Saskatchewan introduces bear spray regulations after ‘thousands of disturbances’

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan justice minister announces $100,000 fine for discharging bear spray publicly'
Saskatchewan justice minister announces $100,000 fine for discharging bear spray publicly
On Tuesday, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Bronwyn Eyre announced the enforcement strategy following "too many recent incidents which have caused disruption, injury and fear." – Mar 12, 2024

What is meant as a tool for the outdoors has become a weapon to some in Saskatchewan.

Bear spray incidents across the province, such as last year’s Wascana Pool incident, have become more and more common.

After years of construction and planning, the pool was forced to close on opening day after someone brought bear spray into the pool and spread it into the water.

Another example comes just north on Highway 11, where in 2022, multiple people at the Saskatoon Ex were hit with bear spray, including a one-year-old.

“She was constantly crying,” her mother, Keandra Williamson, said at the time. “As soon as we got home, she was just screaming in pain. It was just awful.”

As of Tuesday, new provincial regulations will be put in place to restrict access to the spray in “public urban spaces,” according to the government of Saskatchewan. Those charged under the regulations could face potential fines of up to $100,000.

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“Over the last few years, there have been thousands of public disturbances involving bear spray across the province,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre said. “These new regulations will improve public safety and provide police and wildlife officers with more options to seize and charge people in possession of bear spray, including in shopping malls, movie theatres, urban parks and on exhibition grounds.”

Here are some of the details of the new regulations:

  • The regulations will apply only to public urban areas, not rural or northern areas where bear spray is typically used for safety purposes.
  • The regulations will not apply to those, including conservation officers, hunters and hikers, who require protection from wildlife in the course of their employment or recreational activities.
  • People will be permitted to transport bear spray from a retail location to a place where it can be lawfully stored or lawfully used.
  • Lower-capsaicin-concentration products (such as ‘dog spray’) will not apply under the regulations.
  • The regulations also do not apply to retailers or impose additional record-keeping or identification requirements.

“Saskatchewan is bear country,” Environment Minister Christine Tell said. “The new regulations recognize this and make sure that bear spray remains available to help keep people safe as they work and play in the outdoors, while helping to keep it out of urban areas where it doesn’t belong.”

Regina police Deputy Chief Lorilee Davies said the new rules are welcome changes.

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“Bear spray offences are something police officers in our city, and beyond, are dealing with almost daily,” Davies said. “Any time we have a new tool we can use to hold offenders accountable and deter such crimes, we welcome it.”

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