British Columbia

Vote on proposed fireworks ban in Vancouver delayed

A decision on whether fireworks sales should be banned in Vancouver has been delayed until after Halloween.

Council heard from several speakers, including fireworks retailers and SPCA

The vote on the motion to ban the sale of fireworks in Vancouver was put back until Nov. 5. (Rainier Martin Ampongan/Shutterstock)

A decision on whether fireworks sales should be banned in Vancouver has been delayed until after Halloween.

City council was expected to make a decision at its Thursday night meeting, but instead deferred the vote on the motion until Nov. 5.

Council heard from several speakers throughout the night, both for and against a ban.

Parminder Gill of Phatboy Fireworks said the tradition of lighting fireworks at this time of year goes a lot deeper than creating colourful explosions.

"Halloween's not just about lighting firecrackers ... it's about bringing our communities together," said Gill, who said he has been selling fireworks in Vancouver for almost 15 years.

"If you eliminate us from the community ... I think it's going to cause a lot more problems ... People that love fireworks are not just going to give it up because the ban is in place."

Gill also read out a portion of a letter given to him by the Khalsa Diwan Society, expressing their concern about a potential ban.

"Fireworks are integral to one of the most sacred festivals for Sikhs and Hindu communities," Gill read from the letter.

"Diwali falls around the same time of the year as Halloween, so allowing this would not require much change to the current ... fireworks selling period."

The remnants of a firework ignited at the corner of 14th and Yukon in Vancouver's Cambie Village in 2017. (David Horemans/CBC)

The motion, originally introduced by Coun. Pete Fry, asks for staff to come up with a plan to ban the retail sale of fireworks, with the following considerations:

  • Addressing enforcement and compliance with any ban.
  • Allowing exemptions for displaying fireworks during public events like New Year's Eve and the Celebration of Light, along with cultural and religious occasions like Diwali. 
  • Requiring authorized fire permits from the City of Vancouver to "ignite, explode, set off or detonate display fireworks."

Alison Cuffley, a government relations officer with the B.C. SPCA, spoke at the meeting Thursday on behalf of the association, which is in favour of a ban. Cuffley said the sound and smell of fireworks are upsetting to household pets as well as wild animals.

"Spooking companion animals causing them to panic, run away or dart into traffic is a major concern," Cuffley said. "Dogs who are normally friendly can act out of character, placing members of the public, including children, at risk."

Alison Cuffley, a government relations officer with the BC SPCA, spoke out in favour of a fireworks ban at a Vancouver City Council meeting on Oct. 24, 2019. (CBC)

Cuffley referenced the death of a 10-year-old dog as an example. A black lab-chow named Maggie was spooked from an off-leash dog park after fireworks went off in October 2016. The dog ran onto nearby SkyTrain tracks and was struck and killed by a train.

Cuffley said birds and wild mammals can also be spooked out of their roosts or dens into urban areas where they can be hurt or killed.

Fry's motion points out that fireworks are already banned in a number of nearby cities, including Richmond, Surrey, Delta, Coquitlam and the City of North Vancouver. His motion also argues fireworks can have an adverse environmental impact, and cause harm for animals and survivors of gun violence. 

"This is one of those things that is probably better left in the past," he said when he introduced the motion on Oct. 16, adding that the average cost per year to the Vancouver Police Department and Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services from fireworks-related issues is around $380,000. 

The current bylaw in Vancouver restricts the sale of fireworks to Oct. 25-31 every year. There are also additional regulations during that time frame.

Anyone breaking the city's rules can face a $500 fine.

With files from Meera Bains and Justin McElroy

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