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Minutes, from our
meeting with the Minister
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Our group, Ban the Cannons, met with the Minister of Agriculture, Hon. John Van Dongen on Friday afternoon, April 05, 2002. About fifteen of our members attended along with John, Bert Van Dalfsen, and Scott Toews, John's assistant. The following are the minutes from that meeting.

MAFF Mtg.
Terry started off the meeting and thanked John for taking the time to see our group again, and thanked Bert for coming.
She then expressed our extreme disappointment with the proposed new regulations for the 2002 berry season.


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Dave then spoke and focused on the issues of noise measurement and our disappointment that decibel levels are not the primary method for determining the impacts of agricultural noise makers. Cannons create noise at 120 decibels, and some as high as 130 decibels, and the distances specified in the regulations leave some residences, especially within the ALR with a situation where they have to tolerate noise at up to 85 decibels based on distances specified in the report. Dave pushed for the following changes to the regulations:
  • measurement of noise based on decibel levels and not distance
  • the use of low settings on cannons, ie. the 100 decibel setting
  • and the measurement of noise levels at the source, and other members added that noise levels at the property line should also be a considered.
MAFF Mtg.
John responded that the regulations are fixed for this year and will become the new official regulations for this berry season. (It had been our understanding that these were still recommendations and not yet final).
John also acknowledged during this discussion that he was aware that these regulations would not satisfy our group and would solve little from our perspective.

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Maureen then described the health impacts of noise that victims of these devices have to endure. The report states that noise from “audible bird scare devices” is an annoyance and a nuisance. What is glaringly absent in the report is any recognition of the health impacts of noise of this magnitude, including the following:
  • for adults, this noise results in stress, high blood pressure, the flight/fight response when it awakens you at 5:30 AM.
  • it affects concentration levels and productivity in people working from the home.
  • it impacts children, their ability to concentrate and study. There are several local schools, Mt. Lehman Elem. & Dave Kandal school right beside new berry fields. These fields should not be allowed to use cannons!
The question was asked, “Is it not governments responsibility to protect the health of the public”.
Maureen pointed out that the noise affects livestock, the Ministry’s own publications back this point up. And of course it impacts poultry. Does John represent all the farm community, or just berry farmers.
Maureen raised the issue of Normal Farm Practices, when these devices are a health hazard, are used by only approximately 50% of farms, and they are a form of pollution. Terry expressed frustration because we are on the leading edge of this issue. An open manure pile is no longer accepted farm practice. Poor pesticide usage is no longer tolerated. Noise pollution controls are coming, but not soon enough for us. Should these devices be considered normal farm practice??
Maureen concluded that these devices are like “Chinese Water Torture”!

There really was no response from John or Bert concerning health issues.
Roger added that without a quantifiable measurement like decibel levels, we are unprotected.
John stated that Bert and he would review the decibel measurement issue.
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Doug then discussed the hours of operation. The new regulations moved from a 6:00 AM start time to 6:30, for a saving of 30 minutes. Most other jurisdictions that allow cannons have a 7:00 AM start time. And when there is a complaint, who do we complain to, civil servants working 9:00 to 5:00 lunch? How do we pinpoint an offending cannon at night in the middle of a field. What is the method of enforcement?

John & Bert then explained the complaint process that is being set-up. There will be a registry, but no road side sign to indicate the owner of a cannon. The Ministry along with the Blueberry Council are responsible for putting together the registry. They are working with municipal governments to put in place complaint procedures, and plan to follow the Pitt Meadows model. Some municipalities may deviate somewhat. John reiterated that the regulations are meant to be followed and there will be enforcement. Violations like overnight usage will not be tolerated.

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MAFF Mtg.
In the middle of Doug's presentation, John had to leave temporarily to speak to another group. One of our more opportunistic members quickly moved into his seat, grasped the reins of power and began to quickly revise the regulations.
Unfortunately John returned before our changes could be finalized, and the opportunity was lost!

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Iver followed and raised the issue of a mid day break from cannons. Berry farmer Mike Makara follows this practice.
Bert commented that the idea is mentioned in the report. But a break is not written into the new regulations.
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Sherry then attacked the frequency issue. When one does the math, the number of blasts that people have to endure in a season is in the 100's of thousands. The guidelines do provide for a decrease in the frequency, but from our perspective this is insignificant. Bert disagreed stating that it is close to a 50% reduction. Sherry hit him again with the number of blasts figures, ie. in the 100's of thousands, especially when a farm has several cannons. Basically we are under siege was her point!
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Terry asked about the advisory committee and our lack of representation.

John explained that the new advisory committee was farm and government orientated, more as a peer group, to help farmers monitor and regulate themselves. They are to assist bylaw officers, help resolve conflicts, and enforce the regulations
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Al then continued asking about the complaint process. There are three forms of complaints, verbal, written, and formal to the Farm Practices Board. Al asked how these would all be recorded and logged. One of our issues is that the document implies that there are really very few complaints which we all know is not true. Also is there to be a 1-800 number for out of town callers, and a 24 hour system to enable us to get a response if an all night situation occurs.

John explained that municipal governments will be setting up this process and informing people via mail outs and newspaper adds about the numbers and their purpose. This will be done before the cannon season starts this summer. John also said that he cannot simply respond based on the number of complaints. Other factors take more precedence.
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Marian then asked about category B devices and why the rules for these devices are more lenient, even though they are just as loud. The distances are closer and there are no frequency guidelines. The point was also made that restricting noise maker use on small acreages would go a long way to alleviating the problem.

John said they would have a second look at the regulations for devices such as the AV Alarms.
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Belle then gave an excellent presentation about how unbelievable this whole cannon situation really is. Who can believe that we really have to put up with this?
Belle spoke about the reputation of the valley. If cannon use keeps escalating who would want to move here. Imagine paying to live in Morgan Creek, or the new Street of Dreams, only to hear cannons for four months of the year.
We will be raising awareness of this issue more and more to everyone’s detriment including the farmers when we start talking about boycotts and their use of pesticides. We will be picketing, writing articles in the paper and raising this issue whenever possible and the farmers ultimately will suffer the most.
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Roger then concluded, once again stating our disappointment with the regulations. They do very little to help our situations. Roger then asked John if this is it, or if he considers this a first step in a process to eventually rid us of these devices.

John said that there would be ongoing monitoring of the cannon situation this summer, and he committed to having another review of the situation in the fall, and they would have another look at decibel levels as the method of measurement.

That concluded our session.
Our group is blasting away at propane cannon use!

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