Ontario's Anglers and Hunters not impressed with Huntsville's new proposed Firearms Bylaw

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Agatha Farmer

It seems an outdated Firearms bylaw prompted a complaint letter from Ross W Maund, President of the Woodland Heights Community Association to the town of Huntsville in May. The letter was sent to Coun. Tim Withey in which Maund writes on behalf of the association members and points out that the last amendment to Huntsville's Firearms bylaw was in 1999.

" Our concern is that the area within the Town of Huntsville now known as Woodland Heights community did not exist in 1999 and at that time was forested lands and wood lots primarily owned by William Waterhouse. During the most recent by-law amendment, the boundaries domain for the use of firearms did not include these specific land areas and adjacent lands. Today,Woodland Heights (the lands referred to above) have 90 residential homes and over the next few years will be fully built out to its 120 home maximum. There is a population of approximately 400 residents within this residential area and an expected population o fabout 500 within a few years. Post to the approval of the Woodland Heights community subdivision plan by the Town of Huntsville, the town did not amend this by-law in the interest of safety of residents who would be occupying said lands," Maund wrote.

As a result during the town's council meeting on May 27 staff were directed to conduct a review of the Firearms Bylaw. In their July report on the matter Huntsville town staff had new recommendations as well as expanded maps of areas where firearm use is permitted within the muncipality. The report states that "interestingly, there is no provincial or federal legislation or regulation which governs where a firearm may be used within a certain distance of a dwelling unit. As a result, this type of by law is commonly enacted by many municipalities in the interest of public safety."

And it seems that without much public consultation in a town named after the sport of hunting staff drafted a new bylaw which while allowing shooting for protection, hunting and sport also

Staff noted in the report that within the last 3 years the Bylaw Department has received approximately 10 inquires or concerns in regards to the discharge of firearms within the municipality. Only one of these inquires or concerns was within the Woodland Heights area. No inquires or concerns have been in the surrounding areas of Swallowdale Road, East Browns Road and Muskoka Road 23, as such staff did not included the surrounding area in the restricted boundary zone.

The new draft bylaw evoked response from residents on social media as well as from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters. The organization in a July 15 letter to council said that "over the last decade, the OFAH has been involved in approximately 100 discharge bylaws at municipal councils across the province. In many cases, local councils or staff have contacted the OFAH seeking our assistance in crafting these bylaws, given our expertise in this matter . We have also appeared at dozens of committee and council meetings across Ontario to make presentations on discharge bylaws and have worked in partnerships with those same municipalities to create a bylaw that does not impede legal hunting, trapping and /or recreational shooting opportunities, while respecting public safety."

Upon reviewing the proposed bylaw, the OFAH had the following comments and recommendations for council.

1. Definition section 1.3 “firearm(s)” – we are very concerned with the definition that you are using for a firearm . A firearm, for the purposes of legal hunting, trapping and/or recreational shooting, is not a weapon. A weapon is used to commit crimes or hurt someone. While we realize that you are likely looking at definitions from a number of locations, it is importa nt to remember that many definitions speak to criminal acts. Legal hunting, trapping and/or recreational shooting activities are not criminal acts and should not be grouped in the same category as such. A firearm, used for hunting, trapping and/or recreati onal shooting , is not a weapon. 2. Prohibitions section 2.1 c) – we are seeking justification as to why the town is attempting to prohibit the discharge of firearms within 100 meters (328 feet) of all the waterbodies shown is Schedule A:8.

3. Exemptions section 3.1: d) official name is the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, rather than Ontario Association of Anglers and Hunters. h) as per the provincial hunting regulations, and in accordance with the Fish & Wildlife Conservation Act, 1997, hunting is permitted one half - hour before sunrise until one half - hour after sunset. h & j) we are seeking justification on the property size requirement of three hectares (7.4 acres) in order to discharge a firearm and/ or bow , when provincial regulations do not call for such a requirement. Three hectares (7.4 acres) is far to restrictive (especially when using a bow), and we would recommend eliminating the minimum acreage requirement, or at minimum, reduce the size.

Following the OFAH letter as well as community feedback the town of Huntsville decided to postponed the firearm bylaw discussion until Aug 27 and has opened up a feedback line on the town website. Resident comments and questnios are being collected until 4 p.m. on Friday, September 4.

While awaiting further feedback perhaps the town while correcting the OFAH spelling in the draft should also amend the mayors name at the bottom of their new bylaw from Scott Aitchison to Karin Terziano, just a suggestion. And on that note since the town is revisiting old bylaws perhaps a new fresh look at a plastic bag ban would also be a worthy cause for town councillors.

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