Every country ends up with some seriously strange laws as times and circumstances change. For some the origin or rationale is easy to imagine, while others require a little added context to understand them. Others seem downright mystifying – read on to find out which city prohibited the throwing of snowballs within city limits. We explore some of the outdated and outlandish laws and bylaws that have existed or still do exist in British Columbia. And for heaven’s sake, don’t let your llama graze in a National Park or it will be the most expensive grass your quadruped has ever eaten.
- You may find yourself in handcuffs if you don’t keep the cows off the street in Port Coquitlam. Might this law have been enacted after a reckless cowboy drove his cattle through the city streets? Port Coquitlam also has some particular pet-centric bylaws. Rat colonies are not welcome (four is the limit) and the number of pet snakes must be kept to a minimum.
- Bylaw number 771 in the town of Smithers states that the town is officially a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Enacted in 1986, the bylaw may seem archaic now, but at the time it was a symbol of the town’s opposition to the nuclear arms race. By retaining the law Smithers makes its stance on nuclear war very clear.
- Oak Bay keeps strict tabs on animals living within city limits. Bylaw 4013 specifically prohibits “habitually noisy dogs” and your pet parrot must be quiet and confined to your property. Should your parrot be impounded by the city (for trespassing?) it will cost you $6.00 plus boarding fees, compounded daily. Oh, and keep your bees away from your neighbour’s pond. You can be fined for that.
- If you keep pigeons in the city of Quesnel you’d best keep a close watch on them. Particularly, do not allow them to perch on anyone else’s property. Alas your birds can only gaze longingly at streetlights and overpass signs. A 1965 law prohibits any public sport that is likely to frighten horses- unless you have obtained written permission beforehand. Another law from the same time period prohibited the display of merchandise on the sidewalk except for “prepackaged frozen confections.” It seems town leaders had an affinity for ice cream.
- Selling stoves seems innocuous enough, right? So it’s curious what prompted the 1947 law in Vancouver that made it illegal to sell stoves on a Wednesday within city limits. Fortunately the law was eventually repealed…after almost 40 years.
- A 1906 law in Kelowna prohibited nude bathing but only in Okanagan Lake, and only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9.p.m. Non compliant sunbathers risked 30 days in jail. Current laws make it much more clear that appearing nude in public is a no-no except in designated areas.
- An old law in Esquimalt prohibited snowball throwing within city limits and no doubt school-aged children everywhere rejoiced when it was finally repealed. The city still has some curious laws, however. Owners are limited to four “urban hens” but are permitted to keep up to 10 ornamental birds. Pigeons are restricted to the owner’s property but apparently the ornamental birds can run amok – along with the 10 pet rats each person is allowed.
- It has long been rumored that a previous governor of BC declared that killing a Sasquatch is illegal. Although there doesn’t appear to be any official statement of this sort, the laws of British Columbia do declare that wildlife is owned by the government and can’t be hunted without a specific license. For your own protection it’s probably best to let Bigfoot go if he crosses your path.
- This law appears to be long gone from the books, but it’s rumored that at one time a convicted debtor was not only entitled to have a beer while in jail, his jailer had to supply said beverage on demand. What’s not clear is how many times the prisoner could request a drink and how often the jailer joined him in a pint. Perhaps the number of jailed, drunken debtors was sufficiently limited that the cost to the province was minimal regardless of the number consumed.
- Apparently the dairy farmers used to have quite a hold on the province because in 1879 it was illegal to sell margarine. Surprisingly this law was in effect in many places in Canada and no margarine of any kind was allowed to be made or sold in the country until 1948-1949. Newfoundland was still a colony during much of the ban and was a source of bootleg margarine that flooded the country, selling for half the cost of real butter. The Newfoundland Butter Company became Canada’s first margarine company when the colony joined the country in 1949.
Bonus Strange Canadian Law
Per Section 49 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it is prohibited to intentionally alarm or frighten the Queen.