Nighttime parades are once again possible in Nova Scotia's second-largest municipality, but the policy reversal likely won't take effect until next year.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality's council voted to ban nighttime parades in 2019 after a couple of accidents in which children were hurt, and in the wake of the death of a child during a Santa Claus parade in Yarmouth the previous year.
On Tuesday, council voted 9-4 to reverse the ban. Those in favour said the police chief, as head of the traffic authority, can decide whether a parade plan is safe or not.
Community groups have to apply to the municipality for a permit and Mayor Amanda McDougall said that process will ensure safety is a priority.
"In order to host a nighttime parade, you need to meet a whole list of safety precautions and procedures and ultimately it's the traffic authority that issues the parade permit, so at least now we do have an option to work with community organizations to host those nighttime parades," she said.
On Tuesday, Chief Robert Walsh said police, provincial transportation officials and CBRM's insurance company all recommend against nighttime parades.
Safety risk increases in the dark
Accidents can always happen, he said, but the risk of getting hurt increases with reduced visibility in the dark.
"In the end, we just want to make sure that these events are as safe and as enjoyable as possible, especially for the children," Walsh said.
"We want parades to be a time to remember, not one impossible to forget."
Walsh said at five kilometres long, the Sydney parade route is longer than any other in the province.
Halifax holds a nighttime parade, but it has 20 traffic officers — all of whom are deployed for a nighttime parade — and CBRM only has five, Walsh said.
He suggested risk and safety would be easier to manage at stationary parades or festivals.
Coun. Darren Bruckschwaiger says he was called 'Scrooge' after the 2019 council decision to ban nighttime parades, but he says it was the right decision. (Tom Ayers/CBC)
Councillors Eldon MacDonald, Steve Gillespie, James Edwards and Darren Bruckschwaiger voted against the ban reversal, saying they wanted more information from staff before making a decision.
Bruckschwaiger said after the previous council decision, he was called "Scrooge," but it was the right decision.
"I've seen near misses in my time, even in daytime .... candies being fired from trucks and kids coming off the curb ... some of it really scared me."
He also wondered if insurance would be valid if the chief was recommending daytime events only.
"It's the liability of the taxpayers of the CBRM," Bruckschwaiger said.
Coun. Cyril MacDonald says he trusts the police chief to review a community group's parade application and make the proper decision on whether it's safe. (Tom Ayers/CBC)
Coun. Cyril MacDonald said he would support the police chief's decision on a parade application no matter what.
"I trust you, chief, and I have a lot of faith in you," he said. "I believe that at the end of the day, you'll make the right decision."
There will not likely be any nighttime parades in CBRM this year.
Councillors said most community parades have already scheduled daytime events and Walsh said police do not have the resources right now to cover any nighttime parades.
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