Listen Up! Fireworks should continue to be part of the joy of childhood

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Hugh Mackenzie
Huntsville Doppler

Don’t Forget the Children

Do you remember when you were a kid? A long time ago for some of us but think back a little. What got you really excited? Well, Christmas did for many of us, no matter our religion. We still believed in Santa Claus and the anticipation of what was left for us in our stockings and under the tree, built to a crescendo over many weeks. Fireworks were special too; at New Years, Victoria Day, Canada Day and Thanksgiving. We would often gather as families on these special occasions and fireworks, sometimes at a community event and sometimes in our back yard or on the beach, were always a climax to a glorious day. Those were some of the happy times I remember.

Now some people in Huntsville want to ban fireworks. To that I say, bah, humbug!

At a committee meeting of Huntsville Council recently some Councillors raised the spectre of prohibiting fireworks, some altogether and others on residential properties. Reasons given for this were danger, the environment and the effect on wild- life and dogs. Let’s examine these one at a time.

There is always a risk of danger in almost everything we do, whether it is driving a car, walking across the road, running in a race or lighting fireworks. Common sense applies to all of this and more, but we are allowed to take risks. It is not the job of government at any level, to protect us from ourselves. As for danger to others, when it comes to fireworks, there has of course, been the odd accident. But reports of serious incidents caused by fireworks on special holidays are few and far between.

As for the environment, that has become the catchword of the century. If you want to put another rule in place, blame it on the environment. Almost everything relates to our environment, one way or another and to different levels of effect. There is almost nothing one can do, that someone or some organization will not find to be detrimental to our environment and fireworks are no exception. However, I can find no empirical evidence that this has been a particular problem around here, certainly not to the extent of an environmental emergency. There are, in my view, many other things that we do, that would rate much higher, in terms of harming our environment.

I do empathize with people who are concerned about frightening wild- life and domestic pets. Noise does affect animals as it sometimes does humans. But unwelcome and disturbing noise; thunder, lightning, gunshots, backfires, is part of their lives as it is ours. Wild-life know how to be wary of unexpected activity and domestic pets have their humans to comfort them. Fireworks a few times a year, will not add significantly to their discomfort.

There is an economic side to this as well. A favorite place for many people to let off fireworks is at their cottage. We have literally thousands of cottages in the Huntsville area and most of them buy their celebratory fireworks here. It is unfair to them and to the merchants who sell to them, to ban fireworks without a really legitimate reason.

I sometimes wonder if we forget when we were young, when awe at things beyond our imagination was rare and magical when it happened. Fireworks, at least for me was one of those times. I still enjoy them. Perhaps, as we get older, we forget how important the joys of childhood are. Sometimes we go to bed before the fireworks start and get grumpy when we are awakened to the bright light and loud bangs. Sometimes that happens to me, but then, I remember.

I also worry about the growing trend of Governments telling us what we can and cannot do. While the potential banning of fireworks is hardly an earth- shattering issue, it is an important one, because it is one more signal, albeit, a small one, of government controlling our lives, limiting our freedoms and turning society into one big common denominator of political correctness. That is not something I support.

Fireworks are a part of our national life. They are not trivial. Handled properly, they are not harmful, and they serve an important celebratory role on certain occasions. I am not sure why this is ending up on our Council table at this point in time, although one could guess. It may well be the politically correct thing to do, but it is not the right thing to do.

Please, remember the joy of childhood. Remember that life is worth celebrating. Let the fireworks begin!

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15 Comments

    • Craig Nakamoto on

      I totally agree Hugh, it is getting out of control. Besides, I would ban pets before I banned fireworks. I would guess that more than half of all pet owners are irresponsible and should not have pets.

  1. Hugh
    I remember a time when you could drive inebriated if you could walk a straight line. I remember a time when we could ride motorcycles without protective equipment. I remember a time when we rode in cars without seatbelts because there weren’t any. I remember a time when it was okay to ride in the bed of pickup with your infant child. I remember a time when women didn’t vote (well not personally).

    To belittle this discussion because you remember a time when you did things that are now clearly unsafe, fair or unsustainable makes me sad that you are unable to see beyond the word “ban”.

    There are clearly issues with volume, altitude, and location from which many fireworks are being used. The amount of fireworks being used by Tourist Locations and individuals is growing in size and scope. Metal fragments are real, toxic smoke is real, noise effects are real.

    The issue is: Should there be some control over when, where and how fireworks are bing used. If firearms were being discharged in your neighbourhood just because they can be discharged outside urban areas you might have an issue about that. Would it be the noise, the smoke or the metal?

    Let’s not base everything in this discussion on that long forgotten day when the only fireworks you experienced were on July 1st put on by your community or the Little Red School House you lit up in your backyard.

    • Louise Choquette on

      I love your comments Brian! It is not because « we used to do it that way » that we should continue to do it that way! The noise created by fireworks is particularly annoying to year-round residents who want to get some sleep at night because they are working the next day!

    • Gone are the two or three occasions a year that fireworks go off. May24th, Canada Day…and I don’t remember another one. Now a Tuesday seems important to someone or a midnight display for a birthday is the norm it seems. Muskoka Lakes has a bylaw in place, it just needs better enforcement.

  2. George Young on

    Couldn’t agree more with you Hugh. We need less government not more in our lives and there is already far too much political correctness in our lives.

  3. I believe that there is a legitimate concern regarding the detonation of fireworks from private docks and cottages into our lakes and the surrounding forests based on the following:
    • Toxic chemicals going into the lakes from spent fireworks including lead and phosphorous. Although apparently the fireworks manufacturing companies have ‘cleaned up’ a lot of the chemicals in the fireworks recently, there are still some powerful chemicals that are in the spent fireworks going into the lakes

    • Concern re: forest fire hazard

    • Some studies have shown that nesting birds have abandoned their nests following public fireworks displays

    • Although the effect on wildlife is somewhat controversial, common sense seems to say that detonation of explosives causes great stress to all wildlife, far more that thunderstorms. I think that wildlife can sense when a thunderstorm is approaching and have time to take shelter and prepare for it. With fireworks there is no warning. Fireworks explosions must be confusing and terrifying to our precious wildlife.

    • Extreme distress to our own companion animals and small children when our next door neighbours on the lake decide to have a loud and long private display of explosives, anywhere and anytime, and we are a captive and unwilling audience

    I hope the Town of Huntsville will set a good example to Muskoka and all of Ontario and ban the recreational use of fireworks. Yes I too enjoyed them as a child but I also enjoyed riding in the back of Dad’s car with no seat belt, bouncing around in the back of my uncle’s pickup truck, and smoking cigarettes as a teenager!

    We now have the knowledge that fireworks are an environmental disaster. This isn’t about being politically correct, it’s about being responsible for the environment and making the world a safe place for everyone.

      • Thank you Hugh for this well written and common sense article. We already have WAY too much government in our daily lives. If we ban fireworks where does it stop? It’s a slow erosion of our right to make our own decisions, without government nanny state intervention. What will taken away from us next?

  4. Jamie Jordan on

    We have set off fireworks at our Canada Day Party almost every summer since we moved in here in 1993. We have some pets that don’t like the noise and we take them inside but all of them jump up on a couch to watch. Others stay outside with their humans. If the season is too dry we skip it. But if it’s been raining in the days before we go ahead. People at what used to be The Cottage and at the Pub on the Docks get a good view and often cheer as do people in the boats heading up river to the big town fireworks later in the evening. There are little paper or cardboard disks that sometimes come down which are cleaned up in the light of the next day. I’ve never encountered anything metal. Smoke is small and dissipates quickly. Kids love it but grown ups do too. So on the whole I agree with Hugh. Brian Murat’s comments are wise but they are about things that were a serious problem and many lives and serious injuries have been prevented by those measures. But if Hugh’s stats are correct there doesn’t seem to be a serious issue here regarding fires or air care. Limiting the use of fireworks off a dock into the water makes sense. I once had a dream that the Ontario Government had renamed all the lakes in Muskoka using numbers, the way that roads in Muskoka were renamed using numbers AND that NO-ONE could go outside without wearing a helmet.

  5. Karen Wehrstein on

    I love fireworks and would hate to see them banned. In recognition of their explosive force there are already many regulations governing them, e.g. to shoot off professional-level ones like those used in town displays, you have to have a license requiring extensive training. This is as it should be. Perhaps they can be tightened to address the concerns.
    .
    I take issue with this however: “I also worry about the growing trend of Governments telling us what we can and cannot do.”
    .
    Growing trend since when, Hammurabai’s laws? It’s called “rule of law” also “justice system”, “law enforcement,” etc. Every single culture down to stone-age tribes has rules that say what people can and cannot do. It is part of human nature. Suggest trying to live with it.

  6. Thank you Hugh for your well-written common-sense letter! Well said! I couldn’t agree with you more!
    This tradition dates back centuries and it would be sad to see a part of history erased. Participating in this heritage brings back some of the best memories shared with my family over the years. Good wholesome family time spent together. Banning things rarely has the desired effect and will only mean that a “black market” will open up and make it even more dangerous and fireworks more likely to fall into the hands of youngsters and those who would act irresponsibly.

    Personally I cant believe that town council is wasting their time debating this issue when there are so many more issues in the town with so much more validity that should be addressed.

    There are plenty of things which are more dangerous and or cause more environmental damage than fireworks such as cars, deforestation, farming, and pollution from motor boats in our lakes. What is the next right to decide that government will take away from us. The number of cars are increasing daily. Are they next, ban only one car per family…..ban boats in cottage country. Come on people, let common sense prevail here. Fireworks usually only occur 2 to 3 times a year…..not daily.

    Dogs may be scared of fireworks but plenty of people are scared of dogs and no one wants to see them banned because they cause others anxiety, alarm, or distress!! Once again, common sense. Everyone has things which annoy or upset us but we cant go around and ban everything that upsets someone.

    It is not the governments job to take away our right to make our own decisions. This is just one more instance of government trying to control our lives, limiting our freedoms and our ability to choose for ourselves. We need less government interference NOT MORE!

    On that note, I say let common sense prevail and let families and cottagers coming to our area choose for themselves how they will enjoy part of the cottage experience with their families and friends. Let the fireworks begin! Don’t take this heritage and family custom away from our children!

    • Yours is a thoughtful response, Gail, and originally I agreed 100%. On further thought, however, there is no reason why a “family” occasion cannot be a “community” occasion. Let the fire/police/EMS personnel be in charge; erect sawhorse- or tape-barriers; and ignite the fireworks safely. There would certainly be less wildlife, and dogs and timid children could be left with a sitter. Admission (by donation to a worthy cause) would also assist in promoting the idea.

      Council was only discussing the safety issue of banning “personal” fireworks. Perhaps while they’re at it, they could increase the number of “no motorboat” lakes. As you mentioned, this is an environmental concern on many of our smaller lakes with slow water turnover.

  7. Brenda Laking on

    A group of people is being left out of this discussion, those who make the fireworks. Read the article The Rockets’ Red Glare, by Kathleen McLaughlin and Noy Thrupkaew (https://slate.com/business/2016/07/china-makes-most-of-the-worlds-fireworks-and-bears-most-of-the-danger.html). According to the article, the vast majority of the world’s fireworks come from China. And sometimes they explode early, with deadly consequences.
    The authors of the article write that in China, fireworks making is the second most dangerous industry, behind coal mining. “Between 1986 and 2005, an average of 400 people were killed every year making fireworks in China, according to official data published in Chinese media. But coal mines, where 931 workers were killed in 2014 according to Chinese government data, get far more attention.” … “In 2001, a blast in eastern China’s Fanglin village killed 42 people, most of them third- and fourth-graders, required to put detonators into fireworks as part of a “work-study” program to prop up their underfunded school. Another blast followed in 2009, killing at least 12 primary-school children in a fireworks workshop in Guangxi.”
    If after reading the article, a person decides not to purchase fireworks anymore, are they being politically correct or just being a person with a conscience. We are a global economy and should be a global community? Yes Hugh, Don’t Forget the Children … of Fanglin and Guangxi.
    There is no “common sense” argument for purchasing fireworks, eating shark fins, or driving a snowmobile over open water. We need governments to make laws, by-laws, bans and rules because there are ill-informed people out there doing stupid things.

  8. Once upon a time, people accepted responsibility far more than they do now…and we have arrived at the point of when something happens, Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.

    The story may be confusing but the message is clear: no one took responsibility so nothing got accomplished.
    And the result of all of this is more legislation to control behaviour, which starts the cycle all over again, because everybody believes somebody will enforce the legislation that nobody wants to follow anyway……
    And the lawyers will make more and more money….Perhaps Shakespeare was correct about Lawyers…

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