The Canadian Constitution Foundation will provide legal representation to Shawn and Kelly Bacher of Campbellford, Ontario if the municipality of Trent Hills follows through with its threat to charge them with a bylaw violation, litigation director Karen Selick announced today.
In 2009, Kelly Bacher went to the municipal office to find out whether she could legally keep chickens in the family’s backyard. Ms. Bacher—who was raised on a farm herself—thought raising chickens would be a good educational project for her daughter Kayla, who is being homeschooled.
Three municipal staff members gave her a one-page extract from a bylaw, listing forbidden animals. The list included such exotic creatures as kangaroos, hyenas, elephants and crocodiles, but said nothing about chickens. Municipal staff wished her well with her project.
Relying on the town’s information, the Bachers built summer and winter chicken coops and purchased seven chicks.
Suddenly, in 2011, a Trent Hills bylaw officer told the Bachers to get rid of their chickens or face fines of up to $25,000 each.
Kelly Bacher feels the town misled her. “I followed proper procedure, but now I’m being told I can’t keep my girls.”
CCF’s litigation director Karen Selick said, “How can government expect citizens to be law-abiding when the government itself doesn’t know the law? When the government misleads someone who is doing her best to be a good citizen, it’s unreasonable to turn around later and charge her for following the government’s own advice.”
The Bachers have not yet received summonses and do not know when their court date will be.