Of Pooh & Politics: A short history of bear-ing it all

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I never could have imagined that two little bear cubs would find their way into the hearts of British Columbians, hibernating away in our hearts and minds while I fought off the giant of bureaucracy. But they did! The public saw them for what they were, a little brother and sister just wanting a second chance. During this debacle an elderly gentleman sent me a very touching letter describing the historical connection between our Canadian soldiers and bear cubs and the similarities in my story. Turns out, I wasn’t the first soldier to save a baby cub, and Jordan and Athena are not the first bear cubs to become world sensations!

The story actually starts not with recent B.C Government kill orders, but with a young Canadian soldier destined for the battlefield during World War 1, his interaction with a local hunter in Ontario, and the veterinary skills our front line cavalry needed at the time. World War 1 would mark the end of large scale cavalry uses in military combat operations, but the bear cub would go on to live in the hearts and minds of children and adults around the globe. Winnie The Pooh (a caricature of the real Canadian bear cub named after Winnipeg), remains today, a thriving brand and business and one of the greatest characters ever to reach the pages of our written history.

Harry Colebourn was a Canadian veterinarian who purchased a female bear cub from a hunter after her mother was killed. According to public sources he paid $20 for her and brought her overseas with him when he deployed to France. Harry survived the war, and donated the cub to the London Zoo where she would remain for the rest of her life. Later, an author would be inspired and the legend of Pooh as we know it today would be born and live to be over 100 years old.

Of course, my story wasn’t as simple or sweet, and I still feel the ramifications of the decision to do right by two baby bears every day. But it all started because B.C.’s environmental policies are important to me. Our Valley has unique environmental needs that span the ocean, farmlands, and the forests. I am here to do the right thing by our people and their relationship with the environment. Let’s work together and solve these dynamic and fast changing issues.

The centennial anniversary of World War 1 started in 2014 and will continue until 2018. I think we can say, with some confidence now, even over 100 years later Canadian soldiers just don’t kill baby bears. It’s a Canadian thing. I think we should vote on a national bear holiday (or at least a “B.C. Bear Day”). What do you think?

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Photo by Dan Meyers on UnsplashPhoto by Sam Balye on Unsplash