I am an owner of a fishing and hunting resort on Rainy Lake in Northwestern Ontario. I have owned this resort for 13 years. When I was 21, I took the initiative to start my own business, and for the last 13 years I have built it to what it is today.
In the past years, it has been an enormous task to keep it afloat. I have all the problems that every entrepreneur has plus one—the “MNR” (the only three-letter, four-letter word I know).
But in the past few years, everything seemed to be changing. If there were any changes to be made on fish limits, etc., we were either contacted (asked our opinion) or we were the ones going to the local MNR office asking for change. Recommendations then were open to the public for review, and intelligent and informed biological decisions were made.
I recently was in Chicago at a sport show when I got the news about the spring bear hunt. I was sitting at my booth with two bear rugs on my table selling spring bear hunts when I was informed of this shocking news. I was furious.
The next 15 days on the show circuit were unbelievable. In all the years that I have been going to shows, I have never had such a backlash. Many people came to my booth and just asked me, “Are you from Ontario?” When I answered yes, I would get an earful. Questions like, “What kind of country do you live in?” “Are the people all like sheep?” “How can your leaders treat you this way?” “Does one man make all of your decisions?” “Do you elect a king?” and so on.
One message came from them all, “We will never go to Ontario again!”
Days went by like this until finally I removed my bear rugs from my table, and I started to think. “Does one man rule this province? Did we elect a king?”
In the past few years I think we have. If it is not Chrétien scolding his back-benchers in his caucus for voting against party policies and listening to their constituents, it is Premier Mike Harris having private meetings with wealthy industrialists, like Mr. Schad, and making his own decisions without consulting anyone else.
Whose job is he protecting now? Did he think of the many jobs and foreign dollars that will be lost in the north when “he” made the decision?
There are many numbers floating around out there. Many are made up. I will just tell you mine. I just lost one-sixth of my business with this decision. I have two employees, and now I will only be able to hire one this year.
We have heard many things about a compensation package. Are you also going to compensate this person who does not own a camp? What should I be telling this person? Go look for a job somewhere else, where there are no jobs. All I hear now is job creation, job creation. Where is the job creation in this?
I am only one small camp. There are a thousand camps just like mine. What should they tell all of their employees? Who should they choose to lay-off? I hope this helps you in the next election, in your swing ridings on the Niagara peninsula, because everyone should have a job, even you.
I know this letter is long but I am fed up. I have been putting up with it for 13 years.
Now let’s talk biology. You say we orphan bear cubs. In 13 years, we have never shot a sow with cubs (it is illegal). If you talk to any outfitter, they will tell you that cubs always come to the baits first. And since there are no leaves for most of the spring, the hunters can see the bears circle them, sometimes for hours. There is no mistaking if they have cubs with them. They are seen.
If a sow does come to a bait with cubs, we immediately move the hunter and keep baiting there so she will not move to another bait.
In the fall, there are leaves so you cannot see the cubs as well. When we did fall hunts, I would tell the hunters to let the bear eat at the bait for a while to make sure there were no cubs around. My hunters would always inform me that cubs always came in first. The sow was always weary of the hunter, the cubs were not.
If the sow is shot in the fall, the cubs have very little chance of survival, but yet Premier Mike Harris, in his infinite wisdom, still allows the sows to be legally shot. It is the outfitter who tells the hunter that he cannot shoot this sow.
Hunters say they do not want to shoot sows anyway. They are sportsmen, not killers like many naturalists would lead you to believe.
When I first started to do my bear hunts, I did both spring and fall. A bear keeps her cubs for one and one half years and in July of the second year, she chases her cub(s) away and goes into estrus. In the fall every second year, she is pregnant and then vulnerable to being shot by hunters.
That is why I discontinued my fall bear hunts.
I have a small area for my guests to hunt compared to most. I want my fishermen to see bears in the summer (which they do) so I do not want sows shot. Sows with cubs are never shot because we only do spring hunts.
I ask the environmentalists to get their facts straight, and Mr. Premier should listen to all the people.
Do you know:
•the Ontario population of bears is the highest it has ever been (around 100,000 animals);
•adult male bears kill many cubs (why do you think a sow is so aggressive?);
•a bear’s favourite food in the spring are the newly-born doe fawns and moose calves, which can be found and caught very easily;
•bears are shot on a regular basis by cabin owners and police in the northern towns of Ontario because of the extensive damage that they do.
•that there is talk now that MNR want to open up a three-bear limit for each hunter in the fall (are you anticipating a problem?);
•bear hunts bring in around $40 million to northern communities and create many jobs; and
•there is no biological reason for ending the spring bear hunt. Ask any biologist. This decision was political.
In closing, I ask the people of the northern communities to unite and fight this. We are the minority now. Even if you are not involved directly in bear hunting, this is just the top of the iceberg. If the anti-hunting groups can topple Ontario, what’s next. How are they gloating now?
And to you, the people of large metro areas of southern Ontario, remember you have many recreational activities to do (professional sports teams, the arts, etc.). We have very few. This is our heritage and culture—and we will defend it.
And lastly to Premier Harris. I would like to know how you can destroy people’s traditions and livelihoods without any consultation. If special interest groups can sway you now, what’s next. Hail to the king!
Disappointed in Democracy
Camp Narrows Lodge
P.S. During the last week, I have read many articles from local leaders of each party. Instead of attacking each other, why don’t we band together and all of us will win this.