District of North Vancouver council has lit the fuse on a potential ban on Halloween fireworks displays.
Coun. Megan Curren brought a motion Monday night calling for an outright ban.
Curren’s motion cited environmental damage from the production and shipping of pyrotechnics, dangerous conditions for the people who manufacture them, stress on wild and domestic animals, fire risk and risk of injuries, calls for police or fire services, triggering of PTSD in people who have lived through war or gun violence, and the inevitable pollution that comes from their detonation.
“We've heard overwhelming support from the community for this ban … with negative impacts to people, animals and the environment that have been echoed by the community,” she said.
Council’s current bylaw restricts fireworks to just four hours per year on Halloween night and to just residents who purchased a licence from the fire department on the promise they’ll only be ignited in a private yard. All three North Shore municipalities co-ordinated to write similar bylaws, although the City of North Vancouver brought in a ban in 2009.
For many though, it’s more of a suggestion than a bylaw.
There were 52 permits issued for fireworks in 2020 but over the Halloween weekend, there were more than 180 complaints related to fireworks sent to the North Vancouver RCMP and West Vancouver Police Department, according to district staff. There were also three relatively minor fires and some damage to district parks property.
Coun. Jim Hanson argued that ban would bring some needed clarity to what is and what isn’t allowed.
“There'll be a clear demarcation line. We simply don't want these exploding devices in our community on Halloween, New Years or any other time.”
For the majority on council, the matter of snuffing out a slice of West Coast culture wasn’t so simple.
Coun. Jordan Back said he would rather see better enforcement of the current bylaw than a ban.
“I think people putting on a show for neighbourhood kids are not the problem and yet they are largely the only ones who will be affected by this ban,” he said. “I'm really hesitant to flat out ban things that bring fun.”
Coun. Betty Forbes defended the current bylaw, adding that she sympathizes owners of stressed out pets.
“I'm a pet lover and a pet owner, and I don't like that noise going on either. But it's one night a year,” she said.
Coun. Mathew Bond said he too would be seeking a solution that reduces the harm caused by fireworks, as opposed to getting rid of them completely.
Coun. Lisa Muri stressed that a ban wouldn’t be effective unless all three North Shore municipalities and two First Nations all agreed to the same rule changes at once.
“It's not going to get rid of fireworks. We ban all sorts of things,” she said. “The federal government and the provincial government need to step up and ban this and disallow the import of fireworks into the country - not this piecemeal approach in the municipalities.”
Muri’s motion to send the matter back to staff for further study and consultation with the North Shore’s First Nations and municipalities passed 5-2, with Curren and Hanson voting against.
Mayor Mike Little said he will be keeping an open mind on the matter.
“When I looked at it, I do view it as a cultural institution. That doesn't mean that I'm not willing to ban it and change it if the negatives outweigh the positives,” he said.