After more than 100 years in the books, the Municipality of North Cowichan on Vancouver Island has decided it no longer requires its “public morals” bylaw.
Adopted by the council at the time on July 23, 1914, the public morals bylaw was intended to help North Cowichan regulate profanity, immoral behaviour, or lewd plays or skits.
But, as the municipality no longer has a hand in regulating such behaviours, council deemed the bylaw no longer valid and repealed it at its meeting on Dec. 4.
Since early this year, staff has been busy conducting a comprehensive audit of all of North Cowichan’s bylaws to identify ones that are no longer needed.
Through this process, 52 unnecessary bylaws were discovered, some of which date back to 1914, and they were officially abolished as irrelevant, outdated, and/or obsolete.
Mayor Al Siebring said when he was elected last year that he intended to begin a regulatory review of North Cowichan’s bylaws to determine which of them are obsolete and need to be struck from the books, and the abolition of the bylaws last week was the beginning of the fulfillment of that promise.
Another of the now abolished rules is the “streets and roads” bylaw, which was also adopted by council in 1914, under which the local government was responsible for regulating running or racing on roadways, and ensuring that pedestrians use the right side of the road.
The bylaw also regulated the age of people selling newspapers on the street, and the speed limit for horses travelling on a road.
Needless to say, the municipality determined the bylaw is no longer applicable in current times.
“I was convinced at the time [of the election] that there were a number of bylaws that were outdated or no longer serving our interests as a municipality,” Siebring said.
“It turns out I was right. It’s great to be getting rid of things like the ‘wide tires’ bylaw, which made specific reference to the permissible size of wagon tires.”
Other bylaws that were eliminated in the repeal motion include the “fence viewers” bylaw, in which the municipality would appoint people to be fence-viewers to watch fences encroaching on adjacent properties, and another that prohibits youth and girls under 16 from entering pool halls without parental consent.
“It’s a puzzle to me,” Siebring said with a grin, “why there were separate categories for youth and girls in the same bylaw.”
Also eliminated was a bylaw that stated “no person shall ride or drive any beast at a pace exceeding six miles per hour.” Siebring said that removing the unnecessary bylaws is a big win, but there is still a substantial amount (2,149) of bylaws in existence.”
He said that while the bulk of its work is done, the regulatory review committee will not be disbanded in the event that other obsolete bylaws are uncovered which may need review before the end of this council’s term.