In Fort St. John, the issue of allowing backyard hens is an idea yet to hatch.
Though city council shelved the idea in 2018 over bylaw and SPCA capacity concerns, byelection candidates were asked at the All Candidates Forum this week whether they would bring back the issue back to council if elected as a matter of food security.
Here are their responses:
Jon Gosselin: Absolutely, not just backyard hens but gardens in our front lawns. Why are we relying on outside sources to feed us when we can do that ourselves? It just doesn’t make any sense to me.
Tom Whitton: This whole topic has been controversial since it first started. My personal opinion on it is that if what’s happening in your backyard is not harming somebody else's property, and you can add some value to your own life in some way, that’s important. As a council, I think we need broad public input on these factors. That’s the big thing, going back to the community and saying, hey, what do you guys want?
Jim Lequiere: My answer to that is yes, but it’s just not that simple passing a bylaw to allow backyard hens. The reality is what do your neighbours say on either side? Are they opposed to hens? What happens to the hens when they escape? Is it the SPCA issue, or the bylaw officer's issue? As it is now, the City of Fort St. John has a poundkeeper agreement with the SPCA for dogs and cats, not chickens. So either the city must hire more bylaw officers to deal with our feathered friends, or allow the SPCA to take over the whole animal control law and enforcement, which is a very hefty price tag.
Trystan Jones: I definitely think we can do more to perhaps bring hens back in to town. Like Jim said, there’s definitely a lot more nuances to it then just simply passing a motion. As someone who grew up on a farm, we grew our own food and hunted our own meat. Having food sustainability is vitally important. It’s also vitally important for creating sustainable communities that don’t necessarily need to be purchasing their goods from the local Safeway and they can do it at home. This will provide more sustainability not just within our families but also within the community.
Sarah MacDougall: Food security is a big issue facing us today and the step toward backyard hens is a step in the right direction for food security. I also agree that we need engagement, we need to hear from the community, because whatever we do in our backyards does impact our neighbours. So we need to ensure that folks are on board if we want to move forward with this.
Watch a replay of the May 3 All Candidate Forum below:
Voting will take place at the Pomeroy Sport Centre May 15, with advance voting opportunities May 5 and May 12. Voting will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on those days.
Special voting opportunities will take place May 13 at Peace Villa from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.; Peace Lutheran Apartments from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.; and Heritage Manor from 4 to 5 p.m.
A special voting opportunity will take place May 15 at the Fort St. John Hospital from 1:30 to 3 p.m.
The new councillor will take their Oath of Office on May 25.
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