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'Barbaric and primitive': Newmarket man calls for fireworks ban ahead of Canada Day

'People need some joy in their lives right now,' says mayor in opposing a ban


Lisa Queen
June 14, 2021

In the wake of a noisy Victoria Day weekend and in advance of a similarly anticipated disruptive Canada Day period, resident Rick Butts is calling on Newmarket to ban fireworks.

For several nights during the May long weekend, he said “aspiring pyrotechnics and their raucous fans” were “thrilled to watch burning projectiles launched indiscriminately into residential neighbourhoods” at the Ray Twinney Recreation Complex, near his home.

Although it contravened several bylaws  -- the town prohibits fireworks on public property, has fines for improper use starting at $600, limits residential use to homes at least 18 metres (59 feet) wide, restricts fireworks to Victoria Day and Canada Day and the days immediately preceding and following those occasions and only from dusk (approximately 9:30 p.m.) to 11 p.m. and allows only adults to discharge them  -- Butts said police and bylaw officers didn't come to put an end to the displays.

Complaining does no good, as messages left at the town are picked up the next business day after several nights of fireworks, Butts said.

“Why not get ban fireworks outright? The current toothless and long-winded bylaw that covers this barbaric and primitive practice of firing fake bombs over your neighbour’s house has no effect other than to give the appearance of town action,” he said, calling fireworks an outdated practice in a country that doesn’t glorify gun culture.

“To be fair, the town does take the position that you can’t blow things up at night on town property because it’s against the rules. But what everybody knows is that if you do, no one’s going to catch you so go light ’em and let ’em rip!”

While Mayor John Taylor doesn’t agree with a fireworks ban, Butts said numerous studies and organizations highlight their dangers, including environmental and air quality concerns and fear caused to pets, wildlife and people who have fled war-torn countries.

Fireworks over the Victoria Day weekend touched a nerve, with more than 200 people posting comments on the issue on the Newmarket: What’s Happening Facebook page.

One person complained fireworks were going off at 2:30 a.m., while another person said they should be made illegal and others said their pets were suffering.

However, others urged pet owners to keep their animals safe and distracted inside and some called fireworks light-hearted fun.

The mayor doesn’t feel a ban is the answer.

“Does it (fireworks) have impacts on some individuals, on pets and perhaps on some wildlife? I’m sure it does. There are many things that we do as humans that have impacts on a certain portion of our community. But we still engage in them,” he said.

“I’m always looking for ways to be better environmentally but we also have to realize that fireworks are something that, in my opinion, and I’m pretty sure it would hold up to polling, are enjoyed by the vast majority of the community.”

Because the town didn’t have municipal fireworks for Victoria Day due to the pandemic, Taylor said it’s likely more residents, desperate for entertainment after more than a year of COVID-19 restrictions, held their own displays.

“Particularly in a COVID year, when people are feeling very regulated and policed and governed, in a year where they have very little else to do, to say now is the time to say no to fireworks doesn’t feel right to me,” he said.

With the town hoping to host a municipal drive-in display for Canada Day and putting out more public messaging about fireworks rules, Taylor is hoping for fewer problems for Canada Day.

But he admits it likely won’t satisfy everyone.

“I wish it was easy to say there’s a perfect answer and a terrible answer and we’re taking the perfect one but often what we do, we have to pick the better of the two options and neither is perfect,” Taylor said.

“People need some joy in their lives right now.”