Controlling fireworks 

By Jenn Watt

M uch is being made of the new fireworks bylaw enacted by Dysart et al. The new rules ask that people not use fireworks on their properties with the exception of on New Year’s Eve and four weekends in the summer.

The rules have set off an explosion of disagreement online as people debate whether limiting fireworks is anti-cottager and anti-fun or pro-environment and pro-serenity.

While private fireworks displays are beautiful and for many of us signal a time of celebration and relaxation there are issues with them.

Depending on which fireworks are purchased there can be pollution and residue.

They are also upsetting to animals – wild and domestic. It’s well known that many dogs have a hard time when fireworks are set off often cowering under beds and tables. It’s likely even more unpleasant for the animals that are living outside – close to where the fireworks are being deployed.

As explosive devices they can pose a danger to those who light them and people in the vicinity. Set off in the wrong area they can also cause fires.

And then there’s the people component.

Every person has to tolerate the behaviour of other people. That’s what it means to be human. We don’t always agree with one another and sometimes the things our neighbours do annoy us. When it happens infrequently we politely ignore it. It’s how we keep the peace and keep friends.

But when a behaviour becomes incessant it’s no longer just annoying.

This is where the fireworks bylaw comes in. On some lakes fireworks are being set off far more often than on long weekends. More often than every weekend.

Because the Highlands in the summer is recreational for so many every day of the week can be a cause for celebration. And in more heavily populated regions that means fireworks several times a week. Obviously this isn’t good for most people.

Unfortunately even with a fireworks bylaw in place including a fine of $500 we all know that those in violation are unlikely to be caught. If you are reporting someone shooting fireworks across your lake on a Wednesday in August how are you going to know exactly who is doing it? And when the authorities arrive how can they prove who set them off?

What we have in this bylaw is a set of rules that will seldom be enforced. But can they lead to better behaviour? Sure.

There will be a subset of the population that will see the new rules and abide by them. And over time some of the messages behind why the bylaw exists will percolate to wider groups of people likely lessening the frequency of fireworks in the Highlands.

But can we expect fireworks to be restricted to four weekends in the summer in our lifetimes?

Probably not.