On Monday, March 2nd, I tabled a bill that restricts the practices of non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to kill large game by making two specific amendments to the Wildlife Act.
The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations and ensure all edible portions of game animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence.
As the legislation currently stands, it is illegal to waste meat when hunting in B.C., unless the animal you have killed is a cougar, wolf, lynx, bobcat, wolverine, or grizzly bear. The edible parts of big game animals must be removed from the animal and packed out to one’s home, or importantly for non-resident hunters, to a meat cutter or a cold storage plant. These last two options provide trophy hunters with legal meat laundering opportunities. By adding “directly or through” to the clause hunters can still use meat cutters and cold storage plants to process their harvests, but it can’t end there. The meat must make it to their home address. If they want to donate that meat to charity after the fact they are welcome to do so, but they have to take it home first.
Hunters are already required to remove the edible portions from black bears, if enacted, this bill would bring meat harvesting standards for grizzly bears up to the same level.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed themselves and their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to bag an animal for its hide, skull, or antlers this poses a larger logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the government with another tool to address the growing concerns about trophy hunting in our province. As with any tool the government develops, its effectiveness is entirely dependent on government’s commitment to using it as it was designed. If government were to pass this bill, but fail to enforce its provisions, or provide regulatory loopholes for guide outfitters, then its purpose will be undermined. It will be up to government to make a commitment to embracing the values that are at the heart of this Bill and using them in a meaningful manner.
This is not a perfect solution, of course, but it is an achievable step in the right direction of protecting the interests of sustenance hunters while reducing the wasteful influence of non-resident hunters who come to our province to kill our wildlife acting with disregard for its value as a food source. It is also a strong legislative move towards conserving grizzly bear populations in B.C. as it forces the government to reevaluate its outdated grizzly hunting mandate. It shows the current government that we are serious about conserving grizzly bears through working collaboratively with conservation organizations like the British Columbia Wildlife Federation, BC’s First Nations and BC’s resident hunters.
Brown bears, of which grizzlies are the North American subspecies, were once found on four continents, making them one of the most widespread mammal populations in the world. Their original range included Europe, North Africa, northern and central Asia, the Middle East, and North America. Today, they are locally extinct or endangered across the map — except in Russia, Alaska, and B.C.
According to the provincial government’s 2002 report on B.C. grizzly bears, in North America healthy grizzly bear populations once extended from northern Mexico to the Yukon, and from the West Coast to Hudson Bay. As human populations began to expand, grizzly numbers steadily declined as their habitat became fragmented, their food sources threatened, and they were killed for recreation and for getting too close to the people who were moving into their territory.
British Columbia and Alaska are the last strongholds of grizzly bear populations on the planet, though the exact numbers are contested because the bear’s solitary and roaming nature makes them difficult and expensive to study. The B.C. government estimates there are 15,000 grizzly bears in the province today, some independent scientists and First Nations groups think there could be as few as 6,000.
Precise population number aside, the global trend for brown bears is clearly one that favours extinction. The Himalayan brown bear has dwindled to two per cent of its former range and there are an estimated 49 brown bears left in Italy. Mexico’s grizzlies are now extinct and the last known Californian grizzly was shot in the 1920s. The Liberal government maintains the fate of B.C.’s grizzly bears will be different, but the government’s scientific justifications for the hunt in some regions are harshly criticized by many local and international scientists.
Like Canada’s polar bears, B.C.’s grizzly bears have been listed as a “species of special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). Unlike their Arctic cousins, though, grizzly bears don’t qualify for federally legislated conservation measures.
In addition to the unrelenting pressure brought by climate change, industrial expansion, and habitat destruction, this iconic species is pursued by “hunters” who come to B.C. to kill a prize bear. The importation of B.C. grizzly bear parts into the European Union has been banned for over a decade because they think the hunt is being unsustainably managed. The wealthy non-resident hunters who come to our province to buy a grizzly trophy, therefore, are predominantly from the U.S. They cut off the bear’s head, paws, and fur but leave the bodies behind to rot.
This so-called sport has been banned by nine coastal First Nations and is opposed by nearly 90 percent of British Columbians. Importantly, 95 percent of hunters surveyed in the province-wide McAllister Research poll also agreed that people should not be hunting if they are not prepared to eat what they kill.
I support sustainable, respectful sustenance hunting in British Columbia that is grounded in a science-based conservation policy. It with this in mind that I introduced the Bill today.
This bill is an attempt to bring the environmental and hunting communities together. Many urban environmentalists don’t realize that BC hunters and their supporting organizations (like BCWF, Ducks Unlimited and Fish and Wildlife organizations) are some of the most active conservationalists. At the same time, some hunters believe that most urban environmentalists are out to stop hunting. The reality is that almost everyone I have spoken with is on the same page. They support hunting for food. They don’t support hunting only for trophies. This bill supports the former and penalizes the later.
On December 10th, 2014 the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations released his decision concerning how hunting licenses would be allocated between industry and resident British Columbia hunters. After consulting with constituents and stakeholders, I released a media statement raising concerns that the interests of resident British Columbia hunters were being set aside in favour of special industry interests. A few days later, I provided a more thorough analysis of the issues involved.
On February 6, amidst widespread pressure from BC resident hunters and the BC Wildlife Federation, the government revised its decision on wildlife harvest allocations slightly. But this was not enough.
Today, BC’s resident hunters held a rally on the Legislature lawn. I had the privilege of speaking at the rally and I reproduce the text of my speech below.
I also had honour of presenting a petition from over 16,000 British Columbians on behalf of the British Columbia Wildlife Federation today. The text of the petition is reproduced here:
“We, the undersigned, representing residents of British Columbia and supporters of resident hunting in the province, state that changes to the Province’s Wildlife Harvest Allocation Policy announced in December 2014 provide an unwarranted larger share of hunting permits to BC’s professional guides and outfitters, who primarily guide non-resident trophy hunters, at the expense of BC resident hunters.
The wildlife allocation made available to Guide Outfitters Association of BC members is unprecedented in North America and there is no economic justification for these allocation changes, which will adversely affect BC’s resident hunters.
We, the undersigned, respectfully request that the provincial government repeal the changes to the Wildlife Harvest Allocation Policy announced on December 10, 2014 by the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and limit non-resident hunters and Guide Outfitters Association of BC members to the Wildlife Harvest Allocation specified in the 2007 Wildlife Allocation Policy.“
Finally, today I introduced my first Private Member’s Bill: the Wildlife Amendment Act. My introduction is reproduced below. We’ve written up a more thorough discussion of the implications of the bill elsewhere.
I’d like to begin by thanking all of you for coming to the legislature today. I know a lot of you had to travel quite far and take time off work to be here. But I am glad that you did. This issue is too important to let it quietly slip off the public radar and I commend you for being here today; for speaking up on behalf of hunters across BC; and for realizing that the February adjustment to the allocation policy was simply not good enough. It was little more than a patronizing response to your heartfelt feedback and concern for the future of hunting in BC.
The erosion of hunter’s access to BC game is yet another example of government putting the needs of special interests ahead of those of British Columbians. Hunting is a foundational part of life for many people in BC. As you all know so well, it is way to connect with nature, spend quality time with your loved ones, and provide a clean, healthy source of protein for your families. Having that connection to one’s food, knowing its true value, and appreciating where it came from means that you have a profound understanding of the importance of conservation.
It has been a great honour for me to work closely with the B.C. Wildlife Federation – the province’s largest conservation organization – as I attempted to educate myself on allocation issues over the past few months.
Hunters in B.C. have had a rich history of conservation in our province, working tirelessly to ensure animal populations are healthy, abundant, and that their habitats are protected.
Despite running on a “families first” platform, the BC Liberal government has continued to put the vested interests of a select profitable few ahead of its own residents. In the hunting sector especially, we have seen a steady erosion of your rights as they continue to be reallocated to the guide outfitting industry.
The December hunting permit amendment may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak, but the BC government has been making the shift towards prioritizing the needs of industry over its own residents for the last decade.
The government’s actions have not been guided by the values of British Columbians. Nor have they been guided by independent expert advice. The numbers put forward in December weren’t even close to the allocation splits recommended by the ministry.
What troubles me is that according to the lobbyist registrar, the Guide Outfitters Association has had over 2,000 person meetings with government officials since 2011. Quite a number of them included Premier Clark.
But today and together we’re here to say to government that that’s not enough. Together we are demanding that government listen to British Colmbians, the people that they are supposed to represent.
The increased allocation of BC’s wildlife to guide outfitters is an issue that affects all of us, not just the people here today.
I look forward to tabling the BCWF petition opposing the permit allocation amendments shortly. That should help government understand just how many people care about the unfair treatment of resident BC hunters.
I will also be tabling a bill that, if enacted, would make trophy hunting for non-residents more difficult by requiring them to remove the meat from their kills and transport it back to their home address.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed themselves and their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. in search of antlers or a hide this poses a larger logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
It is not a perfect solution to our problems, of course, but it will make the government engage in a conversation about where their interests lie and emphasize the importance of supporting sustainable, respectful hunting practices in our province — practices that are embodied by BC’s resident hunters and the BC Wildlife Federation.
I move introduction of the Wildlife Amendment Act for first reading.
It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill that, if enacted, would restrict the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to kill large game by making two specific amendments to the Wildlife Act.
The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations and ensure that all edible portions of animals harvested in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence.
As the legislation currently stands, the edible parts of big game animals (except cougars, wolves, lynx, bobcats, wolverines, and grizzly bears) must be removed from the animal and packed out to one’s home, or importantly for non-resident hunters, to a meat cutter or a cold storage plant. These last two options provide trophy hunters with legal meat laundering opportunities. By adding “directly or through” to the clause, hunters can still use meat cutters and cold storage plants to process their harvests, but it can’t end there. The meat must make it to their home address. If they want to donate that meat to charity after the fact they are welcome to do so, but they have to take it home first.
Hunters are already required to remove the edible portions from black bears. If enacted, this bill would bring meat harvesting standards for grizzly bears up to the same standard.
British Columbians, and in particular BC resident hunters, support these change. A 2013 McAllister Research poll found that 88% of British Columbians oppose trophy hunting. In addition to that, 95% of hunters said they believe you should not be hunting if you are not prepared to eat what you kill.
For local sustenance hunters – the vast majority of hunters in B.C. – this bill merely echoes what they are already doing; harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to kill an animal only for its hide, skull, or antlers this poses a logistical challenge of exporting large quantities of meat.
I look forward to second reading of the bill.
I move that this bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House.
It may seem odd that I would rise today to speak in favour of The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act which resides in the riding of Chilliwack-Hope (MLA Laurie Throness), but I was contacted by a number of constituents who had summer homes in the area. This is what prompted me to examine this legislation more deeply. Below is the text of my speech.
While the member for Chilliwack-Hope is probably wondering what the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head is doing standing up to speak in favour of the Cultus Lake act, I will add that I had a number of constituents who e-mailed me specifically about this act because they have summer homes in Cultus Lake. They pleaded with me to support this act. I’d like to read one of the e-mails that I received from the constituents. It said as follows:
“We are two of your constituents who have a summer home at Cultus Lake. Currently the residents of Cultus Lake Park do not have a democratic election process. Residents can only vote for two of seven politicians who represent them. By you voting yes for this bill, it will make a considerable improvement in democracy and accountability for the Cultus Lake Park, thus improving the future sustainability for this wonderful area, which is enjoyed by thousands of B.C. residents every year.”
Now, of course, as soon as an e-mail mentions the word “sustainability,” my ears perk up, so I took some time to explore this bill further.
The Cultus Lake Park Amendment Act takes an important step forward in the lead-up to the 2014 municipal elections to ensure that the residents of Cultus Lake are adequately represented in their government. The act would change the number and composition of representatives from the current structure of seven representatives, two of whom are Cultus Lake residents, to the new structure of five representatives, three of whom are Cultus Lake residents.
By increasing the representation of local residents, this bill will further empower those residents to sustainably manage a park that is enjoyed by so many British Columbians, including residents from the Oak Bay–Gordon Head riding here on southern Vancouver Island.
I, too, would like to thank the government and the member for Chilliwack-Hope for his work to bring and introduce this bill forward, and I very much look forward to supporting its adaptation at second and third readings and committee stage.
Tens of thousands of people in BC have voiced their opposition to the recent passing of Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act. They are demanding its repeal because of fears around industrial development taking priority over the protection of our most significant areas of ecological diversity and natural beauty. I share many of their concerns.
The Problem with Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act.
The Park Amendment Act is a controversial piece of legislation that now allows the BC Government to issue park use permits for activities that are not necessarily related to the mandate and purpose of our BC parks. The Act allows for permits to be issued for two general categories: film production and research.
Previously, for a park use permit to be granted the applicant had to prove that the activity, for which they required the permit, was necessary for the preservation or maintenance of the recreational values of the park involved. Bill 4 changes this.
Now, the Minister of the Environment has the ability to issue permits that fall under the vague and undefined term “research” for any type of “feasibility study” for any kind of “prescribed project”.
Without any limitations on what these studies or projects might entail, without any guidelines for how the studies or projects are to be assessed, and without defining the term “research”, the Act, in essence, can allow for a park use permit to be issued for virtually any type of activity. The language is so vague as to be utterly meaningless. In theory, I could sip a beer while watching Hockey Night in Canada and qualify and call this research as part of a ‘feasibility study’ under this Act. Conversely, exploratory drilling could also fall into this category.
To be fair, there are regulations within the Ministry that do define the term research, and there are guidelines over assessing what kind of activities are to be allowed in BC parks. However, they are not law – they are regulations, and they can be changed by the ministry without any public consultation, public debate, or public scrutiny. The passing of Bill 4 means that the law protecting our Parks has been weakened, while the ministry has increased its power and adopted a “trust us” approach.
It is also important to acknowledge that, under the existing Park Act, no major industrial project can actually occur within a protected area. If a major project wants to cross a park, the general practice in BC allows for proponents to propose a boundary adjustment to a park in order to accommodate their project. This proposal then is reviewed by the ministry and if a park boundary is to be changed it must be passed in the Legislative Assembly.
Bill 4 doesn’t change that. It simply allows research permits to be issued to conduct a “feasibility study” on a “prescribed project” (a pipeline or a road for example). This doesn’t mean the project will go through, and it doesn’t mean the research will be benign, but it does signify that industry might be able to get an earlier foot in the door towards applying for a boundary adjustment change, and may invest significant capital in doing so.
Adding to the uncertainty surrounding the underlying motivation for this Bill is the fact that a number of BC parks are facing possible boundary adjustments in order to accommodate major industrial projects. Under a Freedom of Information request submitted last year, the Ministry of Environment released which parks stand to be affected by certain projects. For example, the proposed Kinder Morgan Pipeline Expansion alone is expected to affect nine provincial parks and will require significant boundary adjustments to at least three of these parks. Furthermore, given the BC Liberals push for natural resource development, it’s no surprise that so many people are suspicious of this Act, and are worried that its purpose is merely to expedite industries application process.
Holding the Government to Account
When it was introduced, Bill 4, the Park Amendment Act, clearly did not have the social license to proceed. The proposed changes caught most people by surprise, major environmental groups condemned it, and the Bill was strongly opposed in the Legislature.
Working with the official opposition, I spoke against the Bill, highlighting the concerning and vague language used as well as the lack of public consultation and support for instituting these changes. I proposed that before passing in the House, the Bill should at least go to a committee review stage, in order to give the government time to build up the social license needed for this bill and to address the many concerns voiced. I also proposed amendments to the Bill, including adding a definition for “research”, as a way of trying to ensure that the Bill did not undermine the mandate and purpose of our Parks. Unfortunately, these were defeated by the government.
What Happened in the House
Despite being given opportunities to engage the public, and despite the public outcry, Bill 4 – the Park Amendment Act, received royal assent on March 24, 2014. In defending the bill, Honourable Mary Polak, the Minister for the Environment stated that “the intention of this amendment is to provide the legal statutory certainty for the granting of research permits, commercial filming permits, that we have granting but have been advised that we do not have sufficient legal certainty in order to proceed as we have.” She assured the house that the 30-page Park Act still “contains all the guidance necessary to ensure that we don’t have mining in our parks, that we don’t have drilling for oil in our parks, that we don’t have major industrial activities taking place in our parks”. As British Columbian, our job is now to ensure the minister is true to her words.
Should we be concerned?
At roughly 14 million hectares, British Columbia has the third largest park system in North America (second only to the federal parks system of Canada and the US). Over 14.4% of the province is protected under the Parks system, and over 90% of British Columbians have visited a provincial park at some point in their lives and 60% regularly visit at least one park each year.
Over the last 10 years our parks have undergone 44 boundary changes totaling roughly 811 hectares of lost park land. Although only 8 of these changes were for proponent-based projects (industrial projects), the rest being largely administrative in nature, this number accounted for almost 70% of the total area removed from our parks. Clearly, although they only account for a small number of total adjustments, the proponent-based industrial projects are the ones that have the biggest impact to our Parks.
Equally important however is that this is a relatively small amount of land when it is taken in the context of 14 million hectares that are protected. In addition, just a few weeks ago that number was increased by 55,000 hectares.
The good news is that even though this Bill does allow for research permits to be granted, possibly for major industrial projects, the park boundary would have to be changed before the project itself could be approved. For our provincial parks, any boundary change has to come through the legislative assembly. And here, at least, there is an avenue for public attention and debate to occur over a park boundary change. You can be assured that I will be closely monitoring any future park boundary changes.
Bill 4 is a piece of legislation that is far too vague and gives too much power to the ministry. It clearly did not have the social license needed and continues to face strong opposition. If used inappropriately the Bill has the potential to undermine the legislated protection of our Parks. For these reasons I opposed its passage in the house, and will do whatever I can to ensure it is not used to abuse the underlying purpose of our Parks (as detailed in the BC Parks Mission Statement):
BC Parks is committed to serving British Columbians and their visitors by protecting and managing for future generations a wide variety of outstanding park lands which represent the best natural features and diverse wilderness environments of the province.
The Next Steps
I hope that this post helps people to understand this issue, its complexity, and the importance that will now be placed on ensuring that every boundary adjustment is transparent and fully understood so that our park system remains protected and continues to serve the interests of British Columbians.
If you are concerned about this Act, here are some options available to you:
1 – Sign a Petition
Some groups have called for an appeal to this Bill. It can be found here.
2 – Write a Letter
The minister has explained that this was essentially a housekeeping Bill — one that gave the ministry the legal authority to do what it had already been doing. However, my main criticism of this Bill, aside from the use of incredibly vague language, is that it clearly did not have the required social license to move forward. If you share this concern I would encourage you to write to the minister about your views on the process, and how in the future the government needs to first engage in public consultation, before imposing such a controversial bill. Please provide me with a cc of your letter so that I can speak to your concerns in the future.
Media Statement: March 6, 2014
Greens and NDP support further Public Consultation on Parks Amendment Act
For Immediate Release
Victoria BC – Today Andrew Weaver, for the second day in a row, worked with the official opposition to provide the government the ability to build the social license needed for the Park Amendment Act to move forward. The Park Amendment Act has received considerable opposition from numerous stakeholders across the province and it is clear that further engagement with British Columbians is warranted before the government makes these substantial changes to the legislation governing BC parks.
Yesterday, the NDP tabled a motion that would have delayed the passing of this Bill for a further six months giving the government an opportunity to engage British Columbians and address their concerns. Andrew supported the motion, arguing that the lack of “Public trust” was “a critical component of why [he was] supporting this amendment”.
Weaver argued in the house:
“Good governance requires outreach and consultation on controversial topics, and I encourage the government to actively engage the citizens of British Columbia in public forums before enacting this bill. The time proposed in the amendment is critical to allow for successful public buy-in of this bill.”
MLA Weaver gave his full support to the NDP motion; unfortunately, the motion was defeated.
Today, the Green Party MLA noted that “the government did not feel that the delay of this bill was in their interest” and he reiterated his view that “the Park Amendment Act does not have the social license to move forward.” He then introduced a different amendment on the Park Amendment Act: to send the Bill to a committee.
Weaver argued that “Moving the Bill to a committee would allow for the multi-partisan engagement of stakeholders, it would show that the government is listening to the concerns of British Columbians, and it would ensure that the development of the language of this Bill satisfies the concerns of its many critics.”
In another notable show of multi-partisan cooperation, many members in the caucus of the official opposition spoke and voted in support of Weaver’s amendment. The motion to amend was voted down by the Government.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary, Andrew Weaver MLA
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