Minto council considers request to allow Sunday gun hunting

MINTO – Council here is considering a request to allow gun hunting on Sundays within the municipality.

A delegation of area residents appeared at the Feb. 20 meeting to request council pass a resolution to implement the change.

Minto resident Jill Machan told council she, along with her husband Gerald and their two sons, enjoy hunting as a family activity.

“As rural landowners we enjoy hunting on our property for sport, sustenance and our love of nature,” said Machan.

“We hunt mainly as a group of six: the four of us, our nephew and my father, who taught the rest of us to hunt.

“Our boys are fourth generation hunters, and we know several other groups who are multi-generational hunters as well.”

Machan stated some members of their family hunting party are “young men who work hard, study hard” and have “limited days off.

“At present, Saturdays are the only day they can hunt unless they take a weekday off. However, that is costly, as losing pay in the current economy is just not feasible for them.”

Since deciding to spearhead a local Sunday hunting initiative, Machan told council, “we’ve gained a significant amount of support.

“Some of those supporters are here tonight … others have sent emails of support and numerous people have signed a petition in support of the cause.”

Mark Rykman, policy manager for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH), told council lobbying efforts from the OFAH and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture in 2005 resulted in the provincial government agreeing to liberalize Sunday gun hunting regulations in southern Ontario.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act allows municipalities south of the French and Mattawa rivers to permit hunters to use guns on Sunday.

Since 2005, 191 municipalities have elected to allow the practice, including the nearby communities of Wellington North, North Perth, South Bruce and Southgate.

A map supplied by the delegation indicates that among Wellington County’s seven lower-tier municipalities, only Wellington North and Guelph/Eramosa allow hunting with guns on Sundays.

Rykman noted the Minto restrictions don’t entirely ban the discharge of firearms on Sundays.

“A rural property owner, say a farmer that owns 100 acres of land in the municipality on the west side of Highway 6 … can spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon on their property shooting clay targets at a trapper skeet with a shotgun. They can legally do that,” he explained.

“They can discharge a shotgun for the purposes of target shooting. That same person is currently prohibited from hunting on their own property on Sundays with a shotgun.

“But just across the road, on the east side of Highway 6 in Wellington North Township, no such restriction exists.”

Rykman told council hunting is associated with “a rare triple bottom line of social, economic and ecological benefits.

“Specifically hunting can help with controlling crop and livestock predation, reduce the number of wildlife vehicle collisions, and generate revenue for fish and wildlife management in the province,” he stated.

Noting “we no longer live in a … Monday to Friday world,” Rykman said municipalities that permit Sunday gun hunting are viewed as “more attractive destination” for hunters.

“If Sunday gun hunting was allowed, many hunters who would not normally think of traveling into the municipality … might take advantage of the opportunity and bring with them economic activity for the community.”

Rykman said public safety “is often carted out as a reason to oppose hunting.”

However, he noted, since mandatory hunter safety courses were implemented in 1968, the rate of hunting accidents in Ontario has dropped from about 100 a year to “virtually nil.”

“And there’s no logical reason to think that hunting is any less safe on a Sunday than it is on the other days that it currently occurs in Minto,” he pointed out.

“Continuing to prohibit Sunday gun hunting is an untenable position given the suite of benefits associated with it.”

Councillor Judy Dirksen said she appreciated that Machan, “a rural person with hunting property,” was spearheading the delegation.

“Because if everybody was from town, or from out of the area, and they thought it was a great idea to be tramping through other people’s bushes, that that would be a different feel to me,” she stated.

Dirksen asked the delegation how many Sundays would become hunting days, based on the various hunting seasons allowed.

“We’re talking a minimal number of days specifically for deer,” said Rykman.

However, he added, the rules are “a little bit different” when “we start talking about coyote hunting, for instance, which generally is open year round.”

Councillor Ron Elliott asked why Sunday gun hunting was initially banned in most areas of the province.

“When those original Sunday gun hunting restrictions were developed back in the 1950s, religion played a greater role in in influencing legislation than it tends to nowadays,” replied Rykman.

“Not only has that changed, but also the typical Monday-to-Friday, nine-to-five work week that people might have been living back in the day largely doesn’t exist anymore.”

Machan added, “We all have different means and ways of spending family time and that definition to each of us can be very different.

“Some choose to ATV, some choose to hunt, some choose religion and some choose all of the above. And that’s all okay.

“I think Minto is definitely becoming more diversified and inclusive and I appreciate that as a resident of Minto.”

Machan also pointed out that council has shown support for a Life Outdoors Show being organized by a local group for May 4 and 5 in Clifford.

“I know fishing and hunting are going to be raised at that outdoor life show and I think, in council being supportive of that, I respectfully ask that you put some thought and consideration into our request here tonight,” she stated.

Council approved a motion directing staff to prepare a report on the delegation’s proposal for consideration at the next council meeting on March 5.