Update - Ban the Cannons

A year ago we reported on a group in BC's Fraser Valley, Ban the Cannons, dedicated to replacing blueberry farmers' use of bird-deterring propane cannons, which can fire hundreds of times per day, with more environmentally responsible and effective alternatives such as netting. They have achieved considerable success in their endeavour.

Last January, the Minister of Agriculture, John van Dongen introduced new legislation restricting the cannons to at least 150 metres from neighbouring residences, operating hours between 6 a.m and 8 p.m. only, and a limit of one shot per 5 minutes. Unfortunately, there continue to be infractions of this legislation by certain farmers, and enforcement has been problematic in some cases. Furthermore, the cannons still cause a distressing level of noise pollution even under these new regulations, and the group vows to continue fighting.

The embattled residents were given a magnificent boost recently, when the City Council of Abbotsford passed a motion to work with the blueberry industry, affected residents, city lawyers and the Ministry of Agriculture to develop strategies to "ultimately eliminate'' the use of propane cannons in Abbotsford.

Furthermore, a recent invention which may prove most helpful is Walter Laidler's "Silent Sentinel", a device which causes lines of flags to rotate constantly above the blueberry fields, scaring away the birds. According to Bert van Dalfsen of the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food, this invention shows promise and it will be tested next year to determine its effectiveness and economic viability.

Whistler Rocks:
Before booking accommodations in or near Whistler Village, any quiet-seeker would be well advised to check out very carefully the proposed room in person rather than booking sight unseen (ear unheard?). Crowded pubs with large outdoor patios, many smaller establishments with external speakers, and groups of loud party-going youths ensure the rule of a culture of noise throughout the area, potentially affecting hundreds of surrounding hotel rooms.

Victoria Adopts Decibel-Based Noise Bylaw

Unfortunately, the City of Victoria, Canada, has recently changed from an annoyance-based to a decibel-based noise bylaw. While such bylaws are touted as being "objective" and therefore enforceable, members of our Society and others have found them retrogressive and problematic. The "acceptable" decibel levels are usually set to exclude consideration for the minority who are not relatively oblivious to noise, and can be set to cater to business interests as was the case in Saanich, BC. They are useless against vexatious noise sources which don't top an arbitrary decibel level such as windchimes and continuous low hums.

Furthermore, while such bylaws are sold as being easier to enforce, in fact they are often anything but. A trained operator has to be available to measure the noise level with an accepted, recently calibrated sound level meter for the citation to stand in court. This is next to impossible to accomplish for disturbances which are transient, or for the many which take place outside of business hours.

As pointed out by Dr. Jeremy Tatum, Professor of Physics at the University of Victoria, in too many cases complainants will be told that since the noise is below the prescribed limit, there is not a thing they can do about it, no matter how badly it disturbs them. The law says it is legal, and they are wrong to complain about it.

The Sylvia Hotel in Vancouver's West End is reported to be a venue providing quiet dining.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Fall, 2002

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