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Complaints about propane cannons

John Reid was among 25 speakers against the use of propane cannons who appeared before a Thursday night hearing in the Township of Langley.  - Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times
John Reid was among 25 speakers against the use of propane cannons who appeared before a Thursday night hearing in the Township of Langley.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON/Langley Times

There were 25 speakers at a Thursday night public meeting about blueberry cannons in Langley, all of them critical.

They said the noisemakers used to scare away berry-munching birds are disturbing to people, horses and pets and most demanded an outright ban.

"They are depriving me of my right to farm," said John Reid, one of many horse facility owners to speak.

The constant noise during the blueberry growing season is driving down property values, Reid said.

"I can't sell my place," Reid said.

"Not for what it should be used."

Alicia Harper, vice president of membership and marketing for the Horse Council of BC, said the cannons are especially damaging in Langley, often called the "horse capital of BC."

The devices are "equally effective at scaring horses as birds," Harper said, going on to call horses a "prey species" whose natural tendency when startled or frightened is to flee.

Carol Hauta, who lives near three blueberry farms that use propane cannons, said friends and family won't come out for summer barbecues at her place during the summer because of the noise.

Sometimes, she said, it feels like she is living in a "war zone."

"In the middle of the growing season when we have our door and windows open to enjoy the summer weather, all we can hear is the boom of propane cannons and the screech of noise scare devices," Hauta said.

She said people living in rural areas should be entitled to same right to peace and quiet as their urban counterparts.

"If your neighbours were having a large and very noisy party, so loud it was disruptive to the entire neighbourhood, you have the right to call the police, who in turn have the responsibility to make sure your neighbours are following the noise by-laws," Hauta told the hearing.

Rob Jandric told the hearing he was a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder who finds the noise of the cannons especially stressful.

"I've hit the deck a number of times," Jandric said.

His wife has found him in a "fetal position" a number of times, he added, his voice shaking.

"We try to go on holidays, but I don't have enough [vacation time available] to go away for the whole blueberry season."

Robin Price, who said he once worked at a blueberry farm, said the cannons don't work.

"The birds get used to them," Price said.

He said a more effective approach would be a recording of a bird in distress, something that birds will not get used to and will be less jarring for human beings.

"The scream of a bird is not like a cannon going off," Price said.

Another speaker, Sue Leyland, suggested using falcons.

The town hall-style hearing in council chambers was organized by the Langley Township task force on the issue.

Chairperson Megan Dykeman said they expect to report back to the township agricultural committee by the end of March.

The Propane Cannon Task Force was created in September after council postponed a decision on changes to Township noise bylaws and the creation of a farming bylaw to forbid the cannons as "excessive, intrusive, and inhumane" to use the words used by the councillor who proposed the ban, Kim Richter.

Council sent the matter to the municipal Agricultural Advisory Committee to investigate and report back.

The committee established the task force during its Sept. 19 meeting and assigned it to meet with the berry farmers who use the propane cannons and the people who complain about them, as well as government agencies and experts.

The task force was assigned to "explore ways to address the use of propane cannons in the Township" by researching the current situation, then make recommendations.

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