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B.C. government looking into whether to ban bear-spray across province

Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth acknowledged such a move could impact wilderness safety

Proposed changes to the Criminal Code designed to fight crime in the urban areas of British Columbia could impact bear safety in the rural parts of the province.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the provincial government has an “active file” looking into the issues around banning bear-spray.

He made these comments Wednesday (March 29) when asked whether the province would consider a province-wide ban after the City of Vancouver had passed new bylaws around the sale of bear-spray.

They prohibit sales to anyone under 19, or without identification. Stores will also have to keep bear-spray in places inaccessible to the public and keep records of sales.

Vancouver joins several large municipalities across Canada, which have limited the use of bear-spray as more and more criminals have used it. But such bylaws may be of limited use in metropolitan areas, where would-be buyers can easily cross municipal boundaries.

“If there are other things we can do to either limit it or restrict its sale, I’m more than willing to look at that,” Farnworth said.

Bear-spray is a legal product regulated by Health Canada but individuals can only purchase it for use in wilderness situations. Individuals carrying bear spray or pepper spray in their pocket while walking in urban areas may be charged for carrying a concealed weapon under s. 90 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada.

RELATED: Ottawa could toughen bail laws as early as spring: B.C. attorney general

But a more sweeping ban of bear-spray could also impact outdoor safety in the rural parts of the province, Farnworth said.

“10,000s of British Columbians go out in the outdoors in this province,” he said. “There are many parts of B.C. where you should make sure you have it (bear-spray), when you go out.”

This discussion around banning bear-spray unfolds against pending changes to legislation dealing with bail that also involve bear-spray.

Current legislation puts the onus on prosecutors to prove why accused persons should be held in custody. Accused people only have to prove why they should be allowed bail if their charge is particularly serious.

This reverse onus includes murder or attempted murder, weapons and bodily harm offences, and offences committed while a person is out on bail for a different charge. Proposed changes would expand the reverse onus to not only firearms, but also knives, blades and bear-spray.

Farnworth said British Columbia and Manitoba lobbied the federal government for that change, adding that Ottawa has told the provinces that it would like to make the changes this spring.

Black Press Media has reached out to the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia for comment.


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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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