Hunting on lakeshore remains a ‘grey area’

Section: 
News

By Barb McKay 

It remains unclear who is responsible for regulating hunting along the shoreline of Lake Huron, but Huron-Kinloss will monitor the situation this fall.

The issue of hunting along the lakeshore, particularly in the Point Clark area, has been a cause of contention for residents who cottage and live in that area and has brought several of them to township council meetings over the past few months. The township has consulted its solicitor whose opinion is that while the township can regulate hunting inland in residential areas with its bylaws, it has no jurisdiction over Crown lands, namely the beaches, and if it were to pass a bylaw it would not be enforceable.

On Aug. 20, the township received an email from resident Jill Gausden informing staff and council of correspondence she had received from the Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF), Bill Mauro, on the issue.

“Your municipality has the authority to pass bylaws with respect to the discharge of firearms for public safety reasons,” Mauro said in his letter. “Under section 119 of the Municipal Act, 2001, ‘a local municipality may, for the purpose of public safety, prohibit or regulate the discharge of guns or other firearms, air-guns, spring-guns, cross-bows, long-bows or any other weapon’. This is not something that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry can enact or enforce on behalf of your township. If municipality limits do not extend out into Lake Huron, the bylaw would not apply there, but it would apply on any Crown land within municipality limits.”

In a report to council during its meeting last Wednesday, clerk Sonya Watson said the township once again obtained an opinion from its solicitor, which remained unchanged; that the province owns the land along the shoreline and can control the use of it.

“Staff, council and the solicitor were very aware of section 119 of the Municipal Act, 2001 that grants municipalities the authority to enact by-laws including a by-law that prohibits the discharge of a firearm, in prescribed areas of the municipality,” Watson said in her report. “However, the real issue here has always been enforceability on Crown land and the opinion of the Township solicitor still indicates this is a ‘grey area’.

“There is also concern with an unarmed Municipal By-Law Enforcement Officer trying to issue a ticket to an armed by-law offender. Enforcement options would have to be considered should Council choose to consider such a by-law. Lastly, as discussed previously and presented by the MNRF in our discussions a no discharge of firearms by-law could result in an increase in the geese population along the lakeshore as experienced in other areas and this may result in unfavourable conditions for the enjoyment of the beach.

“While the safety of the residents is the ultimate concern for everyone we again present facts for Council’s consideration that show passage of a no discharge of firearms by-law for the lakeshore area would result in enforcement issues from a legal and hands on stand point.”

The township’s bylaw officer has been instructed to monitor hunting activity along the lakeshore this fall. Residents who have complaints can contact the MNRF tips reporting line at 1-877-847-7667.

In related news, the township has formalized its agreement with the South Bruce OPP for policing service and will be establishing a police services board. Watson told The Independent last week that the hunting issue will be a priority for the board.