Grimsby Council set to review controversial firearms bylaw next week

By Mike Williscraft

NewsNow

Early morning gunfire, safety concerns and confrontations with hunters have become commonplace since Grimsby council altered the Town’s firearms bylaw last fall.

Petitions and posters have been been circulated in recent weeks in an attempt to get council to reconsider the changes made to a 1976 bylaw which previously banned any discharge of firearms.

Coun. Dave Sharpe got the ball rolling on the changes when he instigated changes to the bylaw in relation to bow hunting. Once the door was open, bylaw officer Henry Boese initiated input from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters who were given direct input on the creation of the new bylaw.

While Coun. Kevin Ritchie noted at the last council meeting he was concerned with staff putting in too much time in helping clear up public confusion about who is responsible for what regarding jurisdiction, there was no issue with Boese putting in time to research and reword the bylaw with OFAH.

“The Town of Grimsby will be discussing the new revised draft Discharge of Firearms By-Law next Monday evening (details for the meeting will be released on the town website on Friday, September 24). Given our direct involvement in working with the Town on this by-law, we have been granted permission to share the newly revised by-law/map with you prior to it being posted on their website, which will occur at some point tomorrow,” states a Sept 24 update on OFAH’s website.

The issue has been mired in a state of chaos and misinformation from the get-go. At council’s last meeting, Coun. Randy Vaine told those watching the Zoom feed the OPP were the agency to call about any issues only to be corrected by Boese who said Ministry of Natural Resources is actually the right agency.

According to MPP Sam Oosterhoff and an MNR official, neither is correct.

“Ducks are federally regulated migratory birds; Canadian Wildlife Service (department of Environment Canada) is responsible for duck hunting seasons,” said Curtis Lindsay, senior communications advisor for MNR.

For Oosterhoff and others, the concern is not with hunters themselves. Residents recognize they are operating with the rules which council changed, but they want those rules reversed to eliminate safety and noise concerns.

“That they are within the law, I get. That the council ‘block’ amended this to allow it, no surprise. That there have been delayed hearings since, which may or may not happen in mid-January – after the season closes – no surprise there, either. That there is public outcry that may well be ignored by the ‘block’, again, probably will be no surprise. But…one can hope,” said resident Judy Bullis.

Oosterhoff, recognizing hunters have rights when conducting themselves according to the law, suggested erring on the side of community concerns may be in order.

“Although there is a long and rich tradition of safe and humane hunting in Canada, there should always be a huge emphasis on safety. Operating live firearms in close proximity to persons enjoying local parks is concerning, as everyone should be able to enjoy public amenities without fear of stray shots or potential firearm accidents,” said Oosterhoff.

At the Dec. 20 meeting of town council, posting links on the Town’s website regarding hunting-related information was approved.

A Notice of Motion was also tabled by Coun. Dorothy Bothwell asking, “…staff be directed to review By-law 21-86 to incorporate wording to prohibit the discharge of firearms within 300 metres of the shoreline of the Town of Grimsby.”

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