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Vancouver City Council will look at whether to tighten restrictions on bear spray sales because of a rise in violent attacks using the wildlife deterrent.
Between 2018 and 2022, there were 3,000 bear spray attacks reported to the Vancouver Police Department, with the proportion of attacks involving teens rising every year.
Councillors will look at a report from City staff at March 28’s council meeting and vote on tightening rules to make it harder to purchase bear spray.
City staff have recommended amending bylaws to prohibit sale of bear spray to anyone under 19, require retailers to keep it in a locked area, require sellers to keep records of each sale for 12 months, and give a list of purchasers to inspectors upon request.
Staff are also suggest making it a ticket-able offence up to $1,000 not to comply with these restrictions.
“Staff did not consider an outright ban on the sale of bear spray to ensure adults who require bear spray for its intended usage still have access to it at businesses in Vancouver,” the March 14 report said.
City Staff also want the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change to designate bear spray a restricted pesticide, which would require sellers to obtain a provincial vendor licence.
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Surrey introduced restrictions on the sale of bear spray in 1998, and Chilliwack and Port Coquitlam followed suit in 2021 and 2022, respectively. Chilliwack RCMP data indicates a 49% decrease in files involving the year the restrictions came into place compared to the previous year.
Vancouver has seen an overall increase in violent crime since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bear-spray-related offences involving youth more than doubled in 2022 compared to 2018. Some experts believe the pandemic and the rise in youth violence are connected.
“The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control identifies concerns associated with
decreased ‘school connectedness’ resulting from school closures which can lead to a number of major negative impacts on their well-being, including higher rates of violence and participation in more risk-taking behaviours,” the City report said.
Many businesses currently selling bear spray are already keeping records of sales with the product locked away, and City staff report wide support for the new restrictions from outdoor groups.