A draft firearms discharge bylaw for the Municipality of Grey Highlands will soon be going to council for a final decision.
On Aug. 24, Grey Highlands held an online public information meeting about the draft bylaw to gather comments from citizens about the matter. Grey Highlands has been working on an updated firearms discharge bylaw for several years.
Clerk Raylene Martell made a presentation about the process and explained that several years ago the Grey Highlands Police Services Board recommended to council that the existing bylaw be overhauled after local OPP officers found it difficult to enforce as some of the regulations and restrictions in the bylaw weren’t clear.
“This has been around for quite some time,” said Martell.
Drafting the bylaw required extensive research by staff and consultation with the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed down its progress. Over the past year, work on the update resumed and staff have come forward with a draft bylaw for the public and council to consider.
The draft bylaw would prohibit discharge of a firearm in any of the municipal settlement areas including the villages and hamlets within Grey Highlands.
The exception to the prohibition is for properties bigger than one acre and with owner permission.
Further proposed rules prohibit firing a gun across any highway, over any public land owned by the municipality, across lakes, or across private properties without the express permission of the owner.
Additionally, firearms cannot be discharged between one half hour after sunset and one half hour before sunrise on any property.
The bylaw also includes a number of exemptions, such as for law enforcement, which can be found in Martell’s presentation here.
Before opening the floor to questions, Martell addressed the matter of Sunday gun hunting in Grey Highlands. She said Sunday gun hunting is prohibited by provincial legislation in all municipalities south of the French and Mattawa Rivers. Municipalities that wish to permit gun hunting on Sundays are required to submit an application to MNRF to be included on the list. Martell said at this time there is no direction to pursue the submission of such an application and thus the restriction will remain.
“Sunday gun hunting will still be prohibited in Grey Highlands,” she said.
Sharon Wickens praised the municipality for updating the bylaw and asked how a dangerous wild animal in an urban area would be handled.
“The previous (bylaw) was very old and outdated and many things had changed,” said Wickens, who asked about a bear or a large cat being in a settlement area. “Where does that fall in? What is to be done about that?”
Martell said the bylaw includes an exemption for any peace officer (police officer, conservation officer or bylaw enforcement officer) to discharge a firearm in a prohibited area during the performance of their duties. She also noted that the bylaw includes an exemption for licensed trappers who may be engaged by government agencies for such purposes.
Gord Hedges asked about duck or goose hunting on local lakes. Martell explained that discharging a firearm on a local lake would not be allowed.
“(The bylaw) is stating there is no hunting on those lakes,” said Martell. “There is no real property owner for people to obtain permission.”
Jason Myers said he felt the bylaw was going too far and was an overstep for the municipality. Myers also questioned why the bylaw was coming forward with the municipal election coming up soon.
“Most of the stuff you’re proposing is already law. I don’t feel we need this bylaw,” said Myers. “There are enough laws already.”
Martell noted that council can make changes if necessary.
“Council always has the opportunity to amend, rescind or repeal a bylaw,” she said. “They can always make changes to it.”
As the meeting wound down, Martell explained she would be considering all the comments from the public and would be bringing forward a report about the bylaw to council for consideration at one of the meetings on September 7 or 21. She said at that point, it will be for council to decide how to proceed.
“I have done as much research as I can on it and it’s up to council to make a decision,” she said.
Chris Fell, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca