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Regulating the Sale of Bear Spray

The City is taking a stronger approach to regulating the sale of bear spray in our communities.

Edmonton City Council has approved a number of amendments to the Business Licence Bylaw to regulate the sale of Oleoresin Capsicum (OC) Spray, commonly known as bear spray. City administration developed these amendments in cooperation with EPS. The amendments are intended to regulate business activities surrounding the sale of OC spray in order to improve public safety. 

I am pleased that these amendments have passed. Community members in Ward Métis have been asking the City to take a stronger approach to regulating the sale of bear spray. We have all seen the news reports of bear spray being used inappropriately on humans, and I have heard alarming stories of it being used in schools, libraries, hospitals and other public spaces. 

Data from EPS has shown a significant increase in bear spray related incidents over the last few years, which mirrors what I have been hearing from community members in the ward I represent. 

In the City's What We Heard Report on Bear Spray, many of the responses indicated that they have seen children under 18 using bear spray in shopping centres, libraries and other retail spaces. A few indicated that it has been used against their staff more than once, or as a weapon against other people, with many bystanders being impacted because of the range and potency of OC spray.

Some of the comments have been paraphrased below:

“I work at a library. Kids under 18 have bear sprayed each other on three separate occasions in the past month. The library was full of families”
“I work at a library in Edmonton and our clients have been negatively impacted by the use of bear spray in the space. Staff are becoming nervous to come to work because of its prevalence around Northeast Edmonton”
“My store has had two incidents where bear spray was used on my staff, it was used to allow the person to steal from my store. Bear spray in these menacing peoples hands causes dangerous situations in our retail space.”

These new regulations will ensure all retail locations which sell bear spray have clear guidelines to follow when selling this product.

The new amendments include: 

  • Adding a new business license category to regulate businesses which choose to sell OC spray products. 

  • Prohibiting the sale of OC spray to a person under 18 years of age.

  • Requiring retail stores to have an employee who is at least 18 years of age to oversee OC spray sales.

  • Recording transactions involving the sale of OC spray, including the serial number, brand name, quantity, date, along with the buyer's name, photo identification type and either the buyer’s identification number or date of birth.

  • Requiring retailers to secure all OC spray products and prevent the public from accessing them directly.

  • Requiring businesses to provide a buyers guide with City-approved messaging on appropriate and inappropriate uses of OC spray, and the consequences of using it on another person. 

Amending the business bylaw is one step the City is taking to make it more difficult to acquire bear spray for misuse.

While it is not a silver bullet, having stronger restrictions in place will help reduce the inappropriate use of bear spray in our communities, which is consistent with our approach to improving community safety and wellbeing across the City.



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