British Columbia

North Vancouver taken to B.C. Supreme Court over pigeon ban that targets a councillor's neighbour

The only person affected by the District of North Vancouver's recent vote to prohibit the ownership of pigeons has filed a petition, asking the new bylaw be struck down. 

Municipality conducting its own investigation led by former B.C. privacy commissioner

Kulwant Dulay is pictured in his pigeon coop where he keeps homing pigeons at his home in the District of North Vancouver. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A controversy on the North Shore involving a ban on pigeons is heading to the B.C. Supreme Court.

The only person affected by the District of North Vancouver's recent vote to prohibit the ownership of pigeons has filed a petition, asking the new bylaw be struck down. 

Kulwant Dulay, who owns more than a dozen pigeons, argues the bylaw should be declared invalid because the ban is aimed solely at him. 

Prior to the bylaw being passed 4-2 by council last month, district staff said it only knew of one person who owned pigeons in the district, and it only had one active complaint file — later revealed as Coun. Betty Forbes, his next-door neighbour. 

Forbes had recused herself from the vote, citing a conflict of interest and had complained about Dulay's pigeons for over two years, at one point saying they would have a negative effect on her property values. 

While those comments were made while Forbes was a private citizen, according to Freedom of Information documents Forbes emailed councillors after being elected, explicitly asking them to bring forward a bylaw banning pigeons.

"She didn't like pigeons flying in the air," said Peter Roberts, a lawyer with Lawson Lundell representing Dulay.  

"We say that the underlying purpose was to satisfy the personal interests of Coun. Forbes and nothing more. And that bylaw was engineered in that way and therefore is illegal."

The petition also makes public the file the district had on Dulay's pigeons, which spanned a period of more than two years and was prompted by around a dozen emails and phone calls from Forbes over that time.  

The district has three weeks to respond to the petition. 

North Vancouver District Coun. Betty Forbes reads a statement to council on Nov. 18, 2019, defending the actions she took to recuse herself from a conflict of interest around a proposed ban on pigeons. (Harman/CBC News)

District investigation underway

The petition came a day before North Vancouver announced the details of its own investigation into the bylaw.

Former B.C. privacy commissioner and deputy attorney general David Loukidelis will conduct a review of how council came to pass the pigeon bylaw and will also review "awareness on the part of Council members ... on conflict of interest and ethical obligations."

The district expects the review to take two months and will be made public afterwards. Loukidelis will also have the power to make recommendations, and council will have an opportunity to reconsider the bylaw, if it chooses.

Roberts said he was hopeful councillors would take that action. Previously, ownership of pigeons had been allowed in the district since 1971, and 18 of 21 Metro Vancouver municipalities allow them.  

"The district could always do the right thing and simply rescind the bylaw and save Mr. Dulay the expense, time and stress of having to go forward with litigation of this nature."

The district announced the investigation two weeks ago, after CBC News provided Mayor Mike Little emails from Forbes requesting a pigeon ban while a councillor. 

A number of North Vancouver individuals are also raising money to take legal action against Forbes, alleging she contravened the B.C. Community Charter that states a councillor with "direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter" must not "attempt in any way, whether before, during or after such a meeting, to influence the voting on any question."

The charter states the penalty for such a breach, unless done in good faith, is disqualification from office. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin McElroy

@j_mcelroy

Justin is the Municipal Affairs Reporter for CBC Vancouver, covering local political stories throughout British Columbia.

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