The banning of fireworks in the Cowichan Valley Regional District seems to be the goal of many of the district’s directors, but the devil may be in the details.
At the committee of the whole meeting on Jan. 26, staff recommended that permits for fireworks be issued for special events only, and each permit application be approved by the board.
But, after a lengthy discussion, the committee decided to have staff do some further research on the issue and provide a detailed report at a future COW meeting.
Currently, fireworks are only allowed with a permit three times a year — Halloween, New Year’s Eve and July 1 — within the CVRD, unless special permission is granted.
Lori Iannidinardo, director for Cowichan Bay and chairwoman of the board, said she wants to see fireworks banned entirely in the CVRD.
She said it’s almost impossible to enforce the rules around fireworks in a region as big as the district.
“We’ve had Zoom meetings with farmers in the south end and I was absolutely shocked because some have had to put their horses down due to fireworks,” Iannidinardo said.
“The current bylaw is actually impossible to enforce so we shouldn’t be putting anything out there for our departments to be running around after when fireworks should just be banned. That’s something that we’re moving toward anyway. The groups that use fireworks can use something different instead.”
Blaise Salmon, director for Mill Bay/Malahat, said society, in general, is moving toward banning fireworks.
To date, the City of Vancouver, Richmond, Delta, Surrey, Langley, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Pitt Meadows, Maple Ridge, and Abbotsford have all banned private fireworks due to excessive property damage, injuries, and associated costs.
Salmon also pointed out that fireworks have had horrible effects on livestock, pets and even birds in the CVRD.
“We have to show some leadership here,” he said.
“There are lots of alternatives to fireworks, like light and laser shows, and organized events can start to go that way. We won’t be able to have no fireworks right away because people will do it anyway, but it’s important to show leadership.
Sierra Acton, director for Shawnigan Lake, said she would support a ban on fireworks in the district, but she expects a lot of people won’t be in favour of it.
“This reflects an unwillingness to change,” she said.
“[Banning fireworks] is something we should be moving towards, and Vancouver has already made that big leap. The time has come for us to move in that direction. If this was any other topic, like damage to wildlife or traditions, we wouldn’t think twice about it.”
Ian Morrison, director for Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls, said the issue is important to a lot of people, and he’s heard from a number of pet owners in his area about the trauma their pets experience when fireworks are set off.
But he said he wonders about the practicality of totally banning them.
“How would it work?’ Morrison asked.
“Have we had discussions with the sellers [of fireworks] because there’s obviously money to be made? What about enforcement of a ban? We have difficulties with that now so what happens when [bylaw officers] show up after fireworks are set off and everyone scatters? Are we going to have a new bylaw that shows leadership but, in practice, is unenforceable?”
Tim McGonigle, director for The Town of Lake Cowichan, said he is also concerned about the sale of fireworks, which is banned in the CVRD but not in many surrounding jurisdictions.
“Until we get support from senior levels of government on banning fireworks, I think we’re looking at a dead end of chasing people illegally using fireworks with no means of recuperation,” he said.
“I understand we need to show leadership, but I don’t know if a total ban is the answer at this time.”
Ben Maartman, director for North Oyster/Diamond, suggested that if the bylaw can’t contain fireworks, then people should be educated about them and their impacts on farm animals and pets.
“I also have difficulty going from allowing fireworks at some special events to none,” he said.
“I think we’re headed there and we will eventually get a total ban, but perhaps we could do it in a prescribed method and say we will do it over the next two to three years and tell people how we will do it. Maybe we can start with an education campaign and promote it to the province.”
Klaus Kuhn, director for Youbou/Meade Creek, said he wonders if its too impractical to leave the issue up to each area of the CVRD to decide.
“I can see the validity of banning fireworks, but on the other hand, we have fireworks in Youbou on New Year’s and Thanksgiving and it draws kids and everyone has fun, so I really don’t know,” he said.
“I’d be in favour of selecting certain areas where there are a lot of animals for a ban, but I don’t know how it could be practically enforced.”