By ALAN SHACKLETON
As Canada Day and the first full weekend of July approaches, Toronto police and city officials are working to avoid a repeat of the bad behaviour that took place in and around the Woodbine Beach on the Victoria Day weekend.
A major concern for Thursday, July 1, and the nights before and after it will be centring around the gathering of large crowds and the illegal use of fireworks in local parks and on the beaches.
“After the unprecedented scenes we’ve had at the beaches this summer, especially with the fireworks and Roman candles, police and bylaw officers are ready to respond to crowds and gatherings,” Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford told Beach Metro News.
The Victoria Day long weekend saw massive crowds gathering in the evening and at night in the Woodbine Beach area. They were setting off fireworks into the early morning hours, and there were numerous incidents of people shooting fireworks at each other.
On the night of Saturday, June 12, a 16-year-old boy was stabbed after a confrontation regarding the shooting of fireworks at people. A 24-year-old St. Catharines man was charged with attempted murder in that incident. Police also charged two 16-year-old boys with assault with a weapon.
Bradford said Toronto Council voted at its June meeting to ban possession of fireworks in city parks as a way to hopefully put a stop their illegal use, especially on holidays such as Victoria Day and Canada Day at which fireworks are traditionally set off.
Normally such events would see fireworks displays presented by the City of Toronto at Ashbridges Bay, bringing large but overwhelmingly peaceful crowds to the area. Due to COVID-19, those displays were cancelled for this year. They were also cancelled in 2020, but the issues at the beaches regarding illegal use of fireworks and large crowds did not take place.
Bradford said he was expecting to see the ban on possessing fireworks in city parks enforced through this week and into the weekend following Canada Day.
However, he said politicians ultimately do not “tell the police how to do their job.”
“We work closely together of course and let them know where we think more attention is needed based on what we know about the situation in our communities,” said Bradford.
“Police allocate the resources and do the planning from there based on their expertise.”
The situations with large crowds over Victoria Day, and on June 12, have links to large gatherings of young people being organized on social media.
“My message to the people organizing and taking part in these events is simple: This selfish, destructive behaviour needs to stop,” said Bradford. “Not only is it illegal, dangerous and irresponsible, it’s completely anti-social. It ignores the fact that we’re a community and shows a total disregard for the fact we are a community, and the beaches are an escape that everyone should be able to enjoy.”
For those who wish to set off fireworks, it can be done legally on private property.
“You can still enjoy fireworks with family and friends at home,” said Bradford. “Victoria Day and Canada Day are the only days where you can use fireworks on private property without a permit.”
He also reminded residents planning a display on private property to follow all safety rules (include COVID-19 regulations), and to buy their fireworks from licenced vendors.
Bradford said he fully understands the concerns and uneasiness local residents are feeling as this Canada Day weekend approaches given past events this year.
“This has been unprecedented and we are doing everything we can to step up enforcement. As irresponsible and disruptive as this behaviour has been over the last month, we have to remember that this is still our community and we’re all playing our role to make sure it stays open, safe and clean for everyone to enjoy,” he said.