Council seeks clarity on firearms bylaw

Council needs to reconsider or rework changes to the bylaw – particularly to control predators and the right to hunt on private property.

Sooke council will seek clarity on changes to its firearms bylaw after concerns from residents that it limits the ability of farmers to protect livestock and hunt on rural property.

Two local farmers asked council to either reconsider or rework changes to the bylaw – particularly to control predators and the right to hunt on private property.

The District of Sooke decided to update the firearms bylaw when Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks asked council for new rules to hunt non-migratory geese on farmland. Changes to the bylaw would put pressure on growing Canada goose populations and the right of farmers to keep the birds for consumption.

In revamping the bylaw, council also decided to further regulate the use of bows, crossbows, hunting and firearms use within municipal boundaries.

“You should acknowledge the rights of farmers to hunt on their property in areas currently authorized under the provincial hunting regulations,” Eric Boucher old council at its Jan. 9 meeting.

“The rules need to be fair for everyone.”

The proposed legislation will tighten the existing bylaw and ensure public safety, said Patti Rear, district deputy corporate officer, when the new bylaw was unveiled last month.

But few of the changes will address what council hopes to achieve with the bylaw, Boucher said.

“Instead what the bylaw does is increase restrictions already in place and actually has the opposite effect that it will actually reduce hunting pressure on geese,” said Boucher, who suggested council withdraw the bylaw and send it back to municipal staff for further research.

Coun. Kerrie Reay is concerned about the contradiction between the municipal bylaw and provincial and federal legislation.

“My understanding is that provincial and federal legislation prevails over municipal legislation,” she said.

Council decided to ask council for clarity on the bylaw and come back with recommendations.