Sask. Justice Minister says province looking at rules and restrictions of bear spray

Following the Manitoba government requiring vendors who sell bear repellent to obtain photo identification from customers to curb a rash of attacks involving the spray, the Saskatchewan government is now watching closely to see what follows.

Earlier this week, the Manitoba government announced that retailers would also submit the buyer’s information to the provincial government and register the serial numbers for any sale of more than two cans, with buyers having to specify the intended use of the bear spray.

Minister of Justice Bronwyn Eyre said they are watching provinces like Manitoba and B.C. with a lot of interest.

“We are looking very hard at what we could do here in Saskatchewan around regulating bear spray potentially as a restricted pesticide; there is increase concern about the use of bear spray as a weapon.”

“We are following what they are doing in terms of approach, and we could look at putting in place a record of sale, a license, asking for photo I.D., validated customer information, and the intended purpose for the bear spray,” she continued. “We could look at a province wide-ban. There are a number of areas that we are looking at.”

Manitoba’s Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the new requirements should deter people from using bear spray illegally but not prohibit legal purchases.

He adds that the province is considering an age requirement to purchase bear spray in Manitoba.

Over the weekend, the Regina Police Service reported an assault where two people were victims of a bear spray attack. Eyre said they had noticed the increased use of bear spray in criminal incidents.

“We have to get actual numbers on bear spray use, certainly talk to our law enforcement community, find out where it’s coming from, including whether it’s online, what form of bear spray is being used, as we look at what other provinces are doing and what we can do,” Eyre said. “We want to get a very good sense of how best to address it and in what areas.”0

Eyre said the biggest challenge is restricting it for criminal use but still allowing it for its intended use.

“That is the issue we want to make sure we get right in terms of that balance. There aren’t a lot of bears in downtown Regina, Saskatoon, in urban areas, that isn’t really where you see use or need for bear spray. Looking at the wilderness side of it versus when the bear spray is weaponized. That’s what B.C. has been grappling with, that’s what Manitoba is addressing, and that’s what we intend to address as well.”

The Justice Minister noted that municipalities have the option to enact bylaws to try and limit criminal use, but they are also limited in what they can do.

“I think the issue around municipal bylaws is that they only apply to that municipality, and so where you have an ordered product online, and you cross from one municipality to another, or across the province, there is a non-harmonization there in terms of laws and addressing the issue,” she said .”I think provinces are looking at this in terms of how a province can step in to harmonize things around bear spray.”

Manitoba and Saskatchewan have previously said they want people who commit violent offences with knives and modified bear spray to face tougher conditions when applying for bail.

with files from The Canadian Press

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