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Edmonton bans sale of bear spray to minors due to overuse as a weapon

Edmonton bans sale of bear spray to minors due to overuse as a weapon

Source: Unsplash

A new bylaw in Edmonton prohibits businesses from selling bear spray to minors, a report by the city’s police department that called it one of the most commonly used improvised weapons on the streets.

The ordinance was passed with unanimous support from the city council on Wednesday.

The new regulation will include a licensing scheme and transaction record keeping requirements to ensure compliance with the new regulations. Adults will also be responsible for keeping purchased canisters out of reach of minors.

Businesses caught selling to minors will face a $2,000 fine for a first offense.

Businesses that fail to record transactions or fail to provide adequate product security and a city-approved buyer’s guide will be fined $1,000 for a first offense.

For subsequent violations, all fines will be doubled.

Bear spray products cause severe burns and irritation to the skin, eyes, nose and throat due to the high concentration of capsicum, the active ingredient in chili peppers.

Mayor Amarjeet Sohi called the ordinance “a new tool” that will allow officers to confiscate bear spray to ensure it is not used as an “unintended weapon.”

“I think this is another tool that will make our communities safer and give our regulators additional tools to make sure that bear spray is not used as an unintended weapon,” Sohi said.

The decision to ban sales came in response to an Edmonton police report from February last year, which noted that the containers were being tampered with for “illegal purposes” and that their safety mechanisms had been disabled.

“This is an issue that has certainly been identified in the communities that I represent, but across the city, especially with the data that EPS has presented, it is an appropriate approach to be able to use all the tools that are in our toolbox to address this,” said Ward Métis Coun. Ashley Salvador.

Salvador had previously called for changes to the regulation.

According to EPS, there were 22,890 bear spray incidents in the city between 2015 and 2023, 40% of which were considered violent.

Most reports were in downtown and urban areas of Edmonton, where 55% of bear spray reports were made within 100 meters of a bus stop.

The city council hopes that the new changes will reduce the number of incidents in the future.

EPS Chief Dale McFee said bear spray was one of the most commonly used weapons in Edmonton and told reporters last week that “enough is enough.”

“Last time I looked, there weren’t many bears in the city… There’s no need to have (bear spray), and then when you mix it with the use of narcotics and often the types of drugs that are available on the street, it becomes quite devastating and puts people in a precarious position,” McFee said.

“We are doing a pretty good job as a community right now of serving vulnerable populations, but the accountability is lacking… If we have the ability to seize (bear spray) through the ordinance, that is exactly what we are going to do and we are going to charge for that as well.”

While the changes are effective immediately, city staff say they will focus on educating businesses for the first three to six months before taking actual action.