By Brian Kelly, Sault Star
Sunday, June 8, 2014
A Toronto-based animal rights group is taking a swing at David Orazietti for bringing the spring bear hunt out of hibernation after more than a decade.
The Sault Ste. Marie MPP, who was appointed minister of natural resources in February 2013, oversaw the hunt’s limited return with a two-year pilot program to eight Northern Ontario communities this year.
They were chosen because of a large number of bear and human incidents. Fifty communities passed resolutions wanting in on the pilot program. Orazietti calls the hunt’s return “an effective management tool.”
“I think we’re taking a very pragmatic approach, a very thoughtful and strategic approach in terms of this program,” he said, noting no questions on the issue have been asked by politicians at Queen’s Park since last fall. “I think we’ve reached a very effective and appropriate balance on this issue.”
Not so, contends Animal Alliance of Canada in a colour advertisement published in Saturday’s edition of The Sault Star and a pamphlet delivered to Sault Ste. Marie households last week.
“Orazietti tells people he did (the hunt’s return) for public safety reasons,” the ad reads. “But he knows that’s not true.”
The handout accuses Orazietti and Liberal Leader Kathleen Wynne for “flagrantly” tossing aside environmental and animal protection laws and regulations “to serve their single minded goal of getting re-elected.”
The Liberals, in power provincially since 2003, have a worse environmental and animal protection record than the federal government, Animal Alliance argues.
The group suggests scientists with Orazietti’s ministry told him the hunt wouldn’t reduce problems with bears and humans.
Orazietti counters the Liberal government’s decision for a targeted hunt, after it was quashed outright by the Conservatives in 1999, has plenty of backers including civic, police and education leaders.
Mayor Debbie Amaroso and Sault Ste. Marie Police Service Chief Bob Davies appeared alongside the MPP when he announced the hunt’s return to eight wildlife management units in November. There are 94 units in Ontario.
“We did it for public safety reasons,” said Orazietti. “I think it’s insulting to Northerners to have a special interest group based out of Toronto attempting to dictate policy for Northerners, people in our community.”
He argues Ontario has a “very healthy, sustainable” black bear population of about 105,000 and that similar hunts take part in most Canadian provinces.
“I’m sure their (Animal Alliance staff) kids go to school and are able to go out for recess in a safe environment where there are not 400-pound black bears roaming their school yard,” said Orazietti. “That’s not safe and that’s not something we should be faced with in our community either.”
With a provincial election nearing on Thursday, the MPP says most voters he talks to at the 1,000-plus doors he’s knocked on are glad the hunt is back in the Sault, Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins. Some, Orazietti added, told him they would e-mail Animal Alliance to criticize its ad campaign.
Sault residents, he says, “know the realities of living in Northern Ontario (and are) fully aware of the potential safety risks of not effectively managing (the) black bear population well.”
“The number of people that are supporting what has been done here with our policy on this has been overwhelming,” said Orazietti.
Hunt opponents are concerned mother bears will be killed, leaving cubs orphaned and doomed to starve. Only male bears can be killed during the six-week hunt.
Its return doesn’t impress Josh Kerns either.
“There shouldn’t be an annual bear hunt to begin with,” he wrote on The Sault Star’s Facebook page. “Anybody who shoots animals for fun should be charged with animal cruelty.”
Animal Alliance is also critical of Ministry of Natural Resources for axing Bear Wise services including trapping and relocating problem bears.
Orazietti said packing up bruins and relocating them to the bush doesn’t work.
“It does not make sense to continue to operate the trap and relocate program when it’s not effective,” he said.
City police responded to several bear calls in the west end on Saturday. Locations include a business parking lot and housing complex on Second Line West, Nichol Avenue, Pittsburg Avenue and Edison Avenue.
Garbage and food sources shouldn’t be left out because they attract bears, police say.