This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Are activists and academics so committed to a non-existent polar bear shortage they’re willing to sacrifice Inuit lives?
Last week, parents in Arviat, a Inuit hamlet on the western coast of Hudson Bay, were urged to take their children to an indoor event on Halloween night rather than going door-to-door. Halloween concerns about polar bears on the streets stretch back to at least 2014. There are reportedly two monitors “whose job it is to patrol the community through the evening and night to deter bears from coming into the community.”
The University of Victoria (UVic) claims to care about Canada’s indigenous peoples. It makes a big fancy deal about this on its website. But there’s fake concern. There’s faux solidarity. And then there’s the real thing.
It turns out Susan Crockford, the zoologist UVic unceremoniously fired for expressing politically incorrect facts about polar bears, is more knowledgeable about the daily challenges faced by Inuit communities than are her fashionably close-minded former colleagues. The problem isn’t that polar bears are at the brink of extinction. Quite the opposite. Their ballooning numbers now make them dangerous.
In September 2017, an official pleaded for an increase in the number of bears that residents of Whale Cove, near Arviat, are allowed to harvest each year. “Every night we’re having bear problems, every single night,” Stanley Adjuk told a meeting. “Our kids, our grandkids, we’ve got to watch them, every single night now.”
Another news story, from 2013, describes life in these communities during the several weeks each Autumn in which the bears migrate further north. An Arviat conservation officer estimates he receives seven bear alerts every 24 hours. Another official says: “I live by the shore and I get woken up by bear bangers [noise makers intended to frighten off bears] almost every other hour, starting 10:00 or 11:00 in the evening up until 6:00 in the morning.”
In June of 2018, a northern newspaper reported that Inuit “hunters have frequently insisted that their on-the-land observations are more accurate than the complicated mathematical projections of wildlife researchers,” who frequently oppose increased bear harvests.
Four weeks later, 31-year-old Aaron Gibbons was mauled to death by a polar bear while on an excursion with his three children 10 km (6 miles) from Arviat. During the attack he instructed his kids, aged 12, 10, and 5, to request assistance via their boat’s CB radio. One news story reports: “his daughter’s anguished pleas for help were heard in many homes in the community of 2,700.”
Seven weeks after that, a group of polar bears attacked three caribou hunters in a more northerly locale, killing one of them – 33-year-old Darryl Kaunak.
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