By Aotrou (Lord) Conogan mab Rioc, the Breton
Mka Peter Gillet
In the SCA, we engage in many fun activities such as target archery, combat archery, and siege. In the summer of 2014, I was approached by a conservation officer (officer) from the Province of New Brunswick (NB) while I was practicing target archery. While I was very prepared for questions about Federal law regarding weapons, I was not expecting his first question: are all of the bows stored here, or did people bring them with them? This question, and the resulting conversation, led me to extensive research into the laws which apply, and how someone could go about following them. My hope is to help SCA members, whether they live within or travel through NB, to make informed decisions.
The advice of those with law degrees was beyond my means, so these interpretations and conclusions were arrived at after conversations with an officer and a manager at NB Natural Resources.
The officer was very helpful in making us aware that provincial laws restrict the movement of firearms, which by the Act’s definition includes bows and crossbows. The NB Fish and Wildlife Act (S.N.B. 1980, c. F-14.1) (the Act), in fact, defines a firearm as “any device from which any shot, bullet or other missile can be discharged and, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, includes a rifle, shotgun, pellet gun, air gun, pistol, revolver, spring gun, crossbow or bow”. The important point about this definition is that it is intentionally very broad, and it leaves its application to the discretion of the enforcing officers. If you have something which sends something else away from it, the officer can use this definition and call it a “firearm”. The definition does not specify limits of size, lethality, velocity, or even form (solid, liquid, or gas) of the “missile”.
In combination with this broad definition, the Act also defines a “resort of wildlife” to mean “any waters or lands, including highways or roads, that are frequented by wildlife”. That essentially means to get from one place to another within or through New Brunswick one must travel through a “resort of wildlife”.
It was explained to me by the manager at NB Natural Resources that these broad definitions are needed to make sure poachers have no loopholes or defences of argument should officers find them in the wilderness with weapons. Those who are not actually poaching may, unfortunately, also be found guilty. In fact, practically everyone living in or travelling through NB could be found guilty of offences under this Act almost every day. That topic is outside the limits of this article.
While other provinces within Tir Mara (P.E.I. and Nova Scotia in particular) have similar restrictions on the transport and use of crossbows and bows, I did not find them to have such an inclusive definition of what is considered a “firearm”.
All of this being said, to whom does it apply in the SCA? If you practice target archery, then it most certainly applies to you. Similarly, it applies to combat archery equipment. I even asked, for sake completeness, if it would apply to large siege engines. It does. While almost all thrown weapons are not covered (because there is no “device” from which they are discharged), it would cover atlatls if you are experimenting with those. Essentially, look at your kit. If you have a device which shoots, launches, or otherwise discharges something else from it, it might be considered a “firearm” by a conservation officer. Transporting “firearms” on a “weekly day of rest” (defined as Sunday) or at night is considered an “absolute liability offence”. That pretty much means if they catch you doing it, you are guilty even if you have no intention of breaking any laws. I’m not a lawyer, but I can look up definitions.
I brought my concerns about this to a manager at NB Natural Resources, Mr. Rick Nash. Mr. Nash was very helpful and understanding of our desire to participate in these fun outdoor activities. He pointed out that there are ways to keep from breaking the law while still travelling and participating in our activities. The least restrictive way is to contact one of their offices and request a permit to transport. Since these are obtained from a police force (conservation officers), they are not available through Service NB. You have to get them from NB Natural Resources. These permits are good for a finite number of days after they are issued. They may not cover a person for the length of their stay, so multiple permits may need to be issued. Unfortunately, Mr. Nash is no longer listed as an employee of NB Natural Resources.
I contacted the office in Fredericton, and they initially said I had to get the permit in person. After I told them it would be a hardship for me, they said they could fax the permit to me. This would be the only practical way someone from outside of NB could obtain such a permit. In fact, most people from NB would find it a hardship to take the time and money to travel to one of their offices during business hours.
In terms of permission to transport “firearms”, there are parts of the Act which allow members of clubs registered with NB to travel directly from their homes to their ranges and back again without travel permits. This also applies to shoots organized by those clubs. It might be worthwhile for SCA members with NB to form registered clubs so ranges could be established and “organized shoots” could be held at SCA events. This would require volunteers and many more steps, which may be a good topic for another article.
Whether one organizes a club with memberships or uses official permits to transport, there are several other steps which are important. When transporting your “firearm”, you must put it in a case which is properly fastened, completely wrap the “firearm” within a blanket which is securely tied around it, or put the “firearm” in the locked luggage compartment of a vehicle.
If you are not a member of a club nor have a permit to transport, then you are relying entirely upon the discretion of the officer should you be stopped. I would strongly recommend SCA members to find and read the Acts of their own jurisdictions as well as the Act of NB.
URL for the online copy of the NB Fish and Wildlife Act: