Populism and the Ban on the Grizzly Hunt

Several questions have come up after the recent news of a guide outfitting company launching a class-action suit against B.C.’s ban on the grizzly bear hunt.

The BC Wildlife Federation will take no position on this matter because, as a conservation organization, the BCWF is not in the business of supporting court cases for guide-outfitters or any other industry that seeks compensation from the government. It is important to point out that this lawsuit will not affect the interests of resident hunters. It is simply about compensation for these guide-outfitters who represent a small population of hunters.

Nevertheless, the BCWF continues to be in full support of the re-opening of the grizzly bear hunt. The BCWF will continue to support science-based decision making, not populist-based decision making. The decision by the B.C. government to ban the regulated grizzly hunt to all but Indigenous hunters is a prime example of a populist-based decision.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “populism” as: Political ideas and activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want. The ideas are often put forward in the absence of science or analysis of the long-term policy implications. The threshold for populism is often driven by “popular support” for an idea, not because it is rational, stable or in the best interests of the resource, but because it is politically popular and in the short term will garner political support.

The question is, do you want your government to make the popular decision, or the rational decision? The former is driven by the public opinion, the latter by rigorous analysis of the consequences in terms of what is in the best interests of the resource and the populace.

grizzly-1180556_1920In B.C., 78 percent of the public, according to the government is against the hunting of grizzly bears. But a rigorous analysis was conducted by the B.C. Auditor General and the conclusion was that hunting was not seen as a threat to grizzly bear sustainability and was considered a minor factor within the issue of larger habitat management.

Prior to a final decision on grizzly bear hunting, government was left with two choices; leave the status quo or ban all licensed hunting of grizzly bears.

Populism won the day and now there is no hunt. First Nations can continue to hunt if they choose. The larger issue is this constitutionally protected right will be hollow when their fish and wildlife populations are gone. The right to gain economically from commercial uses of natural resources under the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples is also in question. First Nations have strong voices and can speak for themselves on how, where and why they want to engage in the grizzly bear debate.

As for what the BCWF is doing about the grizzly bear hunt ban, it is anticipated that some First Nations will initiate grizzly hunts as early as this spring, as they have the constitutional right to do so. This may well lead to some opportunity to re-open the discussion with government. If and when such opportunity arises, we will take the same stance as we did before – hunt based on science.

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