Part II – Bear Referendum
Chapter 19 – The Highway of Tears
June 26, 1996, Wednesday, sunny, 13-19oC
[10:27 @ WCWC HO]
I had planned to get on the road today for more media stops along the Skeena River between Prince George and Prince Rupert, but still lots to do here, including compiling a complete media list for the interior, so departure will be tomorrow. Lisa has just gone on her bike to the library to get the info. Bonita is now putting together a “mobile office in a box” for me, including things like letterhead, forms, envelopes, tapes, pens, stapler, faxing slips, etc., which means I would have to do on-the-road secretarial work which, if Lisa went with me, could be delegated. But, once again, Lisa can be much more productive operating out of HO. So my decision to go solo stands.
[12:03] Bonita is about the most systematic and methodical person around. It’s a pleasure to have her as a team sub-leader. I feel well taken care of by HO, mostly because of her. Lisa looks promising, but at this point is unproven. She did come back from the library in record time with all the information I wanted and more. An excellent first glimpse.
[23:24] This is the eve of the inland leg of the road tour, which is twice as long as the island leg, and potentially 4X as hostile. Everybody predicts that the farther north and east I go, the more hostility I will encounter.
Of course I didn’t tell my parents about this, but they can read – Chinese – and the Chinese media are doing their job. Already, mother is chanting “May God protect you” like a prayer, and truly placing all her faith in it. Of course, I didn’t tell her that my guardian angel would allow me at least to be chased on a twisty and deserted back-country highway in the middle of the night. Even if my guardian angel would allow nothing worse, I would still have to count on my own wits to get through the gauntlet. And I’ve gathered from history that certain martyrs’ guardian angels would allow them to be horribly tortured and murdered, including the inverted crucifixion of St. Peter when he was 80 years old, and St. Paul, not to mention those hundreds of thousands of falsely accused “witches” and heretics burnt alive at the stake.
My father, on the other hand, is totally rational, without a single religious bone in his body, a veritable though earth-bound Mr. Spock. He, however, can tolerate the religious fervor of my mother better than me. He is what you might call the strong silent type. He bears up life’s cruelties with a resolute stoicism which some mistake for weakness, including sometimes myself. He hardly ever initiates a conversation, but if I direct a question at him, he would usually have a logical answer. He was the one to tell me the “Conceive The Inconceivable” story (see Prologue of this book), when I was 21 years of age, on the eve of my one way flight (on a Lufthansa DC8 as I recall) from Hong Kong to Canada.
Anyway, I’ve said good bye, and hope to see them again in a few weeks’ time.
And good night to you, Christopher.
June 27, 1996, Thursday, sunny with showers, 14-21oC
[23:20 @ Carolyn and Elden Linden’s home in Prince George]
It was a full day’s drive from Vancouver to Prince George. 762 km by the odometer – 762 km farther from you, Christopher. But there’s a small consolation. Even the ink-black cloud of our severance has its silver lining, if only a very thin one. If we cannot see each other when we are near, then what difference does physical distance make? Others suffer more when farther apart, we don’t. We can’t be farther from each other, or nearer, than we already are.
The drive, first straight eastward through the broad U-shaped Lower Fraser Valley, then winding northward along the rushing Upper Fraser River halfway up the steep flank of the Fraser Canyon, the semi-desert country of Cache Creek and the rolling hills of the Cariboo-Chilcotin region, was an energizer. There was not an inch of the highway I did not enjoy, though repeated checking of the rear-view mirror for following trucks prevented the drive from being a thoroughly relaxing experience.
And I was pissed! I found out, but not before starting my drive, that Bonita and Lisa are taking a 4-day long-weekend holiday, both! WTF!!! Lisa is taking off today as of 6pm, I was told on the phone, when just yesterday she said she would stay till 9pm. She has barely started on the campaign and is already taking 4 days off, and at the very beginning of the inland tour. This won’t do for a project like the Bear referendum road tour, which needs at least one of them to be there at all times. They can’t treat this project as a nine-to-five-er. This should be a condition for the hiring. This long weekend should be committed to work. The “road warrior” is not take any day off, so why should his support structure? This is an extraordinary campaign that must be treated accordingly. As things stand, the bookings in the early part of the inland leg are largely unconfirmed. By the time I get to the first few towns and cities, there may be nothing happening. How could Lisa just drop the ball like this? If I brought her on the road tour, she’d be working throughout. The whole point to leave her in Vancouver is so that she could get things done, not so that she could take 4 days off!
Carolyn is an ex-Green Party candidate and President of the Ecology Circle, and told me that the current Green Party is afraid to alienate the hunters, and declining to support a hunting ban.
“As if they stand a remote chance of winning a seat around here,” I said bitterly.
She is all business, a little like me, in fact. Her husband is quite different. Elden is the zone director (BC) of the Model Aeronautics Association of Canada. After dinner, he and I did some “male bonding” in his rec room, which is stuffed full of model airplanes of various types, and lined with photos of past exhibitions and competitions. This is leisure time that, if I could afford it, I would enjoy.
Tomorrow, I’ll be driving to Prince Rupert at the end of the desolate Yellowhead Highway, Hwy 16, 720 km (450 mi) of it straight due west from Prince George where I currently am. The drive, without stops, should take about 9 hours. So, I should hit the road by 7.
And the hit just keep on coming. First thing this morning, I received a phone threat that Hwy 16 is a dead-end road terminating on the remote northern BC coast just south of the Alaskan panhandle. “It is one way in, same way out. And we have the license number of your car and know what it looks like.” Gulp.
June 28, 1996, Friday, sunny in Prince George, overcast and showers in Prince Rupert
[23:53 @. the home of Sue Kopelman in Prince Rupert]
Today’s drive from Prince George to Prince Rupert was predictably beautiful, and stunningly so, especially west of Smithers when snow-cap mountains began to beckon, and the wild and virginal Skeena River kept me company most of the way. I made a 2-hour video of the drive with the camcorder on my right shoulder, complete with music.
True to reputation, the Raincoast does rain. Back in the 1980s I did geophysical survey for one full summer in the Queen Charlotte Islands off shore from Prince Rupert, and for the entire month of July, there were only two days without some kind of precipitation, and a few days when the downpour was torrential.
The “open meeting” at the Prince Rupert community centre was almost a no-show, with only four people attending, including our gracious host Sue Kopelman. The other three were Cathy O’Conner, Stephen O’Conner and Larry Golden. All four, however, were enthusiastic, and have signed up as canvassers. As is almost a formula by now, they said, almost word for word, as those who have said it before, “Your presentation is inspirational. If you ever come back, let us know and we’ll organize a large group for you.” However, though I would have no problem re-visiting places like Courtenay or Denman Island, Prince Rupert is like the end of the world.
Note from Raminothna:
This Hwy 16 is known today as the “Highway of Tears”, due to the large number of women murdered along its length over the years. For more details, see this link:
June 29, 1996, Saturday, rainy in Prince Rupert
[16:34 @ the Kopelman residence]
I hate to lay blame, but the 4-day loss of action at head office imposed a corresponding loss of action all along the route thus far. A no-action day more or less. Made a few phone calls, things like that. Otherwise, the big thing was playing a few board games with the Kopelman’s little 6 year-old boy Stacy who on his own accord offered me a cracker last night. I call it a big thing because Stacy is the same age as Christopher.
Now, a small story of human interest. This morning, Sue drove me to the Prince Rupert Daily News for a meeting with Heather Colpitts, who gave me long and detailed interview, during which Sue went to her office a block away to do some work. After the interview, I ran the block in the rain to her office to do some photocopying. We talked about me perhaps going to the Queen Charlotte Islands to have a meeting with the environmental groups there. I made a few phone calls, to Guujaaw (not in), Shirley Ireland, David Phillips, John Broadhead, and Tamara Stark of Greenpeace who was then staying at the Singing Surf Motel.
During the phone calls, I found out that the ferry fare is $22 for foot passengers and $88 for a car. Sue overheard this and said that Ken had some free passes for cars, and suggested that I should talk to him tangentially about wanting to go to QCI but couldn’t afford the fare and see what he would do. I said, “I can’t do that. It would be me manipulating your husband. I’ll just ask him outright.” She said, “Judging by last night, you’re pretty good with that.”
When we got home, I forgot QCI and went on to other things, but lo and behold, Ken had heard about my plan to go to QCI and offered me the pass without me even asking. The goodness of human nature shining through yet again. The entire family is warm and welcoming. Ken and I talked into the night about anything under the sun, including art, God, and Chinese martial arts of which he is a practitioner.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that Greenpeace is having an event on June 30, tomorrow, the very day I can go over. It seemed ideal, since all the appropriate and potentially most effective people would be there, but then, Greenpeace came back to me and said they didn’t want to take on the issue, and this is from the original group that took on whaling. So much for the Queen Charlotte Islands, and, more importantly, so much for Greenpeace.
Prince Rupert is a city of rain, one surrounded on one side by the Pacific Ocean, and the other, a wall of dripping and towering conifers. This afternoon, with two hours to “kill” on my own, I donned my raincoat and walked into the lushest coastal old growth temperate rainforest this side of QCI.
As soon as civilization faded from my event horizon, I became keenly aware that every leaf, every blade of grass, seemed lovingly cleaned and polished like jade by the hands of God. Though I loathed the rain while working in the rugged BC wilderness, now I welcomed it. It added a necessary ingredient to the primordial feel of the place. I sat down on a moss-covered fallen tree trunk and stayed there for the better part of an hour, just soaking it in. I knew from experience that if I stayed long enough, the boundary between me and the wilderness would dissolve, and I would feel at one with Mother Earth as I never could elsewhere. It usually started with the sound of birds, a sense of awe, then reverence, then humility, then belonging. The way I feel, the mountains, the valleys, the river, the sea, the forest, the sky, the earth, the sun, the moon, are “creations of God”, and are themselves majestic cathedrals of nature, whereas the “real” cathedrals, even St. Peter’s, are but relatively diminutive creations of Man.
Raminothna said, “Ultimately, the Universe Itself is the supreme cathedral, the Earth is itself one of Its numerous chambers of worship, and life is the act of worship itself.”
Good night, Christopher.
The Fortunate and The Called Upon
at your service
Anthony Marr, Founder and President
Heal Our Planet Earth (HOPE)
Global Anti-Hunting Coalition (GAHC)