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Pigeon keeper files lawsuit to overturn North Vancouver’s bird ban

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An embattled pigeon keeper petitioned the Supreme Court of B.C. to overturn North Vancouver’s recently passed pigeon prohibition. Photo: Pigeon closeup / Shutterstock

What started as a flap between neighbours may end as an argument between lawyers.

Embattled Lynn Valley pigeon keeper Kulwant Dulay petitioned the Supreme Court of B.C. to overturn the District of North Vancouver’s recently passed pigeon prohibition on the grounds of illegality Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges the district bylaw was aimed solely at Dulay and his pigeons and “engineered for the sole or predominant purpose of benefiting the direct and indirect pecuniary interests of Coun. [Betty] Forbes.”

The lawsuit also stated there was “no other legitimate underlying reasons for the enactment of the Pigeon Prohibition Bylaw.”

As a result of bad faith and conflict of interest, the prohibition “out to be quashed,” according to the lawsuit.

Dulay stated that he received his first objection about the homing pigeons shortly after moving into his Lynn Valley home in February 2017.

“[Forbes] spoke to me from her sundeck and complained to me about the pigeons. She complained that the pigeons were flying over her property. That was her only complaint to me about the pigeons. Since that conversation, Ms. Forbes and I have never spoken and she has not approached me with any further complaints,” he stated in his affidavit.

Dulay’s pets include 15 high flier homing pigeons, which typically do not perch anywhere outside the coop, according to his statement.

“As a general rule, high flier pigeons do not perch in trees and do not poo while in flight,” Dulay stated.

Dulay stated that he gave six pigeons to a relative in the summer of 2018. Dulay suspected those six birds were not trained properly and “might be the reason for Ms. Forbes’ complaints.”

Dulay’s lawsuit also details communication between Forbes and district staff and between Forbes and Coun. Lisa Muri regarding the pigeon bylaw, including documents first published by CBC News.

After being told via email the pigeon prohibition would not be included in council’s May 6 agenda, Forbes responded to Muri with a frowny face.

Muri wrote back: “It will be fine, we can wave [sic] the hearing . . . if we need one.”

Forbes recused herself from all public debates and votes on the pigeon prohibition. Dulay’s charges have not been proven in court.

The district formally adopted the Pigeon Prohibition Bylaw on Nov. 4, 2019, making it an offence to own, possess, or harbour pigeons anywhere in the district.

A spokeswoman for the district declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The district is obligated to file a response within 21 days.

The municipality is also conducting an internal review to determine if mayor and council violated either the letter or spirit of the law while banning pigeon ownership.

Lawyer David Loukidelis, a former Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C., is set to lead the review.

The district announced Loukidelis’ role Thursday, calling him, “uniquely qualified” given his long career in municipal law and “expertise in freedom of information law and privacy law, as well as lobbying and conflict of interest law.”

Following the two-month review, Loukidelis’ findings and any recommendations will be made public, according to the district.

Mayor Mike Little called for the review after CBC News published an email sent from Coun. Betty Forbes to Couns. Lisa Muri and Megan Curren on July 6, 2019 – two days before Muri introduced a motion to ban pigeon keeping in the district. Curren seconded Muri’s motion at the July 8 meeting.

“I am sending this to you to let you know that my priority request is to pass a new bylaw outlawing pigeons in the District of North Vancouver,” Forbes wrote on the morning of July 6.

Forbes listed several complaints involving pigeon droppings on her pool, roof, shed and fence. “They also roust [sic] on my roof, shed, fence, and trees that hang over my yard,” she wrote.

Forbes concluded the email by writing: “I will be recusing myself from discussion and voting if you feel that is best (I believe it would be).”

B.C.’s Community Charter “prohibits a locally elected official from using their office to attempt to influence a decision of the local government if that elected official has a direct or indirect pecuniary [financial] interest in the matter.”

At the conclusion of a Nov. 18 meeting, Forbes made a brief statement regarding the pigeon bylaw.

“If I have erred in any way I assure council and the community that it was done inadvertently and in good faith with my understanding, as a new councillor, of the conflict of interest rules,” Forbes said.

 

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