantage to it.
Coinciding with BC's bear referendum, there was a bear referendum in Washington state in their last political election on banning the use of bait and dogs in bear hunting, and their referendum was won.
I congratulate them, especially considering that they would have lost had Washington state's rules been the same as BC's.
Conversely, had BC's rules been the same as Washington state's, we would have succeeded.
If the comparison is still found unconvincing, I can cite the case of Switzerland, where for the last 130 years, the signatures of only 1% of the registered voters are required to force a referendum vote to challenge any existing policy or law, and only 2% for the proposal of new laws.
Citizen-generated referendums are tools for truly democratic governments to place the power with the people. It is the way public servants live up to their true calling in a truly democratic society, however much remuneration and prestige they deem fit to reward themselves. If this province's Attorney General is truly sincere in elected government sharing legislative power with the people, he will change the referendum rules to be more democratic.
We need to change the Act. To this effect, WCWC has prepared a petition to the BC government outlining 12 realistic points to make BC's referendum act workable. We encourage you to obtain a copy, sign it, gather more signatures, and take part in the democratic process of changing our referendum act.
Petition to Change the BC Referendum Act:
We, the people of British Columbia, wish to amend the current Recall and Initiative Act as follows:
* The Initiative Petition to call a referendum shall require signatures from at least 3% of the registered voters province wide.
* The provincial total shall include signatures from at least 3% of the registered voters in at least 38 of BC's 75 electoral districts.
* The time frame provided for the gathering of these signatures shall be 150 days, which will begin on a date jointly decided upon by the Proponent(s) and Elections BC.
* There can be any number of Proponents and Opponents.
* Both Proponents and Opponents can be individuals as well as organizations.
* There shall be only one set of Initiative Petition forms instead of the current 75 different sets.
* Signatures can be collected by anyone regardless of his/her being a registered voter.
* Opponents shall not use intimidation tactics to directly or indirectly interfere with the signature collection process.
* A successful Initiative Petition shall automatically bring about an Initiative Vote.
* The Initiative Vote shall be appended to the first provincial election after the conclusion of the Initiative Petition.
* The Initiative Vote shall be won by the Proponent(s) with a simple 50%-plus-one-vote majority of popular votes province-wide, and simple 50%-plus-one-vote majorities of the popular votes in at least 38 of the 75 electoral districts.
* The proposed amendment or removal of an existing law or policy, and/or introduction of a new law or policy as stated in the Initiative Petition, shall automatically take effect in legislature upon the winning of the Initiative Vote by the Proponent(s).
Korea Leads Illegal Trade in Bear Parts
LONDON -- (ENS)
In a report released this week, an international coalition of wildlife organizations, including the London-based World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), expose South Korea92s leading role in the illegal trade in bear parts. The report , “Killed for Korea” concludes that “South Korea and Korean people abroad represent the bear92s worst enemy after habitat loss.”
Undercover film recently taken by animal campaigners shows Korean-sponsored bear poaching and gallbladder smuggling on an international scale as well as the killing of endangered bears for South Korean restaurant-goers.
The bears are desired for bear paw soup, a highly prized delicacy in South Korea. Diners will pay in excess of US$1,000 for a bowl of bear paw soup.
WSPA, together with the Korean Federation for the Environment Movement (KFEM), Humane Society of the US/Humane Society International (HSUS/HSI) and the Global Survival Network (GSN), is lobbying the US government to sanction South Korea over the illegal trade in bear parts. The organizations, with a total membership of over four million people worldwide, are considering an international boycott campaign of Korean goods, if their current approaches to Korean authorities are unsuccessful.
Anthony Dickson, WSPA chief executive, said, “Consumption of bear parts is a national disgrace for South Korea. We are trying to persuade the Korean authorities to stop this illegal trade which is pushing Asian bears towards extinction.”
WSPA92s campaign is being backed by the Korean Federation for the Environment Movement (KFEM). Kwon Heanyol, spokesperson for KFEM said, “This outdated practice is a slur on our national reputation. It makes us look cruel and barbaric. Herbal, synthetic and Western alternatives exist for bear gallbladder. Why can92t all Koreans use these instead of continuing to torture and slaughter bears?”
Anthony Marr, organizer of Bears, Elephants, Tigers, Rhinos (BETR), a conservation group based in Vancouver, British Columbia, confirms that South Korea is the world's leading consumer of bear parts. Marr says, “South Koreans sometimes import black bears on the pretext of using them for zoo exhibits, then they have them killed in front of restaurant customers to prove authenticity and freshness.”
Marr says he has read reports of caged bears lowered live onto hot coals to have their paws cooked. This procedure is supposed to guarantee freshness, authenticity and entertainment for the customer.
Marr has a video showing a 1989 restaurant menu from the posh Hilton hotel in Seoul offering “bear palm soup. Price - current.”
Bear paws are considered a delicacy, not a medicinal, but bear gall bladders are prized for their medicinal effect.
The powdered bile taken from the bear galls has a whole range of uses, primarily for digestive healing and intestinal illnesses including parasites and bacterial infections. The powdered bile is used as an anti-spasmodic, a pain-killer, tranquillizer, an anti-allergenic, and a cough remedy. It is also considered to be a general purpose body tuning tonic. Bear bile is even said to restore a liver damaged by overdrinking.
Unlike tiger bones and rhino horns which have no real medicinal value, bear galls do contain ursodeoxycolic acid which does have a medicinal effect. This acid was patented as a synthetic in Japan in the 1930s. Today, 150 tons are used annually worldwide.
There are seven species of bears in the world, excluding the panda and koala, which are not considered to be true bears. Three bear species are endangered, particularly the Asiatic black bear, which used to be the main source of galls. The Asiatic black bear is now almost completely wiped out in China and Korea.
To meet the demand from Korea and other Asian countries, poachers have been taking bears from Russia and North America. Marr says poaching is “huge” in North America. Poachers have been caught in British Columbia recently, but provincial laws have no teeth, as the indigenous bears are not yet listed as endangered.
The penalty is very light when poachers are caught in B.C. Marr says, “Someone recently caught with 90 galls, which would easily sell for US$250,000 thousand in Korea, was fined $3,500 bucks, not even the price of one gall in Korea. For every batch of poached bear parts discovered by law enforcement officers, 49 get away. Customs officials estimate they can check only 2-3% of what goes out of Canada.”
Marr estimates that between 20,000 and 40,000 bears are poached in Canada yearly. Legal trophy hunting kills 22,000 more.
In London, the WSPA is offering broadcast quality undercover footage showing the killing of endangered bears for South Korean diners and the farming of bears in China, some of which are destined for the Korean market.
(From the Environment News Service: http://www.envirolink.org/environews/ens/)
Poaching for gall-bladders
The Free Press, Price George, BC
by David Plug
Poaching for gall-bladders – Asian demand pushes up numbers, says conservationists
Animal advocates and wildlife officials agree that most poachers of bear parts are never caught, but differ wildly on the scale of the problem in the north. To Anthony Marr… last week’s laying of 67 charges for unlawful possession of bear parts against a Prince George resident is just the tip of the iceberg…
Unbearable bear facts
The Vancouver Sun
by Anthony Marr
Recent radio ads (by the BC Wildlife Federation) portray deliberate misrepresentations of truth…
“96% of BC’s residents rejected” last year’s Bear Referendum objective, citing that only 4% of BC’s residents signed the petition…
… the ad itself is a demonstration of the usual illogic and dishonesty of the trophy hunters, and shows that the BC Wildlife Federation is worried. If they really believe that 96% of BC’s residents support trophy hunting, what do they have to worry about?
on Anthony Marr’s BET’R Campaign
by Terry Brooks
"UNBEARABLE" - Winner of: Global Vision Award / 1997 Cascadia Festival of Moving Images, Award of Excellence (3rd) / 20th Annual International Wildlife Film Festival (2nd) / International Film & Video Festival, Silver Seal Award, Merit Award for Conservation Message.
The Fortunate and The Called Upon
at your service
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)
www.DearHomoSapiens.blogspot.com (AM's 3rd-book-in-the-making)