Saturday, February 13, 2010

Calgary: Life 101: The Birds & the Bees

The Birds & The Bees

Calgary Herald, "Urban farmers fight to keep animals in city: Backyard passion at odds with bylaws"

Back to basics and reprioritizing seem to be common themes these days for people all over the world. Here in Calgary, Urban chickens and bees are in the news. The act of raising and growing in an urban environment involves issues closely linked with local food systems, food security, urban agriculture and human rights. Those who are embracing urban agriculture have considerable support through international and national laws & declarations to pursue the act of growing food free of persecution and reprisal. Urban farming is not illegal and urban farmers are not outlaws. The act of growing and raising food in an urban setting is not criminal. Urban Agriculture is lawful.

Seasons Come & Seasons Go...

The season and reason to align our city's bylaws with the UN Declaration of Human Rights, The Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedoms is here. I am suggesting that the current position taken by the City of Calgary, puts us on a collision course with the UN Declaration of Human Rights & the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Is the City of Calgary going to play chicken with these global & domestic citizenship/governance-defining documents? It certainly does not have to be this way if my position on a Right to Food as it relates to a specific Calgary Municipal bylaw is considered.

*Full disclosure: I am currently charged with "Possessing and Keeping Livestock". My first court appearance is on 25March10 and the first challenge of the Corporation of the City of Calgary Responsible Pet Ownership bylaw by Mary March is on 01April10, April Fools Day.

The basis of my position on why urban agriculture is, and will continue to be, enthusiastically welcomed in Calgary is founded in my deep belief that Calgarians are passionate & compasionate people. We care deeply about the health and well being of our families and the health of our community. Calgarians are proud of their involvement in initiatives that strengthen community and create recreational, cultural, educational, economic & social development opportunities for all. The primary fuel that fires all of our passion is food. Sustainable passion that allows for each of us to pursue our vision requires healthy & nutritious food. We are what we eat.

Article 25 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights identifies food as a human right. Canada has ratified in Canadian Parliament the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other international human right treaties 7 times. We are governed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Constitution. The rights and responsibilities of the provinces are bestowed upon them through the Canadian Constitution. Each province bestows governance powers to municipalities via the Alberta Municipal Government Act. Bylaws are created by municipalities to establish local governance patterns. The following from Wikipedia:

"Municipal bylaws are public regulatory laws which apply in a certain area. The main difference between a bylaw and a law passed by an international/national/federal or regional/state body is that a bylaw is a made by a non-sovereign body, which derives its authority from another governing body, and can only be made on a limited range of matters. A local council or municipal government gets its power to pass laws through a law of the national or regional government which specifies what things the town or city may regulate through bylaws."

Municipal bylaws must align themselves with the laws, policies, agreements, et al that are sanctioned by the bodies from which municipal governance powers are derived.

Based on the above interpretation, our laws are very clear about the scope of municipal governance and the right to food is not an area under municipal jurisdiction. The actions of the City of Calgary vis-à-vis urban agriculture are unconstitutional and therefore illegal. The city must cease and desist from the act of issuing violations for the raising of livestock for the purposes of household food security/sovereignty and move quickly to amend bylaws which are in stark contravention of provincial, national & international charters, laws and declarations.

Paul Hughes


Anonymous said...

As part of a small loosely-aligned collective of urban farmers in Portland, Oregon, I can attest to the viability and sensibility of Urban Agriculture in all its many and varied forms. People have forgotten to be pesants, (in the eating, loving and living sense of the word) and will need pioneering neo-pesants to help them make the transition -- that's where folks like you and I come in.

On a more practical note, you would do well to check out the Yahoo! Group called Portland Backyard Chickens. Not only is it a wealth of information on the particular nature of urban livestock, but it is also a wealth of information on how nearby cities have changed their laws based upon Portland's leading example.

I rely upon Minneapolis and Toronto to be leaders in urban ag right along w/ Portland. Alberta (and BC!) are lagging behind and don't have to. If Portland is any example, as few as a dozen people comitting to bringing AG back to a city and people can have a significant impact.

Go ahead, start a revolution that's useful for a change.

-Marie Richie, Sellwood Garden Club and SE Portland Seedbank Project

Fred said...

Well said. I was in Hawaii over the summer, after sailing in from Panama, watched with great interest, the continuous paving of some of the best argricultural land in the world; meanwhile learning that Hawai'i only had 6 days of food at any one time. Without freighters, burning annually the same amount of carbon as a mid sized coal fire generating plant, plying the waters between the mainland and the 50th State, Hawai'i cannot feed itself (even the guava rot on the trees in August). Roof top gardens, hens in the backyard. We have no trouble stocking MacKenzie lake and others for the wealthy to fish off their docks for their supper, well, er, ok, their entertainment, but will not allow me to have a hen in the backyard for a healthy breakfast egg treat. Strange world indeed. We must stop urban sprawl and protect our farmland like France (who learned many wars ago, not to move its country's food source offshore), and allow people to be self sufficient.

ZingleJingle said...

This legal approach is absolutely great and has national implications for urban hen activists in all cities across Canada. People fighting for the right to keep hens as a key part of their personal food security are doing it either illegally or battling for the right piecemeal, and often getting heavy fines for bylaw infractions.
I'll be watching this case closely- hopefully a positive result will mean that other cities bylaws will have to fall as well.
Jacqueline Jolliffe, Ottawa

Saskboy said...

Good luck, the City of Calgary is nuts. If your chickens were solely pets, they'd supposedly have no problem with them. I wonder what the fine for mischief is, because you could probably promise to throw the chickens' eggs at City Hall, and get a smaller fine if they aren't "livestock" if you don't consume anything from them.

Saskboy said...

This is worth a read

Steve Green said...

You have our support in Windsor Ontario! I am currently challenging our bylaws and City Council as well!