• Councillor Mark Grimes

Fireworks - Victoria Day Long Weekend

Updated: May 27

Frankly, I'm as frustrated are you are with these illegal fireworks – like you, I'm kept up at night by fireworks going off near my home. I have been working to tackle this issue at City Council for almost two years, and while we've made some significant changes, fireworks are still clearly a major issue.

In the Spring of 2020, I called on City staff to create a Waterfront Parks Management Plan to address seasonal issues in our waterfront parks, including increased enforcement to respond to fireworks complaints. We had resources in place this past long weekend, but they were pulled to deal with the out of control and dangerous situation that developed at Woodbine Beach. As you may have seen on the news, several police officers were injured, a person was shot, and 19 people were arrested.

I have asked for a report from Toronto Police, Fire Services, and Bylaw so that we can be better prepared. I had been waiting on that report before replying to you, but it has not come in yet.

During the 2020 summer season, I went out to our Parks with Bylaw and Toronto Police to see first-hand the challenges that they are experience. Let me tell you, it's a much different experience when you're down on the ground and don't have an eagle-eye view of where exactly the culprits are. In response to what I saw, I brought a number of motions to City Council to help give our enforcement teams the tools they need to tackle the issue.

October 27, 2020Requesting a Review of Chapter 466, Fireworks. The intent of my motion was to see how we can strengthen the rules.

May 5, 2021Response to Increased Unpermitted Fireworks Use During the COVID-19 Pandemic. On this item, City Council adopted a set of recommendations including enhanced signage in all waterfront parks, increasing the fines for illegal fireworks, establishing a city-wide education campaign, and exploring the feasibility of an online vendor certification and employee training education program.

June 8, 2021 Request to Re-Open Item EC21.10 Response to Increased Unpermitted Fireworks During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This item brought a significant step in our fight against illegal fireworks. I drafted a motion to immediately ban the possession of fireworks in City of Toronto Parks and Beaches. I took this step because prior to this, enforcement officers would have to witness an individual discharge a fireworks in order to lay a charge or issue a ticket. As there is very little reason that a person would have fireworks in a park, unless they intend to discharge it. This give our enforcement teams more tools to help address the problem.

July 14, 2021Determining the Feasibility of Restricting the Retail Sale of Consumer Fireworks. City Council adopted a motion by Councillor Nunziata and myself, asking the City to look at the feasibility restricting the sale of fireworks in Toronto.

February 17, 2022 - As part of the 2022 Budget, I moved a motion asking Municipal Licensing & Standards to prioritize the hiring of 40 bylaw officers to help enforce the rules. Those officers have now been hired, but in order to confront the types of illegal fireworks we see past midnight, they must be paired with police officers for safety.

May 11, 2022Feasibility of Restrictions on the Retail Sale and Public Use of Consumer Fireworks and Responses to Outstanding Directives. As part of this item, Council voted to:

  • Request the Province of Ontario to implement the necessary amendments to the Ontario Fire Code to appropriately and effectively regulate consumer fireworks.

  • Establish a time limit of no later than 11:00pm for discharge of consumer fireworks on the designated holidays of Victoria Day and Canada Day.

  • Further explore the feasibility of an education/training system for the use of consumer fireworks in Toronto and report back on implementation considerations to the appropriate Committee in Late 2023.

  • Consult with permanent fireworks vendors on the feasibility of restricting permanent vendors from selling consumer fireworks year-round and report back on potential by-law amendments and implementation considerations in late 2023.

I think a report back in 2023 is too late, so I asked if staff can report back this year – you can watch my questions of staff here.

Despite all these actions, people continue to behave like idiots. They know the rules, and they don't care. We need police in our parks after midnight – and while I continue to advocate for this, politicians do not have the authority to direct how police enforce the law. I consistently vote to give Toronto Police the resources they need to keep us safe, but they cannot be everywhere all the time.

In short, I am fed up. I have spoken with the Mayor, the Police Chief, and the head of Bylaw Enforcement to call on them to do better. I've worked to give our enforcement teams additional resources, and tools to get a handle on the situation – but we need to get more of a presence in our parks to send a clear message that this type of behaviour is not going to be tolerated.