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Fireworks ban fizzles in District of North Vancouver

Pyrotechnic displays are a unique West Coast cultural event at Halloween, says mayor
Fireworks seized by North Vancouver RCMP in previous years’ Halloween activities. District of North Vancouver council has voted not to ban private pyrotechnics. | North Vancouver RCMP

A proposal to ban fireworks in the District of North Vancouver has fizzled out.

Several members of council lit the fuse to once again consider a ban – which has debated in the past – at this week’s regular council meeting.

But the plan to ban fireworks was quickly defused by a 4-2 vote of council.

Those opposed to the ban spoke about fireworks displays as a unique West Coast cultural phenomenon and fun community building activity. Those in favour of ending explosive festivities said fireworks are dangerous, add to fire risk and result in noise complaints and stress to animals and the environment.

The decision puts the District of North Vancouver among a dwindling number of Lower Mainland municipalities that still allow private fireworks displays at Halloween. On the North Shore, the City of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver and Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) have all banned fireworks.

The last time council debated the issue, two years ago, it reached a similar conclusion.

Council decided to take another look at the issue this summer.

According to the fire chief, firefighters typically seize large numbers of fireworks on Halloween, primarily from teens letting fireworks off in parks illegally.

The district’s current fireworks regulation requires a permit to buy and set off backyard fireworks, and fireworks may only be set off between 6 and 10 p.m. on Halloween night.

Last year there was only one fireworks seller in the district who had their $1,500 bond revoked over numerous bylaw infractions, according to a staff report. Just under 200 fireworks permits for backyard displays were issued.

Speaking in favour of a ban Monday night, Coun. Jim Hanson said “I strongly believe our community will be best served by a fireworks ban.”

Hanson said he’s consistently heard from members of the community that fireworks are upsetting to pets and wildlife and put a strain on fire and police resources.

Coun. Betty Forbes – who acknowledged she’s voted against a fireworks ban in the past – said she’s come to believe banning the pyrotechnics makes sense. If police and firefighters say they’d like to see a ban, “I’m agreeing with them,” she said.

Forbes said because neighbouring jurisdictions have banned fireworks, allowing them in the district means the municipality ends up supplying the rest of the North Shore.

Mayor Mike little opposed the fireworks ban, saying neighbourhood fireworks displays are “community building.”

“Fireworks have become a uniquely cultural event on the West Coast. It’s something at Halloween time that you don’t experience in other parts of Canada,” he said. “This bylaw would take the four hours of the year that it is lawful to have fireworks and get rid of those four hours and move it entirely to professional displays.”

Little said three months of pile driving for a construction project is probably more disruptive to wildlife, and trick-or-treaters knocking repeatedly at the door probably spook pets more than fireworks. “Nobody’s talking about banning trick-or-treaters,” he said.

Couns. Back, Muri and Mah also lined up to snuff out the ban on sparklers.

Back said there are more positives than negatives that come out of annual fireworks displays.

Muri argued that banning fireworks wouldn’t mean an end to explosive Halloweens because anyone can still buy them online. Fireworks are also still legal on (səlilwətaɬ) Tsleil-Waututh Nation land, she said.

“Writing a bylaw to say don’t do it is not going to stop it because if it did, no one would speed on the parkway, or the Upper Levels, because there’s a sign there that says 80 is the speed limit,” she said. “And we know that people drive well over 80 on the Upper Levels.”

But Hanson said bans still have a dampening effect on law-abiding citizens. “How fast do you think people would drive down the parkway if there was no speed limit?” he said. “On Halloween night in Blueridge you might as well be in a war zone.”

On Halloween night this year, a teenage boy was taken to hospital after a firework blew up in his hand in the 3000-block of Edgemont Boulevard.

Coun. Catherine Pope was absent from Monday’s council meeting.