| Nov 02, 2006


Legalese - November 2, 2006

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Legalese - November 2, 2006 It’s That Time AgainBy: Susan Irwin,Lawyer

“No”, I assured a recent newcomer to our community, “the gunfire you heard this morning was not the sound of the municipal election getting really ugly. The barrage you heard was merely the opening of duck and goose season.”

I went on to explain that people recently transplanted from the city are often temporarily confused by their first exposure to hunting season, usually at dawn on a crisp Autumn day. Still to come however, is the loud crack of gunfire that heralds the start of deer season. Sounds and sights that can be startling indeed to somebody who expected to enjoy the bucolic fall existence in their country retirement home.

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While visions of venison may be foremost in hunters’ heads, from a lawyer’s perspective, the issues that arise from the start of hunting season are far more serious, if no less tantilizing. The use and misuse of firearms is once again a key story in the media and a major “talking point” for our politicians just as our neighbours begin taking their guns out of their lockups and prepare to head for the hunt camp. They should be forewarned that, despite the much publicized talk about changes to the registry laws, the rules concerning the possession and use of firearms have not changed.

Hunters must have their firearms licence with them when they are in possession of their rifles or shotguns. Conservation Officers and the police may ask you to produce the licence. If you do not have a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (“PAL”) or Possession Only Licence (“POL”), you can expect to have your firearms seized and to be charged.

While in possession of a rifle or shotgun, you may also be asked to produce proof of registration. Although there is a further amnesty until May 2007 to permit the registration of rifles and shotguns without penalty, it is less clear whether the amnesty provisions will allow their use during the amnesty period. Consequently hunters should be in possession of proof of registration of their firearms before heading out to the field or else be prepared for some legal “fireworks”. Questions on gun registration should be directed to the Canadian Firearms Centre at 1-800-731-4000.

Hunters, in addition to having proof of registration and a firearms licence on their person while in possession of a firearm, must also be able to produce a valid hunting licence or Outdoors Card. Although having the wrong licence or an expired Outdoors Card does not result in a criminal record (the breach of hunting regulations is a Provincial Offence), the consequences of the breach in terms of fines, loss of hunting privileges and even imprisonment, can still be serious. Hunters should be aware that firearms violations that contravene the federal Firearms Act or the Criminal Code of Canada will result in a criminal record and that such record can have negative implications for employment and even travel to the United States.

Hunting, shooting, and the ownership of firearms is an increasingly serious business, and people engaged in these pastimes must keep up-to-date with the rules. Both the Provincial and Federal governments go to great lengths to provide information on hunting and the rules about firearms ownership, so ignorance of the law will certainly be no excuse.

Responsible hunters also know that trespassing is probably one of the most common sources of complaints to the authorities during the hunting seasons. If it’s not Crown Land, and you don’t have clear (preferably written) permission to hunt on land that is not your own, STAY OFF THE PROPETY. Property does not have to be “posted” – the onus is on the hunter not to wander where he or she is not welcome.

We would also advise those hunters who use All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) that they must check in advance to find out the rules for each township they intend to hunt in before they use their ATV on the roads. They should also remember that an ATV is a motor vehicle under the hunting regulations.

Yes, it is that time of year again. Many people look forward to it, and some endure it. Whatever your perspective on the season, let’s all hope that it’s a safe one and one that passes without the need for legal advice.

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