Dr. Éric Fortier, M.B., an orthodontist, of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, is a recipient of the Medal of Bravery, a Canadian honour for acts of heroism, for fighting off an attack by a polar bear that mauled two other people.
The citation reads: On July 27, 2001, Éric Fortier confronted a polar bear that was attacking two of his camping companions at the Soper River, in Katannilik Territorial Park Reserve, Nunavut. In the early morning hours, the bear ripped open the tent where Mr. Fortier and his partner were sleeping. Their screams drove the bear away but the animal turned on their friends, savagely mauling them as they tried to exit their own tent and escape. Ignoring the danger, Mr. Fortier threw rocks at the animal while yelling at it in an attempt to scare it off. Seeing that his efforts were in vain, he confronted the bear and stabbed it repeatedly in the throat with a pocketknife until the wounded animal retreated into the woods. Mr. Fortier and his partner then helped their injured friends into a canoe and paddled eight kilometres across the river to find help. The victims recovered from their injuries.
A polar bear clawed through two tents in the Katannilik Territorial Park Reserve. A woman and man inside screamed, prompting the bear to run to a second tent where two friends were sleeping.
As the animal began attacking the second couple, the man in the first tent grabbed a small pocket knife and ran towards them.
“I had a knife, so I started to stab the bear under his lower jaw,” recalled Eric Fortier on Saturday. The blade was only about eight centimetres.
“It seemed to have worked. He went away after that. When you see your friends getting hurt you have to do something.”
Two people remain in hospital in Iqaluit, about 100 kilometres from the camp site. Alain Parenteau, 31, received injuries to his head, neck, and side. Patricia Doyon, 25, had more than half a dozen gashes to her back and leg.
“When the bear pushed me to the ground, I was just thinking that it’s not possible, that it cannot end like this,” Doyon told CBC Radio from her hospital bed.
Both recovered, although Parenteau narrowly missed having a jugular vein cut.