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Profile Articles - Excerpts

1995-12                     Sing Tao Daily (Chinese), Vancouver                     by H.N. Kwok

[Toney Mars takes pay-cut to save environment]

"¦When asked why he made this change, he said simply, ˜I just find my present work more meaningful.¦"

1995-12-18                             Chinatown News                                         by Wanda Chow

[Chinese environmentalist campaigning to change centuries-old tradition]

"¦ Perhaps because Marr is a Chinese person willing to speak out¦ he has had plenty of media attention. The publics reaction? One Maple Grove school teacher recently said, ˜For years Ive been waiting for someone like him to step forward."

1996-01-21-7                             The Vancouver Courier                             by Kerry Gold

[Chinese activist fearless]

"¦ ˜My response is, Ive got to be accountable first and foremost to myself, and Im not going to compromise myself (by worrying) about offending certain people," said Toney Mars¦"

1996-04                                         Vancouver Magazine                             by Shawn Blore

[Loaded for bear]

"¦ ˜Canadas laws could use an aphrodisiac, says Marr. ˜Where fighting endangered species trade is concerned, it is more or less impotent.¦"

1996-08-02-5                                 The Vancouver Sun                                 by Larry Pynn

[Activist angers hunters with campaign to outlaw bear hunt through referendum]

"Toney Mars is on almost every hunters hit list for his efforts to get bear hunting banned in BC¦ Marr has just completed a seven-week-tour of more than 50 BC communities¦ It hasnt been easy for Marr, who has been dogged by hunters equally determined to kill his campaign before it gets off the ground¦ ˜I know some gung fu, but I can take on only one unarmed hunter at a time, he says with a smile¦

"'Deep down inside, it's a moral issue,' says Marr, who estimates that at least 90 per cent of hunters shoot bears for the trophy and that 65 per cent actually come from urban areas.

"'It's immoral to kill for entertainment.  And abominable that adult teach their children to kill for fun.'...

"The BC Wildlife Federation has set aside $40,000 so far to counter the environmentalists.  The hunter lobby will place ads, and attempt to shadow petition canvassers as they make their way door to door...

"Realizing that hunters would probably lose a referendum on bear hunting, the Federation knows it must stop the environmentalists now.  The hunters will concentrate their efforts in pro-hunting interior communities and leave the urban areas alone.

"The hunters' message is that poaching is not out of control, that bear populations can support hunting and that hunting is a valid way for wildlife officials to manage populations.

"'Even if all the logic is on our side, it is hard to counter emotion,' Federation President John Holdstock) said.

"Saying that hunters legally kill 4,000 Black bears and 350 Grizzlies a year in BC, Marr argues that the hunting ban will help protect BC bears from inevitable onslaught of poaching to meet the rising Asian herbal-medicine trade in gall bladders.

"To that end, Marr is waging a simultaneous campaign to educate the Chinese community.

"'We have a moral obligation to lead the world," he said.  "I feel it will get much worse before, and if, it gets better.'...

"Marr... was born in China in 1944 and fled to Hong Kong with his family during the Communist revolution in 1949.  He moved to Canada in 1965, first to Winnipeg and then to Vancouver, eventually receiving his bachelor of science degree from the University of BC.

"He... worked as a geophysicist in the northern wilderness for mineral exploration companies - 'that's when I became bonded with nature' - before joining WCWC as a campaigner last year...

1996-08                     Sing Tao Weekend Magazine (Chinese), global

[When the bear hunt season opens, whose cry will be the loudest?]

"¦ WCWC campaign director Toney Mars spent June and July visiting over 50 cities and towns to publicize the initiative¦ He was interviewed by newspapers more than 100 times, and by TV and radio more than a dozen times. Along his route, he also signed up more than 1,500 volunteers¦"

1996-09                     The Common Ground, Vancouver, BC                     by Sue Fox, WCWC

[BETR vote yes in Bear Referendum]

"¦ ˜¦BC has the potential to become the ecotourism capital of the world, if we start conserving our natural resources right now, Toney said¦ Toneys road tour drew numerous highly dedicated volunteers and widespread media support as well as audiences of hostile hunters¦"

1996-11-19-2                     The Globe and Mail, national                             by Gordon Gibson

[The bears and the ballot]

"¦ On December 8 in BC, if the WCWC has its way, bears will have a date with democracy¦ Its gladiator in this fight is Toney Mars, a Chinese-Canadian born in China¦ Mr. Marr feels a special ethnic responsibility and status in this crusade, which he has been pursuing with extraordinary intensity, barnstorming the province¦A campaign to vastly increasing penalties against poachers¦ would have been far simpler. Probably 99% of BC would support that one. / But in the environmental movement, the WCWC is the hard-line ayatollah of the preservationist religion. It has chosen to go for the bundle, at the risk of ending up with nothing¦"

1996-08-17-6                 The Vancouver Sun, [Westcoast People]             by Mia Stainsby

[Caught at cultural crossroads “ Chinese-Canadian environmentalist upsets some Asians and Caucasians alike as he fights against the use of animal parts as Chinese medicines, among other traditions]

"Toney Mars, the man who's threatening to take all the fun out of bear hunting... is in a show down with hunters, who aren't taking too kindly to his quest... The winding path that brought him to this juncture appeared before him unexpectedly.

"In truth, Marr would rather be with his 'baby', a book over 800 pages long, called [OMNI-SCIENCE - A New Cosmology], which he began writing in 1978.  

"So, what is he doing in conflict over bear hunting, after spending decades writing about cosmic harmony?  On a recent tour of 40 BC interior communities, he faced roomsful of angry hunters and has a fistful of press clippings about the dust-ups.  On the other hand, he also found supporters in these communities.

"Being Chinese-Canadian has almost everything to do with Marr's environmental activism.  The more he heard about the Chinese use of animal parts, especially parts from  animals on the endangered species list, the more he felt compelled to speak up.

"'Something's got to be done about this,' he said to his (mostly Caucasian) friends.  'And I think a Chinese person should do it.  And I think you're looking at him.'  That was three and a half years ago...

"On the subject of hunting, Marr has killed animals and understands the hunter.  'When you own a gun, you really want to shoot it.  A gun demands to be fired at something alive,' he says.

"Which explains how, in 1966, he joined in a 'yahoo' killing during his working stint in the bush as a geologist's helper.  He remembers the date because the incident was etched in his mind...

"At camp, one of the men's wives had flown in.  She saw the dead mountain goat and broke down and cried, 'Several minutes ago, this was a majestic creature.  See what you've done!'  

"It was a turning point for Marr, and the beginning of a new respect for wildlife.  'I was deeply moved by her.  I've never fired my gun since.'...

"'I was going to finish my book last year, but all of a sudden my time was usurped.  Saving endangered  species.  It was more urgent, but the book, whenever it comes out, will remain the central core of my achievement.'

"His book, he says, is an integration of all the sciences and -ologies into a single body, which he calls Omni-Science.  'I look at nature from all angles at once, which gives forth a new philosophical system where we human beings find a place...'

"Love may have something to do with Marr's critical take on Chinese culture.  'My first true was a Chinese woman, but her family forced her to break up with me or suffer the pain of being disowned,' he recalls.  'That is a fate worse than death for a Chinese girl, and so she acquiesced.  Her parents felt our two families' social positions didn't match.  That was in 1967, and I became very disenchanted with the Chinese culture because of it.  I've never dated a Chinese woman since,' he said.

"The Chinese reaction to Marr is mixed.  At schools, where he gives talks on the Asian use of animals, he gets enthusiastic support from students (many of whom being of Chinese descent).     

"¦ ˜When Im on Chinese radio talk shows, two of the most common questions are: "Why are you trying to blacken the Chinese reputation?" and "What is more important, humans or animals?'

"'My answer is that, on the contrary, I'm trying to save the Chinese reputation from eternal damnation, because if we carry on the way we have and drive some of the species to extinction, then our reputation will be forever mud, and we can never regain respect in the eyes of the world.  I tell them that I'm working for human beings too.  What kind of world are we passing on to our kids?'...

1996-12-17                     Positive Action News, Victoria, BC                     by Nicholas Ford

[The fight to help bears through the tool of law]

"¦ Toney Mars is Octobers hero¦ He has bravely faced up to repeated intimidation from hunters and debates them on lecture tours.  He is a man with a vision¦ (His) activism in BC on bears is based on excellent foresight¦"

1996-12-28                     The Vancouver Sun, West Coast People

[1996s Top 10 - The leaders who made a difference]

"¦ Toney Mars¦has been in a showdown with bear hunters, who arent taking kindly to his quest¦"

1996-12                             Sing Tao Daily News (Chinese), global

[Three Chinese-Canadian eco-warriors]

"¦ Toney Marss prime motive is to ensure a healthy and beautiful world for our children¦ He plans to go straight into the tigers homelands - India, China¦ to save them where they live¦"

1997-03                             New Internationalist magazine                        by Ross Crockford

[Bad Medicine - Ross Crockford tells the story of a man who has stepped on toes from Campbell River to Hong Kong to stop a pernicious trade¦]

"Toney Mars knows what it feels like to be endangered.  Last summer the Vancouver environmentalist was touring small towns in British Columbia... Often the reception he got was downright hostile.  Many people in the countryside claimed he was trying to destroy their livelihood and their heritage...

"Now, Marr is taking his campaign around the world... He knows there will be some risk; organized crime is directly involved in the endangered species trade... But after tangling with British Columbia's hunters, he should be ready."

1997-04-24-         The Georgia Straight magazine, Vancouver, BC         by Shawn Blore

[Bloody Superstition - Toney Mars wants to stop the medicinal use of tiger products before it destroys a magnificent species]

"... Pessimist give the world's tigers 5 years.  Realists, 10.

"They're the kind of numbers that make you want to quietly despair, to give up, to flip the channel and think about something more pleasant.  Melrose Place maybe, or Roseanne.  Marr, however, whether from a sense of conceit, ignorance, or a staggering sense of confidence, saw nothing impossible in the task of bringing the tiger back from the brink...  

"... To highlight the extent of Vancouver's tiger trade, Marr kicked off a media blitz in January 1996.  Local journalists were invited on an endangered species tour through Chinatown's apothecaries.  The tour began in the low-ceilinged warren that serves as WCWC's headquarters.  Marr upended his leather briefcase , spilling out 15-20 boxes of Chinese patent medicines: tiger plasters, tiger pills, tiger-based medicaments for rheumatism, tired blood, soft bones, and sexual impotence, all of them purchased in shops in Vancouver's Chinatown.  Pointing to the ingredients lists on the diverse packages, Marr picked out the symbols, words, and phrases that in Latin, English and Chinese spelled out 'tiger bone'.

"The next part of the tour was a trip along Pender, Main and Keefer Streets, with Marr indicating here and there the shops and apothecaries dealing in tiger medicinals and inviting  journalists to go in and check the shelves for themselves.  Six shops out of 10 stocked a variety of boxes, cartons and bottles labelled with some variation of the word Os Tigris - tiger bone.

"The media loved it.  Marr made it on to TV news both locally and nationally, and stories appeared in city magazines and community papers.  He used his pulpit to heap scorn upon Canadian wildlife regulations.  'Canada's wildlife laws could use an aphrodisiac,' Marr said, 'because right now, they're totally impotent.'  He was equally hard-hitting in his presentations to Chinese community groups and at Eastside Vancouver high schools.  Traditional Chinese medicine's use of parts of  animals like tigers and rhinos, Marr said, and the cutting of many urban trees for that matter, were based on nothing but pure superstition.  That superstition was destroying a magnificent species.  The fact that the practice was tolerated by the Chinese-Canadian community only blackened their reputation in mainstream Canadian society.

"Environmentalists heaved a sigh of relief.  Here was someone tackling a problem they had long known about but dared not touch.  'It's great that it's a Chinese person doing the work he's doing.' said Nathalie Chalifour, World Wildlife Fund Canada's tiger expert, 'because when it's a person like me doing it, well, I'm white; I'm more likely to be accused to being racist, which is really unfortunate, but it does happen.'

"Vancouver's Chinese media were as quick to jump on the story as their English counterparts.  Marr's campaign was covered by both the Ming Pao and the Sing Tao newspapers, and he appeared on several Chinese language radio programs.  According to Ming Pao  columnist and CJVB radio host Gabriel Yiu, the Chinese community's reaction to Marr's campaign was mixed.  His straight talk on superstition did offend some, but there was also those who took pride in the fact that a Chinese Canadian was working on environmental concerns.  'For a long period of time when people are talking about monster homes, tree cutting, killing wild animals for some of their body parts,' Yiu said, 'people do have the impression that the Chinese community is the cause of that.  I think the work Toney did set a very good example that we do have people in the Chinese community who are concerned about these issues.'...

"According to Vancouver city councillor Don Lee, Marr's effectiveness was limited... 'I don't know Toney Mars that well.  The Chinese Community doesn't know him well at all,' Lee said.  'We don't know where he comes from.  We don't know why he's doing all this.'  As it turns out, those are two of the most interesting questions that could be asked about Toney Marr.

"Born in February 1944, in southern China, Toney Shiu-Sang Marr fled to Hong Kong along with the rest of his family shortly after the Communist revolution.  Family tradition has Marr's father burning the deeds of the family's extensive land-holdings for a moment's warmth during the first refugee winter...

"(In 1965), Marr came to Canada to study science at the University of Manitoba... At the same time, his relationship with a Hong Kong girl fell to bits when she dropped him on orders from her parents.  Marr has never forgiven Chinese culture for the snub.  'As a result of that incident, I have never dated a Chinese girl again,' Marr said.  It's a decision that isolated him somewhat from the Chinese community, but, according to Marr, it also allowed him to integrate more fully into Canadian society than other Chinese immigrants of his generation.

"In 1966, Marr switched over to the physics department of the University of British Columbia.  His summers he spent in the bush in northern Manitoba and British Columbia, working as a geologist's assistant.  It was work that can only be idealized by someone who has never done it.  Marr said, 'The student is the geologist's personal servant - more like slave, considering the pay, which was only $280 per month.  I made and carried his lunch, and every few feet, the geologist  would pick up a rock sample about twice the size of my fist and drop it into my knapsack.  I had to carry that ever-heavier thing all day, wading into swamps that would sometimes come up to my chest or higher.  Your shirt would be black with flies and mosquitoes.  There could be a bear behind every tree.  It was brutal, but also absolutely beautiful.  And this was how I bonded with nature.

"After he graduated with a B.Sc. in 1970, Marr took a job as a live-in house-father for emotionally disturbed kids, then a career in real estate.  He said he had a heavy student loan to pay off.  One senses he also had a need to gain acceptance among the Vancouver business community.  'I made rookie of the year, then Gold Club, Diamond Club, all that,' Marr said.  'I bought a couple of horses - hunters-jumpers - and got involved with the high social elite you see down in Southlands.'  Snap shorts from the time show a short-haired Marr in boots and riding breeches, sitting atop a tall bay gelding.

"The real estate phased continued for several years.  Marr bought a small acreage in the suburbs.  He dated but never married.  'The work first became routine, then boring, then irksome, then unbearable.  I was still good at it, but the initial challenge was gone,' he said.  

"About this time, things took a strange turn.  Whether from boredom, a need to be alone, or perhaps simple a desire to see the sights, he left his job and set off on a solo journey in East Africa, primarily in the Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Olduvai Gorge region of Tanzania.  At some point during that three month sojourn, something happened that changed  the whole focus of Marr's life.  'If you want to be dramatic, you can say it came to me all at once in a blinding flash while I was camping on the savannah, but really, it developed very gradually.'  What Marr was  catching sight of was a completely new philosophical system, one that in Marr's view is comprehensive enough to explain the organization and development of life, society and the Cosmos itself.

"The full tenet of this system came to him in dribs and drabs over a period of many months during and after his return.  Marr collected each of these thoughts on a file card - more than 1,000 of them by the end - and worked at ordering, arranging, and reordering them, trying to assemble his thoughts into a coherent whole.  The process took years.  Marr's live-in girlfriend walk out.  'I really shouldn't be living with someone at that point," Marr said.  'I had to have my own room.  I had to have a "DO NOT DISTURB" sign on the door, and if anybody as much as knocked, my tenuous mental construct would fall down like a house of cards.'  The net result of his shuffling and reshuffling, typing and retyping, was a manuscript more than 800 pages in length, describing a new and comprehensive philosophical and phenomenological system.  Marr christened it OMNI-SCIENCE....

"At first glance, OMNI-SCIENCE bears some resemblance to the ideas of the Jesuit philosopher-scientist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.  Both suggest that the development of humanity must logically proceed in a converging upward spiral, which Marr calls Integrative Transcendence, towards ever-superior levels of organization and unity.  Marr, however, is quick to point out how his system differs from those of other western philosophers.  'I've read Kant and Schopenhauer and Russell and Nietzsche,' Marr said, 'but they're not cosmic enough.  They're too anthropocentric, too narrowly focused.'  Marr's system purportedly incorporates everything - inorganic and organic - throughout the Universe, from the Big Bang to whatever end, all participating in the multi-levelled Integrative Transcendence spiral towards universal consciousness.

"Hogwash?  Possibly.  Even Marr himself had doubts (about the acceptability of his system in the eyes of high academia).  In the late 80s, Marr tossed both manuscript and portable type-writer into his little green Toyota Celica and set off down the West Coast to test his ideas with the best academic minds he could find.  One of the stops was the University of California at Berkeley, and another was Stanford.  'This was when my sales training paid off.  When I got to town, the first thing I'd do was find a course catalog and look up the professors who were teaching the courses I liked.  Back in my hotel room, I'd crank out a dozen or so letters.  "Dear Dr. so and so, I have a matter of philosophical interest that I'd like to discuss with you.  The time required would be about two hours..."  hen I'd go to campus and put the letters into their cubbyholes.  The next day, I'd call and ask for an appointment.  We'd talk for two hours, and at the end, I'd ask for a letter of critique.'

"The good professors' reactions to this approach can be discerned from the letter written by William Kimbel, president of the Institute of Human Origins at Berkeley: 'Owing to the large number of half-baked theories on cosmology currently in circulation, I admit that I faced the prospect of my meeting with Mr. Marr with some trepidation.  From the outset, however, it was clear that Mr. Marr is no amateur populariser.  On the contrary, he is a dedicated scholar whose theories, I believe, make a profound contribution to the fundamental definition of humankind in relation to the broader universe.'

"Marr received similarly effusive letters from other professors at Berkeley, Stanford, and the Universities of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia...

"Heady stuff.  Yet, more than a decade later, the manuscript remains unpublished.  |Professor Braxton Alfred of Anthropology, UBC, said he even offered to help find a publisher, but Marr said his manuscript was not yet ready for publication.  He did leave a copy of the then manuscript behind after his presentation, but due to professional pressures, Alfred didn't get around to looking at it until recently.  Reading it now, Alfred said, only increases his respect for Marr.  It also sheds light on what it was that set him on his current crusade.

"'The presentation he gave me was hard science, very thoroughly presented.  He was right on the numbers with everything in the presentation.  I presumed likewise in these documents,' Alfred said, referring to the OMNI-SCIENCE manuscript, 'but these are quite a different thing.  That man had a revelation in Africa.  There's no other way to characterize it.  It's clear that he was experiencing some sort of emotional trauma, and something touched him, and what these documents record are the revealed truth of that contact.'

"According to the manuscript, Alfred said, Marr had reached a crisis and was sitting  on a cliff in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, pointing a gun at his head.  Then, as stated in Marr's text: 'The sun went down, the moon came up, and more than my hand had begun trembling.  It was then that this mysterious source of wisdom address me for the first time: "I am searching for a miracle worker, to work a miracle upon this Earth, on my behalf.  Since you seem to have no further use of this body of yours, which seems to be in prime condition, will you surrender it to me?"'

"'That's when the entity, or whatever it is, first made contact with him,' Alfred said, 'but, apparently, the contact continues.  It seems that there is no end to it.  I would not be surprised if he has conversations with this entity still.'

"Having read the manuscript, Alfred said he is no longer puzzled by Marr's  decision to turn away from the task of perfecting his book to work on behalf of endangered species.  'It was in Africa that this naturism force first came to the fore...'  The manuscript also gives some indication of the source of Marr's willingness to take on seemingly hopeless causes.  'He clearly came to a crisis point in his life,' Alfred said, 'and the heavens opened up and truth was revealed, and he's been going strong eversince.'

"Wherever his confidence came stems from, when the '19th-century scholar' decided to prove himself as an environmental saviour, he displayed a thoroughly 19th century sense of ambition...

"¦ Although some conservationists predict the tiger will be extinct in five years, Toney Mars is convinced he can reverse the prophecy¦

"¦ China imported the equivalent of 400 grown tigers and exported 27 million tiger derivative products from 1990 to 1993¦

"¦ About 39,000 individual tiger containing products were seized in BC in 1996, including everything from medicinals to tiger claws¦"

"A Vancouver branch of Asian Conservation Awareness Program is planning to begin an ad blitz this June, timed to coincide with the dragon-boat festival.  Ironically, Marr will likely not be invited to participate.  According to ACAP's Vancouver organizer Ling Zheng, Marr's confrontational style doesn't fit in with ACAP's approach, which hinges on establishing partnerships with the Chinese community groups and obtaining sponsorship from prominent corporations.  'We're trying to reach out to the Chinese community, so we try not to use his name,' Zheng said.  'If we mention Toney Mars, I will probably not get any help from  organizations like SUCCESS or the Chinese Cultural Centre.  He can be quite harsh towards certain Chinese people, and I've even heard that in the Chinese community he's considered like a traitor.'..."

1997-07         Discovery Channel, cable TV - Forbidden Places series

[Killer instincts]

"˜Forbidden Places examines Canadas thriving poaching trade - ¦ Only small victories can be claimed. For a bigger victory, there must be a public outrage - which may begin with programs like this."

1998-06-05-5         West Kootenay Weekender, Nelson, BC         by Darren Davidson

[Profile: Conservationist Toney Mars bares his stripes]

"Being beaten for what you believe in is nothing exceptionally shocking for animal conservationist Toney Mars¦

"˜I dont see being beaten up as being a personal sacrifice. Its a professional risk. It just comes with the job.¦

"¦ In 1996, Marr and WCWC launched one of the most high profile animal conservation crusades Canada has ever seen¦

DD: "Your story is certainly one of personal conviction." 

AM: "Well, I have a lot of respect for children. When young children, in elementary school, tell me they think killing animals for fun is wrong, I feel an obligation to champion their cause, because they cannot yet speak for themselves. That is a very powerful motivation for me¦ I also have my own personal feelings¦ and I do love these animals that they kill."

1998-07-31-5        The News Weekender, Parksville / Qualicum         by Rebecca Stevenson

[The facts contested - Toney Marss message alarms conservationists of all stripes]

"Toney Mars has a history of being targeted by hunters, and his presentation to about 30 area residents Monday was no exception.

"Marr¦ was greeted by local hunting advocates with a reaction he calls ˜typical¦

"As a Chinese Canadian, Marr feels he is in a good position to fight (the traditional Oriental use of bear and tiger parts) traditions because of his heritage. However, he has still encountered vicious racism from opponents.

"˜Some say, "You should go back to Chinatown and clan up your own mess." Another guy wrote a letter-to-the-editor saying, "Toney Mars is trying to ban the bear hunt so his countrymen have more bears to poach," said Marr.

"The activist has also paid a price for his high-profile campaign. Irate opponents have threatened, insulted, targeted, even assaulted Marr.

"That hasnt deterred Marr from spreading his message¦

"A downside of hunting is that it is anti-evolutionary, said Marr, because trophy hunters go for the most magnificent specimens in prime breeding condition, leaving the lesser ones to reproduce. Enough of this happening, and the quality of the species declines, he said.

"The hunters at Mondays presentation argued that without their presence as a ˜conservation force, more grizzlies would die at the hands of the poachers.

"Marr asked, ˜If the hunters are such effective heroes, why dont they go and hunt evil poachers instead of innocent bears?

"He said that relying in hunters to watch out for poachers is ˜like relying on wolves to safeguard sheep against coyotes, with apologies to wolves and coyotes.¦

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