Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Some people love cats, others, dogs. Kulwant Dulay loves the homing pigeons he has been breeding for about 15 years. The North Vancouver truck driver releases them in the morning and watches as they soar and then return to perch on top of his house, doing what pigeons do for six or seven hours before returning home to their coop. Mr. Dulay feels happy when he watches them fly, just like dog people enjoy watching their dogs romp in the backyard.

All of Mr. Dulay’s neighbours accepted his birds until he moved to a new house about three years ago. One neighbour took such a dislike to them, she launched a one-woman anti-pigeon campaign. Betty Forbes complained to district officials that the coop was an eyesore and rat-attractant that would lower her property value. She also claimed Mr. Dulay allowed the birds to perch unsupervised on her house. (Pigeons don’t poop when they fly, but when they perch, the inevitable happens.) Mr. Dulay concedes he initially had some older untrained birds that perched on Ms. Forbes’s roof, but he says after her complaints led to a visit from municipal bylaw staff, he got rid of the six offenders and trained his young birds to stick to his own home.

This all would have been brushed off as an unpleasant neighbourhood spat had Ms. Forbes not been elected a district councillor in 2018. Although an ordinary citizen when she started to complain, a freedom of information request filed by CBC reveals her lobbying efforts against Mr. Dulay’s birds continued after her victory party. The e-mail trail shows after she was elected but before she was sworn in, Ms. Forbes e-mailed the municipality’s chief permitting officer demanding more action be taken to get rid of Mr. Dulay’s pigeons. She also discussed her problem with another councillor, Lisa Muri, who introduced a motion to ban pigeons in the district. The motion passed – Ms. Forbes rightly abstained, making a vague reference to her neighbour keeping pigeons. She did not, however, disclose she was the sole complainant.

Story continues below advertisement

When it came to light that Ms. Forbes had been sending anti-pigeon messages behind the scenes, council was inundated with allegations that she had broken conflict-of-interest rules. Now, Mr. Dulay is appealing the pigeon ban, the mayor has ordered an independent investigation into conflict allegations and a group of citizens, including another neighbour on the block, has filed a court petition to have Ms. Forbes removed from office on the same grounds. Ms. Forbes declined to be interviewed, stating it would be inappropriate to comment while the review is under way.

It might be tempting to view this as a small indiscretion by a rookie councillor who thought it was enough to abstain from the bylaw vote. But whether or not her e-mails constitute a legal conflict-of-interest violation, the optics are horrible. As the residents who signed the removal petition point out, by expressing concerns about her property value, it is clear Ms. Forbes had among other things, her own pecuniary interests in mind. And that makes the alarm bells go off.

And although this seems a lot of fuss over a flock of pigeons, there is an important underlying principle at stake. We expect politicians to put their constituents’ interests ahead of their own. Ms. Forbes pursued her pigeon agenda with such zeal, it makes me wonder whether that’s the very reason she ran for office. Again, I couldn’t ask.

Wouldn’t it have been better if she’d welcomed Mr. Dulay to the block, met his birds and marvelled at these creatures that have been known to navigate distances of 1,700 kilometres to return home? It would have been neighbourly and good politics, too. After all, it’s hard to see how people will continue to vote for someone they wouldn’t want as a neighbour.

We have a weekly Western Canada newsletter written by our B.C. and Alberta bureau chiefs, providing a comprehensive package of the news you need to know about the region and its place in the issues facing Canada. Sign up today.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies