North Van councillors to reconsider pigeon ban amid conflict of interest allegations
The district passed a ban after a councillor who lives next to a pigeon owner privately asked for it
A majority of councillors in the District of North Vancouver say they support reconsidering a ban on owning pigeons that they passed three months ago.
The change came the same day the municipality released its investigation into its decision, which came under scrutiny after CBC News revealed it targeted the neighbour of a sitting councillor — who emailed other councillors asking them to pass the bylaw.
"I think that we ... need to reconsider and engage in a new process surrounding these issues," said Jim Hanson, one of the four councillors who originally voted in favour of the ban.
"I also think that at this point in time we should ... only apply our bylaw to people who don't already have pigeons."
Coun. Megan Curren, who seconded the motion, also said she supported reconsideration of the bylaw and is open to the idea of grandfathering in current pigeon owners.
Councillors Mathew Bond and Jordan Back, who opposed the pigeon ban in the first place, affirmed they would support a reconsideration.
"I think we can read between the lines of this report and it's pretty clear that this was not brought forward with the community's best interest or in the community best interests," said Back.
Their comments come after the district's independent report into its own actions was released.
The report lists 12 recommendations focused on increased conflict of interest training, enhancing its code of ethics and several suggestions around internal communication and requesting legal advice.
"The legal validity of the bylaw is now before the Court. It is for the Court to address those legal issues," wrote David Loukidelis, the former B.C. deputy attorney general, who was hired by the district to investigate its decision.
The district originally passed the pigeon ban — becoming the only Metro Vancouver municipality to explicitly single them out as a prohibited bird — by a 4-2 vote, with Coun. Betty Forbes recusing herself, telling council "I have been involved in a situation like this."
Remember the mysterious email councillor Muri sent to councillor Forbes that only said "please call me?" with the subject line "pigeons?"<br><br>Muri and Forbes told the investigator they can't remember what that was about. <a href="https://t.co/4Z2IyPYw1O">pic.twitter.com/4Z2IyPYw1O</a>—@j_mcelroy
An investigation by CBC News revealed the only pigeon owner staff could find, Kulwant Dulay, lived next to Forbes. Freedom of Information documents revealed Forbes complained about the pigeons for years, at one point saying they would impact her property values.
Mayor Mike Little said he supported all 12 recommendations and hoped council would endorse them.
"Most would be an obvious improvement, including a better understanding of the responsibilities of the legislation," he said, while expressing concern about a recommendation asking for council reports to go through staff first.
However, Little said he was still in favour of a ban, which is slated to come into effect in May.
"I still believe the keeping of pigeons is incompatible with our more urban community going forward," he said.
"I recognize that some members of the community get great enjoyment from them, but they are, in my view, better suited for a more rural space."
The full report can be viewed here.
While Coun. Muri did not reply to CBC News, Coun. Forbes did, saying she would not be commenting on the review due to ongoing legal proceedings.
Whether those proceedings — a civil suit in B.C. Supreme Court by Dulay against the district and a conflict of interest petition in Supreme Court against the district and Forbes and Muri, that is signed by several of Forbes' neighbours — continue to go forward is unknown.
But Hanson hopes the district takes actions to get them settled quickly.
"The very first step should be to get the other legal proceedings out of the way," he said.