'We're very sad': East London Canada Day fireworks cancelled because of new TVDSB regulations

Some Londoners will have to find another place to watch fireworks Canada Day after Clarke Rd. Monday display gets cancelled.

New regulations from TVDSB prohibit the East London Optimist Club from discharging fireworks

The East London Optimist Club's Canada Day celebrations are postponed until next year due to new regulations from the TVDSB that prohibit discharging fireworks on their property. The club has been hosting Canada Day celebrations at Argyle Arena for 17 years. (CBC News)

Some Londoners will have to find another spot to watch the fireworks this Canada Day. 

After 17 years, the East London Optimist Club has cancelled their 2019 Canada Day celebration and fireworks display at Argyle Arena. It all stems from a new Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) policy that doesn't allow fireworks on their property. 

For almost two decades, Canada Day fireworks have been fired off the football field at Clarke Road high school, whose property backs onto Argyle Arena where the celebrations take place. 

 President of the East London Optimist Club Catherine Herdman says that in March 2019, they were told the changes to the TVDSB policies and procedures meant that the fireworks discharging was now an "ineligible activity."

Chris Yeo, the manager of facility services for the TVDSB says that the policy changes were made after initial recommendations in 2017 suggested that the board should not permit fireworks on school premises.  

"They are considered a high risk and pose as a fire hazard to our buildings and neighbouring properties, and create liability hazards to crowds who are in attendance," Yeo said.

Following the board's recommendations,updates were made to the community's use of the TVDSB buildings, facilities and procedures. Yeo says these updates were posted for public consultation in March 2018, and were approved later that September.

Yeo says TVDSB reached out to the East London Optimist Club to alert them about the potential policy changes coming.

While they did allow the permits to go through last year, Yeo says permit holders were warned that when the new policy was approved by the trustees, they would be expected to uphold it.

Alternative options?

 Herdman says that they decided not to host the celebrations this year after a casual community poll revealed that people weren't interested in coming to an event if there were not fireworks.

The East London Optimist Club did look at alternative options, however there were a number of factors they wanted to consider. 

They wanted to ensure the location was accessible for those taking public transit, had adequate parking and was a sufficient size to host a large number of people. 

However, with the short notice they were unable to find an alternative space for their events.

"It's very frustrating that a such a large community event that's been going on for such a long time would just not happen this year," Herdman said.

"We're very sad that this is cancelled, and very frustrated that we couldn't find an alternative space."

Yeo says that the TVDSB understands the community frustration.

"We're very sorry for any negative effects it has on the community. Obviously that's not our intention. It was our thought to give ample notice with permit holders so they could have an opportunity with advance notice to try to secure alternate locations for the events," he said.

Yeo says that the new policies are consistent with other school boards across Ontario. He says it's important to meet the board obligations to ensure the safety of students, facilities and neighbouring communities.

A Canada Day community staple

Herdman says every year has had a great community response with over ten thousand people coming out to Argyle arena every year for Canada Day.

"It's incredible the amount of people who attend our event," she said.

While the festivities won't happen this year, the East London Optimist Club will continue their Canada Day celebrations in 2020. Already, they are campaigning to let Londoners know there's a lot they can look forward to next year, including fireworks.

"We've been advertising and asking for feedback from the community. We're optimists, and it'll be fine," Herdman said.