If you haven’t heard the gunshots ringing off the lake, you might have heard about the issue from your neighbours or the local newspaper. The passage of Grimsby’s new Discharge of Firearms By-law back in November left a legal gap, one large enough to drive a boat of armed hunters through.
Residents and visitors who once enjoyed the safety and tranquility of Grimsby’s waterfront have been up-ended by early morning and regular waterfowl hunting on the lake, close to the shoreline.
Although the duck season in Town is over for the year, the issue will be front and centre at January 17th’s Committee of the Whole meeting.
So what happened?
The old Discharge of Firearms By-law (link here), passed in 1976 prohibited (with limited exceptions) the discharge of any firearms within the Town. It also prevented the hunting of ducks, pheasants and geese and “sport” hunting in general.
The By-law was briefly updated in August 2020 to add a few minor changes and include wording to prohibit bows after an apparent “incident” in Town exposed a legal loophole. Further public consultation to update the By-law was to take place.
Repeal – The Hunting Lobby Intervenes
The updated August 2020 By-law was short lived. The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) issued a general ‘call to arms’ advising it’s Province-wide membership of how to participate in the Town’s November 2020 online meeting regarding a new By-law. The meeting was well attended, although how many participants in the meeting were actually residents is unknown.
Council called a Special session shortly thereafter to discuss the issues arising from the public consultation. Included in the agenda was a Staff report (link here) regarding the online meeting. Members of Council discussed safety, sport hunting, areas where hunting should/should not be permitted and that more public information should be provided on the issue.
A representative from OFAH also appeared as a delegation at the Council Meeting. The OFAH rep called for a rescinding of the updated By-law and requested that Council direct:
“… Staff to work with stakeholders, like us, the OFAH, to craft a new By-law that confirms to the wishes of Council to enhance public safety while respecting legal activities like hunting which is recognized as a heritage activity by Provincial and Federal governments”.
Council honoured the request to rescind, but not the request to direct Staff to work with any particular group. The resolution passed as follows:
Fast forward almost a year later and there was some limited (most residents being unaware of) public engagement in early September 2021 in the form of another online meeting. OFAH and other participants expanded the discussion from just bows to firearms. They communicated their interest in having more firearms hunting opportunities put in the By-law, speaking to ‘pest control’, car/deer collisions, criminals not hunters being the problem and that hunting is, again, “heritage”.
The OFAH representative renewed the offer of assistance and experience in helping the Town in working on the By-law. Town Staff in closing the session, stated their intent to “meet up” with them after the public meeting.
The New By-law Emerges (21-86)
After discussion between OFAH and the Town, a “refined” By-law and Staff report emerged in late September 2021 and was passed by Council in November 2021. Although there was numerous edits between the draft and final version of the By-law, some of the smaller ones had the most impact.
The draft By-law (link here) maintained a general prohibition on discharging firearms, and restricted hunting to using a bow. By adding the word “firearms” in several places and removing specific wording that stated “No person shall discharge a Firearm in the Town” from the final version of the By-law, sport hunting with firearms was now going to be permitted in Grimsby.
This is only part of the reason why we now see “waterfowlers” floating just off-shore in Lake Ontario. Accompanying the By-law was a map detailing where bows and firearms are permitted or prohibited:
Notice anything missing? The water is not assigned any colour-coding, limiting the reach of the By-law. When you combine that with the “crafted” wording of the new By-law, the ducks and other game birds on the lake became “fair game”…. unbeknownst to residents and perhaps even Council.
Blowback of the By-law
Hunters, running for-profit boat excursions at several hundred dollars “per gun” started launching their boats, including from the ramp at Foran’s Marine and began taking aim at the waterfowl not far from Grimsby’s shoreline. Reaction exploded on social media groups with residents both caught unaware of the By-law change and expressing concerns over safety and noise.
Residents can rest easy for the time being, as the duck season officially ended on January 8th in this part of the Province. However another season, this time goose, opens up on February 27th until March 6th.
A motion has been put forward for discussion at the next meeting (January 17, 2022) that looks at the possibility of prohibiting firearms discharge on the water within 300 metres of the shore. This distance may appease some resident concerns over the waterfront hunting, but some believe this distance is still not enough to alleviate all their concerns.
Speak Up & Be Heard
How do you feel about the possibility of a 300m firearm discharge restriction on the lake? Is it unnecessary, just right or not enough?
If you want to voice your opinion, you can go about it two ways ahead of the January 17th meeting:
- Email your concerns to Members of Council at the following addresses:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Speak as a delegation at the Committee of the Whole meeting (electronic participation via Zoom):
Delegation requests must be received before noon on January 14, 2022.
The agenda for the meeting is typically posted on the Thursday afternoon before the meeting, so it can be found after January 13th under the 2022 folder (once created) at this link: