bear law 

By Alix Noble The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is trying to put forward legislation that would prohibit all sport and trophy bear hunting in B.C. Under the little used Recall and Initiative Act, the WCWC needs to collect 207,000 signatures to have its proposal put before the legislature. In order for Chief Electoral Officer Robert Patterson to approve the petition, at least 10 per cent of the voters in each of B.C.'s 75 electoral districts must sign the petition. The WCWC will have a 90 day period starting in September in which they can collect the signatures. This initiative is part of the WCWC's BET'R campaign to save the four animal species (bears, elephants, tigers and rhinoceros) being driven to extinction through trade. "Since we can't control the poaching," said Bonita Charette, campaign assistant at the WCWC, "we're looking at laws." By making bear hunting illegal, the WCWC hopes to keep the B.C. bear population at a sustainable level and make it easier to enforce poaching laws. Since its creation in July of 1994, the Recall and Initiative Act has only had three other individuals apply for an initiative petition, none of which have made it to the legislature. All four applicants passed the first step of the process and received approval of the Chief Electoral Officer to petition. Two of the proposed acts did not return their petitions within the 90-day period, and one withdrew before the petition process. The unreturned petitions were likely not returned because they could not collect the required signatures, said Elections BC Communications Officer Jennifer Miller. The bear hunting act may have more popular appeal than the previous proposed acts, which included an act to balance the budget and retire provincial debt, and another to remove school levies from property taxes. "This is something that people see as a having the possibility of succeeding. It's a very sound initiative; it's not radical, a lot of people agree with us," said Charette. If this proposal makes it past the petition requirement, the legislature has three options, either to make the act a new law, to vote down the bill or to return the petition to Elections BC for a province-wide referendum vote. Charette says that Environment Minister Paul Ramsey has told WCWC that the bear hunting initiative would go to a referendum. Even if the act does make it through to a referendum, it won't make much impact on the number of bear deaths at Whistler. There will be three exceptions to the act, for those conducting scientific research with a permit, those who injure, kill or capture a bear that threatens a human, and for aboriginal hunting rights.


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