Hunters turned out in force Saturday to protest the share of wildlife licences between those who hunt for their own use, and outfitters who guide tourists.
They came in camouflage. They brought their kids in strollers and their dogs on leash.
They were a sedate and orderly assembly as they walked from a shopping mall parking lot on Old Okanagan Highway to the constituency office of Christy Clark, the Premier of B.C., in downtown West Kelowna.
The were there to sign a petition and deliver letters to the premier, protesting the allocation of hunting licences between local hunters and professional guide-outfitters.
Sean Richardson, head of the Oceola Fish and Game Club, was an organizer of the march. Soon after he called for a peaceful march, a minor scuffle ensued as a hunter knocked a sign out of the hands of a woman protesting all hunting, and tore it in pieces.
Two placard-holders were there to protest hunting of any kind. “Shoot animals with a camera not a gun” read one sign. “How about no licences no death” read another.
“I’m a Canadian,” the woman said, “and I have a right to be here.”
Richardson echoed that sentiment, saying all voices were welcome.
“Allocation is a big issue that’s facing resident hunters,” Richardson said to the assembly later estimating at 500.
Richardson reminded the hunters they were there to sign a petition and deliver it, along with their own personal letters to the premier.
“I think that you’re here because you don’t think that 20 to 40 per cent of our harvestable surplus of wildlife should be going to people from other countries.”
Richardson said townhall meetings throughout the province had led to letter writing and now public marches in support of resident hunters getting a bigger share of the licence allocation.
“A lot of you wrote letters to Christy Clark. How many of you got a response?” he asked. No one there could say they had, but Richardson told on one response, from a Clark staffer, that the matter should be taken up with Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson.
“This protest today gives us an opportunity to make sure that she actually got your letter. There is no excuse that she didn’t get it because today we are going to put it in a mail box right in front of her office.”
Richardson said the march was to accomplish three things. The first was to have a large turnout so the politicians would see the number of voters involved.
The second part was the letters. “It is very important that we are polite and professional and leave West Kelowna cleaner than we found it.”
Third was to sign the petition.
Two politicians were on hand. Katrine Conroy, MLA-Kootenay West, gave her support as someone who came from a hunting and fishing family.
Dan Brooks, of the B.C. Conservative Party, said he had been a guide-outfitter until two years ago. “I can tell you that the Guide-Outfitters Association (GOABC) has not been honest with you,” Brooks said.
“I have been an outfitter since 1999. I have not outfitted for the last two years.”
He called the outfitters association “an elitist bunch of snobs. They are determined to win this allocation fight with money and lobbying instead of honest conservation and values.”
A small army of orange-vested men helped shepherd the group along Highway 97 toward the Premier’s office. Having showed the RCMP the plan of assembly, police were nowhere in sight during the march.