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City committee backs plan to allow backyard fireworks in London, Ont. – London |


Following a lengthy public meeting with dozens of residents offering their voices, a city committee has directed staff to draft a bylaw that would continue allowing consumer (backyard) fireworks on select days in London.

The decision by the community and protective services committee followed close to three hours of residents voicing their opinion on the matter. So many residents arrived at city hall that three overflow rooms were utilized for space.

The focus of the public meeting and committee debate that followed centred around a staff report seeking direction on drafting a bylaw concerning the future of backyard fireworks in London. Staff presented two options for the committee and council to choose between.

Option A suggested backyard fireworks be allowed only on Victoria Day, Canada Day and Diwali. The option would mean fireworks would be allowed to be discharged on the day preceding Canada Day as is currently allowed.

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Option A would also decrease the number of days allowed to sell fireworks in London from seven to five and increase the current fines for breaking the fireworks bylaw.

Option B would ban backyard fireworks in the city and only allow permitted fireworks to be discharged. Option B would also ban the sale of backyard fireworks and increase current fines.

According to staff, around 15 permits are usually issued yearly, allowing commercial fireworks displays for events like Canada Day and New Year’s Eve.

An online poll of Londoners asking respondents to choose between the two options presented by staff resulted in 52.2 per cent favouring option A and 47.8 per cent favouring option B. The poll received 1,635 responses.

Similar to the online survey, those who spoke during the public meeting portion were split on the issue. Most speakers favouring option A came from a background of owning or working for a fireworks business or were visible members of the South Asian community that celebrate Diwali.

Paresh Soni, the executive director of the Hindu Legacy group in London, said fireworks are an “integral” part of Diwali, a major religious festival celebrating “victory of light over darkness.”

“Diwali is a tradition that is 800 years old, so fireworks are in our DNA,” Soni said, adding most firework displays related to Diwali use sparklers and fountain fireworks and last between 15 and 20 minutes.

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While many voiced their support for fireworks, virtually an equal amount expressed their opposition.

Deanna Ronson, one of the organizers for Londoners for Quiet Fireworks, said fireworks should be banned outright.

“Fireworks create unnecessary pollution and greenhouse gases, they increase the risk of fire, have negative impacts on wildlife and pets,” said Ronson in a communication to the committee.

Others who spoke against fireworks also cited the effects it has on those with PTSD and anxiety, as well as the noise and light pollution at hours many sleep.

While a contentious issue that has sharply divided London, many speaking for one side offered their support or understanding for the other.

A few speakers supporting the banning of fireworks acknowledging Diwali could be afforded an exception, and some supporting option A said they wish for greater enforcement of those not following bylaws and desiring to work with those with PTSD and pet owners to be consulted.

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Following the public meeting portion, Coun. David Ferreria attempted to move option B.

“It’s about the dangers and the public safety for me,” said Ferreira. “These are essentially explosives and they can be used inappropriately.”

However, no other committee member was willing to second Ferreria’s motion. Instead, Coun. Corrine Rahman moved Option A.

The committee voted 4-1 in favour, with Couns. Rahman, Elizabeth Peloza, Jerry Pribil and Mayor Josh Morgan in favour and Ferreria the lone no. Coun. Susan Stevenson was away.

An amendment from Peloza that passed requested staff to bring back information on various business licensing bylaw issues regarding of fireworks, including required communication to retailers and clients and compliance measures.

The recommendation by the committee still requires full council approval. The next council meeting is scheduled for August 29.

Should council approve the committee decision, city staff said a draft bylaw could be expected near the end of the year.

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