In a move that bucks the trend in the Lower Mainland, the District of North Vancouver has voted against banning the sale and use of private fireworks outright in its region, leaving the existing framework in place for now.
In a vote Monday night, the proposed bylaw was defeated two to five, with only Couns. Megan Curren and Jim Hanson voting in favour of the ban.
Curren first introduced the idea for a ban in the fall of 2020. At the time, she cited environmental damage, dangerous working conditions for people who manufacture them, stress on wildlife and domestic pets, as well as fire risk and noise disturbances. Monday night, she reiterated those points.
Under the existing bylaw, fireworks may only be purchased with a permit issued by the district, and they can only be discharged on private property on Halloween night from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.
In the Lower Mainland, the district is now one of just a handful of municipalities that still allow fireworks sales and detonation. Only Port Moody, Anmore, Belcarra, Bowen Island and West Vancouver still allow them.
However, led by Mayor Mike Little, the remaining councillors voting against the ban spoke to the use of fireworks on Halloween being a “cultural practice,” similar to Chinese New Year or Christmas.
“I have to say that I view it as being an expression of cultural practice in our community. And, I think that it still has a value going forward,” he said. “Yes, it's disruptive. Yes, it has an impact on wildlife, and it has other impacts, but at the same time, so does every other cultural practice that you do as a community when we take over an area and change it for the purposes of a particular cultural practice.”
Little said that although the district and its residents may one day be close to amending the bylaw, it’s not there yet.
“I'm left with the conclusion that our community is not ready for this and does not want this yet. Maybe that desire will change. Maybe the number of permits purchased will go down, and down, and down, to the point that we make this change and it's something that's accepted by the community. But we're not there yet,” he said.
Coun. Lisa Muri said if the district were to move ahead with a ban on fireworks, the use of fireworks in the region wouldn’t change.
“Who are we kidding? We're going to say the district is going to ban fireworks and then all fireworks are going to just disappear? We're not going to hear them anymore? And that's the challenge that I have [with this bylaw],” she said.
In voting against the bylaw, Coun. Jordan Back said a ban would be “punishing the people who are doing things legally,” and following the current bylaw regarding permitting around fireworks in the district.
Coun. Betty Forbes reiterated, and said it is not the people who are setting off fireworks on private property who are doing the wrong thing, but those who are setting them off in public areas like schools and parks.
“I think it's punishing the people who do something right. And I know that I heard from a lot of people who still wanted to keep the tradition,” she said.
In conceding defeat, Curren said that in education efforts around the use of fireworks, she hopes that includes the entire supply chain, and the entire impact of supply chains, which “didn’t get brought up” in discussion on Monday.
“I think a lot of times we are removed here from the entire impact of the supply chains and there are people's lives. I think when we talk about education, we have to think about, ‘our enjoyment at whose expense?’” she said.