As we grapple with the rights of hunters to have 100% of the Sundays in the fall from Thanksgiving to Dec. 31 to hunt, we find ourselves becoming activists for our own long-standing rights as users of our woods and waterways.
Prior to 2008, we could hike, ride horses, do orienteering or kayak without worry of guns being fired or unfriendly encounters with hunters, and yes, this does occur. We would patiently wait the other six days of hunting to be done so we could be happy and carefree in our activities. Then, in 2008, our happy carefree day of the week was eliminated during the most beautiful and peaceful time of the year in the Maritimes.
Hunters obtained the right to hunt three Sundays of the season. We were now severely restricted if not exiled for seven days a week. Politicians who support the hunters’ rights tell us it’s perfectly safe. Most everyone we talk to tells us it’s not safe to be in the woods or on the water during hunting season. We really don’t want our epitaph to say “but they told me it was o.k.”.
More importantly, no matter how good the past safety statistics were, we do not want the hunters there, regardless, competing for our favourite spots and breaking the peace. Safe or not, the sound of a gun being fired when you are quietly enjoying the woods or waterways is very disconcerting. It never used to happen, at least on a Sunday.
Fast forward to 2019. We live in a changing world with many more outdoor activities happening that are not compatible with guns in the woods. Apparently, we have fewer hunters so the politicians want to increase the number of Sundays for hunting, which will be to the detriment of other users of the woods. Not only are three Sundays a year not enough, let’s give the hunters fourteen. What they really want are all the Sundays of the year for hunting! What a travesty for the rest of us.
New Brunswick has so much more to offer than the ability to hunt seven days a week in the fall.
We are at a crossroads for environmental use of our natural beauty. How does one organize many users of different disciplines into one voice? The hunters are a well-funded and organized group who are not accustomed to opposition of their viewpoints. We believe that statistics are in our favour both demographically and environmentally. According to Tom Beckley of the University of New Brunswick who has researched this subject, that for every one hunter in New Brunswick, there are 10-15 non-hunters. He bases his statistics on the Department of Natural Resources and Energy Development Annual Report.
Our non-hunting interaction with the woods and water is sustainable with no cost to government. It also has economic impact if we promote ecotourism in our province. We have a right as taxpayers and constituents to oppose Bill 19 that is presently before the Legislature. We are important stakeholders in Bill 19 but were not consulted. Rationale for the bill is unclear, pushed by the hunter lobby—certainly not a shining example of transparency in government.
We encourage you to write your MLA and voice your concerns to what is happening. Since the hunters want all Sundays in the year, we can assume this will be their next ask to politicians. Let’s educate the politicians on who we are and what we represent and why it’s important to us to have one day a week with no hunting.
Bev Sanders is with the Quiet Forests New Brunswick Coalition (QNB). QNB is a grassroots coalition formed to oppose Bill 19 which will increase the hunting season and include all Sundays within that season from Thanksgiving to December 31st beginning in 2020.