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Brantford Council unanimously supports fireworks for Diwali and Lunar New Year

City of BrantfordBrantford Council unanimously supports fireworks for Diwali and Lunar New Year

City of Brantford Council unanimously supported an amendment to Chapter 520 of the Municipal Code (Fireworks Regulations Firecracker Prohibition) to allow the use of commercial-grade fireworks for both the Lunar New Year and Diwali, during its Committee of the Whole, Planning and Administration meeting held on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.

Where as the current by-law allows consumer fireworks to be discharged on both Victoria Day (or on the three calendar days immediately preceding Victoria Day), and Canada Day (or on the three calendar days immediately preceding Canada Day), the update to the by-law would also see the addition of Diwali and the Lunar New Year, as well as any other date with the specific authorization of the Brantford Fire Department.

“We often talk about how we aspire to be a diverse, welcoming and inclusive community and that’s an important message that many of us give, but it means nothing unless you’re prepared to back it up either through policies, programs or actions. This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate a commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming community,” said Kevin Davis, Mayor for the City of Brantford. “Diwali, for the Hindu community, is the festival of light. It symbolizes the spiritual victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and fireworks have been an inherent and critical component of those celebrations as part of the long tradition of the Hindu Diwali celebrations.”

Davis said that the Hindu community is growing at a rapid rate, and that the City wants to make it known that it recognizes their celebrations, customs and culture, especially when it comes to the use of fireworks during the Diwali festival.

Davis said that the amendment, once passed, will also allow the City’s communications team to address and educate residents about firework safety.

“There’s another good and practical reason for this. Many Hindus will set off fireworks as such a critical part of their culture, but they’re doing it in an environment where there’s been no communication from the City about the rules that apply to fireworks as there is before Victoria Day and Canada Day,” he said. “Because Diwali is not [currently] allowed, City Comms can’t do that communication before Diwali to tell those who are going to be setting off fireworks, about the days you can do it, that you can’t do it after 11:00 p.m., that you have be over 18-years-old, that it has to be on your property and not a city property or parking lot. So, if we include this in the fireworks by-law, City Comms can do their usual great job in communicating and educating the appropriate way to use fireworks.”

Councillor Greg Martin then asked Todd Binkley, Fire Chief for the Brantford Fire Department, if there had been any fires started due to the improper use of fireworks, and Binkley confirmed there were none over the past year.

“With that, I’ll support this,” said Martin. “I think this is a very good thing to do for those various groups within our community and I think we have to support it.”

Councillor Rose Sicoli said that there will be many people in Ward One who will be happy to see this news, noting that she also lives in the ward and has seen the difference in the number of fireworks during Diwali over the years.

“It is very symbolic of the City of Branford opening our arms and welcoming all communities and bringing us together,” she said.

Bearing in mind that part of the current fireworks by-law includes setting them off on personal property only, Sicoli said that she often hears that people feel safer to set them off in a more wide-open space like a park.

She asked Fire Staff to help explain to residents why it’s prohibited to set off fireworks on City property and parks.

“Setting off fireworks on municipally owned property  would be allowed provided permission was granted by the Parks Department,” responded Dwayne Armstrong, Deputy Fire Chief for the Brantford Fire Department. “Historically, looking at it, there were some issues with gathering the necessary insurance to provide that, but there is the possibility for it.”

He said that if anyone wanted to host Diwali, Lunar New Year, or even Victoria Day and Canada Day fireworks in a park, the first step would be to request a permit through the City of Brantford.

Councillor Dan McCreary said that he was okay to support the resolution as well, but that he would also be equally okay if the resolution called to ban fireworks across the board (Canada Day and Victoria Day included).

“I seldom hear from people that they want more days of fireworks, but I sure do hear from people who want fewer, and want tighter restrictions. I think if instead of 11 Councillors at the table, if we had seven Wheaten Terriers or Labrador Retrievers, I’m pretty sure that there would be a different resolution before us because it’s something I hear a lot from people who own dogs,” he said. “There are concerns about fireworks in general, and some people just have to act like idiots and it causes us to have to reconsider things like this all the time. …Having said that, I hope the Staff have a means to ensure that they communicate with the folks in the community and have a good chat with them about the do’s and don’ts of this, and to make sure that we get off on the right foot.”

Councillor Michael Sullivan said if Council went through with the resolution, he would like to ensure there would be extensive education about how to also properly set off fireworks to help deter incidents where they were being set off too close to properties, houses and trees.

Councillor Gino Caputo said that he would be fully supporting the additions to the by-law.

“I think that the demographics of our city has changed dramatically, and I think that anytime various groups want to celebrate, I think we should give them that opportunity to do so,” he said. “I do, though, throw caution. We need to either monitor or police this so that the 11:00 p.m. curfew stays accordingly, but, I think it’s an opportunity for us to be able to show the citizens of this city that we’re listening to them and we’re allowing them to have their celebration.”

Councillor Richard Carpenter also noted that there are other light display options that are more environmentally friendly fireworks and could be used instead.

Council then voted unanimously to support the by-law update, and will vote on the final decision during their regular Council meeting on Tuesday, January 30, 2024.

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