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Motion to ban discharge of consumer fireworks in Sidney goes bust

Staff now investigating more limited ban in or adjacent to environmentally sensitive areas
Sidney is looking into prohibiting the discharge of consumer fireworks in or adjacent to the designated established environmentally sensitive areas of Roberts Bay (seen here) and Reay Creek. (Black Press Media file photo)

A motion to prohibit the discharge of consumer fireworks within Sidney failed to launch — at least for now.

Couns. Scott Garnett and Barbara Fallot voted in favour of banning the use of over-the-counter fireworks, but not display fireworks supported by authorities and set off by certified technicians as part of events like Canada Day. Garnett and Fallot found themselves in the minority as Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith joined Couns. Sara Duncan, Terri O’Keeffe, Chad Rintoul and Peter Wainwright in asking staff to revise the existing fireworks bylaw to prohibit the discharge of fireworks in or adjacent to the designated established environmentally sensitive areas of Roberts Bay and Reay Creek.

“I think that is a measured response,” said Wainwright. “I agree there is a rationale for banning the consumer ones, but I am not sure a majority of our residents are in favour of that,” he added later. This said, council may also hear additional information about the issue from the public, once staff start their revision of the bylaw, he said.

Wainwright made those comments after Garnett had made several points about the harm caused by fireworks. They include their ecological effects including the discharge of harmful substances into the environment, their disturbing effects on local wildlife and the potential to trigger harmful emotions among individuals suffering from PTSD, such as veterans.

Garnett acknowledged that a ban by Sidney would place it out of step with North and Central Saanich.

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“But you know — we can be a leader,” said Garnett. “We can show people that there are negative impacts to these. People don’t seem to recognize that, but there are and are quite severe and traumatic for individuals and animals alike.”

According to a staff report, Sidney has aligned with the majority of Capital Regional District (CRD) municipalities in prohibiting the sale of fireworks but allowing the permitted discharge of fireworks with a permit. “At present, most fireworks for family displays are purchased online, and some local First Nations within the CRD also sell fireworks.”

Council considered the issue after receiving two written submissions from residents complaining about noise concerns from Halloween fireworks in 2021.

A person 18 years or older can apply for a family fireworks display permit for between 5 and 10 p.m. on Oct. 31 each year under Sidney’s bylaw which allows family fireworks for “special events or festivals.” Staff said authorities grant permits almost exclusively for Halloween events with an average of four to six permits each year. Four permits were granted for Halloween 2021.

RELATED: LETTER: Fireworks cause distress

Sidney Volunteer Fire Department Chief Brett Mikkelsen recommended council prohibit the discharge of fireworks in or adjacent to the environmentally sensitive areas established as such, saying that it offers a more measured approach.

O’Keeffe agreed. A complete ban would be unreasonable against what would be lost, she said. “There are a lot of good points brought up by Coun. Garnett, but I have to weigh that against families getting together maybe three times a year (New Year’s Day, Canada Day and Halloween).”

Council’s decision for a more limited ban will require staff to further define and delineate its geographic boundaries. Sidney will also have to put up another $750 to cover additional staff time for bylaw enforcement.

Overall, Mikkelsen said the discharge of consumer fireworks has gone up, with the pandemic having had a contributing effect. “I don’t have the metrics to back that up, but anecdotally, I can state that I believe COVID did have an effect,” he said, pointing to the greater availability of fireworks online.

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Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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