Editorial: Vigilante injustice

Trent Ernst, Editor


This week on the Policies and Priorities agenda was the item: Bear Discussion.

The discussion, as it turns out, was this: there’s a bear that is in the area. It hasn’t done anything, but it might do something. We should do something before it does something.

One of the Councillors said she was getting tired of nothing being done. “One day, you’re going to hear a gunshot.”

Of course, she says, she’s not saying she’s going to shoot the bear, just that she won’t be upset if the bear gets shot.

But if she isn’t actively advocating vigilante justice on the bear, she isn’t exactly dissuading it, either.

Which got me thinking: if the bear, which has done nothing other than being a bear should be destroyed because it poses a threat, it’s not even vigilante justice, but vigilante pre-justice.

It’s a bit like Minority Report, but without the precogs telling you that something actually will happen.

But the fact remains that bears are a risk. Bears have killed people. Bears have injured people.

How much of a risk? I contacted Shawn Brinsky, one of our Peace Region Conservation Officers.

“I’ve worked here for 17 years,” says Brinsky. “Within Tumbler Ridge itself, I’m not aware of an attack in the last fifty years.”

But what of the man who was mauled along the bald spot trail?

That one is, as far as anyone can tell, urban legend.

There is also the story about the woman who was attacked out by the ball diamond, but that, too, might not have happened.

According to Brinsky, the two incidents he’s aware of both involved grizzlies and both happened well outside of town.

“In the early ’90s, there were two grizzly maulings in the Wapiti Red Deer area, both non-predatory. A pair of seismic workers encountered a grizzly in the high alpine, surprising it as they came up over a ridge. Instead of running, she hit both the seismic guys.

“Then there was a minor contact with a guide outfitter cutting trail in the Red Deer area who came across a sow and cub,” he says.

And that’s it.

Compare that to the number of ATV injuries and deaths that have happened in the same time frame. Or the number of people injured in car accidents. More people are killed in North America a day by automobiles than have been killed by bears in the last century.

So, if certain members of town Council hint that people might be justified to take matters into their own hands and shooting the bear before it becomes an issue, then maybe others might be justified to take arms against the more dangerous creature, and begin shooting all the cars and ATVs around town, to prevent them from injuring or killing any of the kids.

Or, if we start killing bears because they could be a threat what next, what next? Do we kill all the dogs in town because more people are injured or killed by dogs than bears?  Heck, the biggest threat to human life is other humans. Do we suddenly go mano-a-mano, ever person for themselves? Or do we figure out a way to make it work?

We live in a world where we take considered risks every day. Getting up in the morning is a risk. Going outside is a risk. We risk our hearts being broken in love. Yet we take these risks. Why? Because to not risk anything is to not live. To not risk loss is to not experience gain.

In fact, many people live here because of the nature. Because they might see a bear around town, or even in town. It’s a risk, true, but for those of us who love nature, the rewards are more than worth the risk.