British Columbia

District of North Vancouver overturns ban on keeping pigeons

Council was unanimous in its vote after its meeting on Monday, deciding to revoke the prohibition on owning pigeons anywhere in the district and return to council with a modernized bylaw with more details on how pigeons will be allowed to be kept.

Council voted unanimously Monday to legalize owning the birds again after year-long ban

A pigeon coop owned by Kulwant Dulay in the backyard of his home in the District of North Vancouver, pictured on Nov. 4, 2019. Dulay's next-door neighbour, Coun. Betty Forbes, is facing conflict of interest allegations over a year-old bylaw banning pigeon ownership. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The District of North Vancouver will once again allow residents to own pigeons after council voted Monday night to overturn an 11½-month-old ban.

Council was unanimous in its vote after its meeting on Monday, deciding to revoke the prohibition on owning pigeons anywhere in the district and return to council with a modernized bylaw with more details on how pigeons will be allowed to be kept.

Coun. Jim Hanson, who supported original bird-banning bylaw, said the process might have been broken when council took a swing at the pigeon issue last year.

"Based on comments that have been made to me by members of the community, I believe there is a perception that the process that the bylaw was passed had deficiencies," he said.

Council passed the original bird-banning bylaw 4-2 on Nov. 4, 2019. Coun. Lisa Muri, who brought forward that motion, said a decade-old rule allowing pigeons was "archaic" and needed to change to reflect the municipality's present-day urban reality.

Coun. Betty Forbes recused herself, saying only that she had "been involved in a situation like this."

Yet a CBC News investigation revealed Forbes was the only resident with an active file complaining about pigeons in the entire district. She had repeatedly emailed and phoned officials for years to complain about pigeons owned by her next-door neighbour, saying they and their coop created a disturbance and "eyesore."

After winning her seat on council in 2018, Forbes sent an email to a number of councillors — including Muri — explicitly asking them to enact a ban on owning pigeons.

Three different email conversations with Muri were titled "Pigeons," "Repeal of the pigeon bylaw" and "Keeping of Pigeons Bylaw."

Forbes, who has declined multiple interview requests from CBC News, later told council she wished she'd had further training on conflict of interest rules.

The debacle prompted several lawsuits, an independent investigation and questions about conflicts of interest — and recourse — within municipal politics. Kulwant Dulay, Forbes' pigeon-keeping neighbour, said he would drop his personal lawsuit against the district if council voted to replace the bylaw on Monday.

"It's not just good for me, but for everyone who has pigeons in North Van and everywhere," he said of the decision to overturn the ban.

"I fight for everyone. Everyone loves a bird, cats, dogs, everything. It's not just for myself, I'll fight for everyone.

"Be nice to everyone in your neighbourhood," he added.

Councillors Hanson, Megan Curren, Jordan Back and Mathew Bond brought forward the motion on Oct. 19 to change the 2019 bylaw. Forbes and Muri recused themselves from Monday's vote as, since they are being sued over the matter, they were in a conflict of interest.

On Monday, Curren said she supported the 2019 motion because of animal welfare concerns, but she believes the process was wrong. Mayor Mike Little said the same.

With files from Justin McElroy

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