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Saturday, August 13, 2022
Letter: Torture by sonic devices

Dear editor:

We live on York Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, between St. David’s and Queenston. Some of us have been neighbours for more than 40 years.

Until propane-fired cannon use began, we enjoyed our life on the escarpment, living in harmony with nature and our neighbours.

In recent years, the lives of people living on the Escarpment Bench neighbourhoods have been dramatically altered. As the vineyards replaced orchards and growers adopted propane-fired cannons to deter birds, the area residents became subject to frequent explosions from the middle of August to late November.

These cannon explosions repeat every three to five minutes, there are three explosions per cannon separated by about five seconds.

These cannons can be used by growers beginning half an hour before sunrise and continuing all day to half an hour after sunset. The continual daily noise becomes unbearable, distressing, torturing the entire neighbourhood. The effect is even more agonizing as the explosive sound reverberates on the unique topography of the Niagara Escarpment.

The impact of the sound generated by the cannons can be compared to the effects of water torture where one water drop on the top of the head of a person repeated continually, seemingly innocuous, until the repetition drives the victim mad. The grower in question leaves to go to his off-site job for the day, but his neighbours have little choice but to endure 160 to 260 explosions daily.

We, as residents of York Road, are frustrated and aggrieved with this intrusive and torturous farm practice that can be replaced by netting or other non-audible methods. Indeed, one vineyard on York Road does not use propane-fired cannons and its vineyard is entirely netted. Therefore, alternatives exist to sonic devices.

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs allows the use of propane-fired cannons and refers to their use as a “normal farm practice,” in spite of the negative effects of explosions for the nearby residents.

The growers are protected by the Farming and Food Production Protection Act, which protects farming operations from nuisance complaints and restrictive municipal bylaws.

It is obvious, the root cause of this travesty is the ministry giving a carte blanche for the use of propane-fired cannons and other sonic devices to growers despite many complaints. Growers have an obligation to respect their neighbours’ right to live in an explosion-free environment as a basic human right.

We believe the town has a responsibility to protect its non-farming community living in both urban and rural areas by advocating on our behalf to the ministry to stop this environmental travesty and gross abuse of our property rights.

Currently, the town chooses the easy way out and denies any responsibility, by forcing us to take each grower to a tribunal to dispute what “normal” is. We have documents showing the bylaws of several municipalities in B.C. where audible bird scare devices are regulated.

We believe our complaints are being ignored and we are aggrieved by the Town of NOTL and the Ontario government by being subjected to this torturous form of bird deterrent method.

We demand that the Town of NOTL protect its non-farming community and reject the use of sonic devices, (propane-fired cannons) as a “normal” farm practice and remove their use from Schedule A of permitted noise in the municipal noise control bylaw.

Dr. Yüksel Ören, Ülkü Ören,
Halina Rozpedowska, 
James Fisher, Irene Fisher,
Valeria Sebella, Christine Buksbaum