A Wellesley bylaw that prohibits hunting on Sundays came under fire this week from hunting groups, who want the township to change its bylaw.
Delegates from the Nith River Wild Turkey Conservation Association (NRWTCA) and the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH) made an appeal to councillors meeting Monday night.
Sunday gun hunting, they argued, would decrease predation on crops and livestock by wildlife, help to increase public safety and potentially provide increased economic activity.
“We believe that the laws that prevent Sunday gun hunting are old and outdated. Many other townships in southern Ontario also feel this way and now allow Sunday gun hunting to occur,” said NRWTCA president Derek Snyder.
The current bylaw states that gun hunting can occur from Monday to Saturday.
Neighbouring Wilmot Township joined the 172 other municipalities across Ontario who now allow Sunday gun hunting a year and a half ago, he pointed out.
“I have members in my chapter that are finding it increasingly difficult to get a field with Saturday being the only day of the weekend that they can hunt.”
Snyder noted he sent a letter to council outlining a Waterloo Federation of Agriculture request that individual farmers and landowners be allowed to decide whether or not they want Sunday gun hunting on their property.
“It’s just like the old Sunday shopping laws, everything has changed, it’s up to the store clerk if they want to open and the WFA would like to see the same thing, leave it up to the farmer, empower them, it’s their property if they want to hunt they should be able to do so,” said Snyder.
Chuck Bender, a member of the NRWTCA, added that wildlife and the damage they do to farm crops can only be controlled through hunting.
“As a farmer, I know firsthand the damage that wildlife can have on your crops,” said Bender. “As a kid, groundhogs were our biggest concern. Now it’s deer and raccoons that do the most damage. Hunting helps to control the wildlife – 50,000 deer are harvested a year in Ontario, if we didn’t hunt there would be that many more deer destroying crops or on the roads causing accidents.”
Tony Jackson, representing the OFAH, told council that six days a week has not been effective in reducing overpopulation in some species; by adding a seventh day it would help increase harvesting levels.
“For many people hunting is a family activity, but those who work during the week only have one day where they can share this activity with other family members. By allowing Sunday gun hunting, you are doubling their opportunity to hunt.”
Coun. Herb Neher said he represented a community that had strong religious ties and was concerned how Sunday gun hunting would impact their religious practices.
“We have a very strong Mennonite community here and it’s the Sunday part that concerns me. Just because other communities have done it doesn’t make it right for our community,” said Neher.
Jackson, however, responded that given all of the activities now commonplace on Sundays – including shopping, gambling, beer and liquor purchases – it is unlikely that Sunday gun hunting would disrupt a community.
“For the record, the province of Quebec, which has the highest level of religious participation in Canada, has Sunday gun hunting,” he noted.
According to the Canada Safety Council and the National Safety Council, hunting is a safe recreational activity, advocates argued.
“The chances of someone to be harmed while walking in the woods from a hunter are less than being hit by lightning or being stung by an insect,” said Jackson. “If the threat to public safety doesn’t exist from Monday to Saturday, why would it be any greater on Sunday.”
Council agreed to take the information provided by the representatives of the NRWTCA and the OFAH to their constituents over the summer and return in September and discuss the issue further.
The municipality on at least two occasions within the last several years passed a resolution not to support Sunday hunting, most recently in 2006.
In the Region of Waterloo, only North Dumfries and Wilmot allow Sunday hunting.