A report intended to clean up an issue that dates back nearly four years continued to miss the mark at Sooke council where it only succeeded in raising more questions.
Following a presentation to council, senior bylaw enforcement officer Medea Mills was sent back to the drawing board to take aim at cleaning up the district’s proposed firearms and bow use bylaw.
The issue dates back to January 2016 when council decided that farmers who were facing crop damage should be exempted from the district’s firearms regulation bylaw.
It took administrative staff a year to bring forward a bylaw amendment, but when it was presented in January 2017, council noted that it hadn’t included hobby farmers and sent it back for review.
In September 2017 council again directed staff to bring back a streamlined version of the firearms bylaw and directed that it specifically addressed bow hunting and the culling of geese.
But while the bylaw proposed to council Nov. 25 did include regulations for bows and crossbows, it did not specifically address the problem of geese. Instead, it spoke generally about the protection of agricultural crops and livestock from wildlife.
The proposed bylaw also failed to address the plight of hobby farmers, and limited the discharge of a firearm or bow to agricultural land reserve properties of at least two hectares.
“Why is it [the bylaw is] only for ALR land? Most of the farmers in this region aren’t on ALR land. I can think of only two or maybe three who are,” Ellen Lewers, a local farmer, told council.
“And why would it be for only more than two hectares? That makes no sense at all.”
Coun. Tony St-Pierre also questioned the wisdom of some of the proposed regulations.
“Were there actually any hobby farmers consulted in crafting this bylaw? There seems to be a lack of understanding that for farmers, firearms and bows are simply tools,” St-Pierre said.
“And the rule that you can’t use one within 150 metres of a structure are ridiculous.”
St. Pierre said for hobby farmers who slaughter their own livestock, for example, a rifle is the most humane and effective way of killing the animal.
“You’re telling me that I have to take a pig that I’m going to slaughter and drag it out into the middle of a field to do that? Actually, talk to farmers and you’d realize that it doesn’t make sense.”
Councillors also took issue with the anecdotal nature of some of the report’s observations.
Coun. Megan McMath pointed out that she shoots a crossbow on her property and does so safely.
“How many people have been injured by a crossbow in the last decade? Any?” McMath asked.
“I don’t support including bows in this bylaw at all.”
Following a spirited discussion on the various aspects and failings of the report, council opted to not approve the proposed bylaw as written, opting to send it back to administration for another shot at addressing their concerns.