Montreal

Should Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue allow backyard chickens? This group thinks so

Mac Regenerative Food Hub, a sustainable food group based at McGill's West Island campus, argues it would make sense to allow raising chickens in the city, where there are already several agro-environmental science initiatives, including at McGill.

Petition calls for city to legalize poultry-raising, saying it will educate people about sustainability

A petition is calling on Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to legalize backyard chickens, but the city's mayor says that won't be happening anytime soon. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

A sustainable food group based out of McGill's West Island campus wants Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue to allow residents to raise chickens in their backyard. 

The group, Mac Regenerative Food Hub, launched a petition Friday, calling on the municipality to legalize small-scale poultry husbandry. 

So far, more than 50 people have signed the petition. Its stated goal is to have 100 signatures. Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue has a population of just under 5,000 people.

The group argues it would make sense to allow raising chickens in the city, where there are already several agro-environmental science initiatives, including at McGill University's Macdonald Campus. 

"Homegrown local poultry meat and eggs can easily be done," the petition says.

"It will be possible to educate people on the importance of animal welfare, community action and alternatives to the traditional food system."

Chickens provide more than just food

Vincent Desaulniers-Brousseau, a member of the group and the garden supervisor at the Permaculture Showcase Garden on the Macdonald Campus, says gathering signatures for the petition is a way to show the city there's interest among its residents. 

He says it started because the group wanted to be able to have chickens in the garden to help with fertility and pest control. 

Vincent Desaulniers-Brousseau, who works at the Permaculture Showcase Garden on McGill's Macdonald Campus, says the petition is just to "get the ball rolling" on using small-scale poultry husbandry to educate people about sustainability. (CBC)

Desaulniers-Brousseau explained that chickens' waste acts as an organic fertilizer for plants and would also help with the Japanese beetle, an invasive species Quebec growers are increasingly seeing in their crops. 

If the showcase garden, already a testing and teaching space, had chickens, it would also be a learning opportunity for people visiting it, he said. 

"To show people of all ages you can have animals that you care for and that can produce something for you in exchange," Desaulniers-Brousseau told CBC.

Beyond the small-scale agricultural benefits, he said, "I can tell you that [homegrown] chicken is the best chicken and [homegrown] eggs are the freshest, so I mean if you want a reason, when you'll taste it, you'll know it."

The group will also be presenting an outline of its demands and arguments to the city at a later date, Desaulniers-Brousseau said. 

"The petition is just to get the ball rolling."

No plans to legalize backyard chickens, mayor says

Mayor of Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Poala Hawa says the city has no plans to legalize backyard chickens anytime soon, and that the petition wouldn't push it to do so. 

But she invited the group to present a more detailed proposal to city council — which Desaulniers-Brousseau said he and his colleagues would be doing. 

On the island of Montreal, several municipalities and boroughs have adopted bylaws allowing residents to have a chicken coop, including Rosemont–La-Petite-Patrie and Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.

Earlier this year, the SPCA told CBC the number of abandoned chickens was on the rise as more people were taking up urban farming in Montreal. 

"We understand that wanting to raise urban chickens often comes from good intentions in the sense that people are becoming increasingly concerned about factory farming," Anita Kapuscinska, spokesperson for the Montreal SPCA, told Daybreak in May.

"People don't realize the amount of care chickens require."

With files from Antoni Nerestant and Isaac Olson

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