Manitoba imposes rules on bear spray sales after use in urban crimes

WINNIPEG- The Manitoba government is now requiring vendors who sell bear repellent to obtain photo identification from customers in an effort to curb a rash of attacks involving the spray.


Retailers also will have to submit the buyer’s information to the provincial government and register the serial numbers for any sale of more than two cans.


Buyers will have to specify the intended use of the bear spray.


Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen says the new requirements should deter people from using bear spray illegally, but not prohibit legal purchases.


He adds that the province is considering an age requirement to purchase bear spray in Manitoba.


The Progressive Conservative government is also asking the federal government to consider stronger restrictions on the online sale of bear repellent in Canada.


“The discussions that I’ve had with law enforcement as it is their belief  that the vast majority of bear spray that has been used in attacks isn’t coming in through online or importation,” Goertzen said Thursday.


Manitoba and Saskatchewan have previously said they want people who commit violent offences with knives and modified bear spray to face tougher conditions when applying for bail.


The province doesn’t want to punish people who are using the repellent for its intended purposes, Goertzen said, but recognizes it has been used for criminal purposes, especially in Winnipeg.


“It’s horrific some of the random attacks that are happening with bear spray,” he said. “This is a reasonable measure that we hope will help in the reduction.”


First Nations chiefs in the province welcomed the government’s move to safeguard the sale and purchase of bear spray.


“Bear spray is increasingly used to perpetuate violence in our nations, and there are no regulations to prevent its misuse,” Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Angela Levasseur said in a statement.


“It is encouraging that the province is implementing our request for this safeguard, and we hope that Canada enforces the same regulations for the safety of all First Nations people.”

Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, said she hopes stronger regulations will prevent vendors from advertising and selling the repellent openly.

There are about a dozen licensed vendors in the province.


 This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 13, 2023


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