Corp Comm Connects

Is more enforcement needed? Continuous fireworks in Newmarket draw concerns
July 14, 2021

Well after the sizzle and booms fade, some Newmarket and area residents are calling for increased enforcement of fireworks because of their negative impact on individuals, pets and the environment.

“There are a lot of people, unfortunately, that suffer with different types and forms of anxiety, panic and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Newmarket therapist Mary Charron, who has patients who struggle around the holidays, Victoria Day and Canada Day, when fireworks sound off. “It’s got a double-edged sword to it."

In Newmarket, fireworks are permitted for certain days around Victoria Day and Canada Day, but residents don't always follow the restrictions.

Michelle Playter is one resident calling for more restrictions and enforcement -- and said she wasn't pleased even with the Town of Newmarket display July 1 at the Magna Centre, after it created debris that landed on her nearby house on Quaker Trail.

After listening to fireworks being set illegally throughout the week surrounding Canada Day and Victoria Day, she said the selling of fireworks ― allowed up to one week ahead of Victoria Day and Canada Day ― should also be reined in.

"Why have these bylaws if you can't enforce it?" Playter said. "If you can't get the manpower, then stop selling them."

Playter added fireworks are also hard for pets, and that they recent display created a difficult experience for her 10-month old puppy, Bentley.

"(He) will not go out in our backyard after dark," Playter said. "Loud noises are completely spooking him. He's got anxiety, he's not been eating this week. That's been a challenge for us as well."

The municipal fireworks bylaw has penalties that start at a minimum of $350 for a first offence, and can reach a maximum of $100,000. The Town of Newmarket said it had seven fireworks complaints throughout the Canada Day weekend but issued no penalty notices.

“Bylaw officers took an educational approach to the proper use of fireworks,” corporate communications specialist Cassandra Papas said.

Local biologist Aileen Barclay said fireworks stand to impact local wildlife populations too, with migratory birds potentially hit during Victoria Day fireworks and nesting birds chased off during the Canada Day displays.

"We need to start thinking about our actions in the natural world," Barclay said. "I can't imagine that people would want them gone, but I think we need to tighten up the legislation around them. Maybe only municipal fireworks."

However, there are community members defending fireworks, pointing out the enjoyment they can bring, particularly during the pandemic.

"People are still bored and wanting some little excitement," one community member wrote in a Facebook discussion. "Since we don't have much."

Charron said she can work with patients to develop a strategy around the times fireworks go off, such as breathing or mindfulness techniques. But she said it becomes harder to strategize when fireworks go off at unexpected times.

“I can help them to plan for an event,” Charron said. “When it’s just continuous and ongoing, there’s only so much that a person can emotionally tolerate.”

She said it is something people should be aware of. She added she does not want fireworks banned, but would like to see it limited to one or two days.

“It’s not (about) eradicating them, but we’re also being compassionate toward other people in our community who could be struggling.”