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End of the line for annual Glace Bay parade

Glace Bay Volunteer firefighter Brian Morgan, left, and fire chief John Chant, working on the fire department’s float in this file photo. Due to new rules including a ban on nighttime parades, Chant said they had to cancel their light-up parade this year. However, Chant said, they will be taking their float to various activities and locations around the Glace Bay so again they can engage with the community.
Glace Bay Volunteer firefighter Brian Morgan, left, and fire chief John Chant, working on the fire department’s float in this file photo. Due to new rules including a ban on nighttime parades, Chant said they had to cancel their light-up parade this year. However, Chant said, they will be taking their float to various activities and locations around the Glace Bay so again they can engage with the community. - SaltWire File Photo

'It’s the rules, it’s the amount of people it’s going to take to pull off these parades'

GLACE BAY, N.S. —

A 60-year tradition in Glace Bay is no more.

John Chant, fire chief of the Glace Bay Volunteer Fire Department, said there will not be a Christmas light-up parade in their community this year.

“We’re done,” he said. “It’s the rules, it’s the amount of people it’s going to take to pull off these parades. ”

Chant said he knows rules have been put in for safety reasons, but they haven’t had an injury in their parades in Glace Bay for 60 years. There are only three or four rules for organizers but 22 now for parade entries, he added.

“We have turned into a ‘what if’ society,” he said. “What if this is going to happen?”

Chant said the big thing is these changes are all being made with no input from the fire departments who do the work, who have been organizing these parades for years. The police met with Cape Breton Regional Municipality recreation department and never once brought fire departments in for input.

“Then they go and drop the rules on your desk,” he said. “It all involves the fire departments and I’m tired of being left out of these conversations. We’re afterthoughts in all of this.”

The issue of parade safety came to the forefront last year when a four-year-old girl died after falling under a float during Yarmouth’s annual Christmas parade. Following the tragedy, the CBRM reviewed its own parade regulations and amended them prior to a series of Santa Claus parades held around the municipality in 2018.

In October CBRM council approved a motion that will see all parades in the municipality held during daylight hours.

During a special meeting Monday, CBRM council voted 6-4 to uphold its ban on nighttime parades, as well as limit the length of parade routes to four kilometres.

Dist. 7 Coun. Amanda McDougall had brought forth a motion asking her council colleagues to reconsider the ban. Councillors voting against reconsidering the ban included George MacDonald, Darren Bruckschwaiger, Eldon MacDonald, Jim MacLeod, Esmond (Blue) Marshall and Steve Gillespie. Councillors voting to reconsider it included McDougall, Kendra Coombs, Earlene MacMullin, Ivan Doncaster and Mayor Cecil Clarke.

Chant said he received a message from North Sydney Fire Chief Lloyd MacIntosh Monday stating they might have to cancel their parade. The following day, a number of volunteers came forward.

Tuesday morning Chant came into the station to be greeted by the parade rules. Volunteers now have to be strategically placed all over the parade route to watch turns and other places that could see crowds going out to the street.

“Which we’ve never had an issue with,” he said.

Chant said there has to be a 1-6 float ratio. If there are 60 floats in the parade, there has to be 10 strategically placed people around the parade route. It might not sound like a lot, but Chant said you have firefighters driving fire trucks and manning fire trucks in case there’s a fire.

With parades, that black cloud is always over you, he added, asking if there’s a fire and resources have to be pulled out of the parade, that by rules now have to be there, he said.

It was easier with evening parades, he added, with more firefighters off at that time compared to 2 p.m.

Changing to a daytime parade would take 30-35 per cent of their labour force.

Chant said the only solution would be to ask other resources and the public for assistance. However, even If someone volunteers Chant said he can’t force them to be there if something happens in their family and they can’t come.

“You could have 15-20 people sign up for the parade but not get 15-20 people on parade day.”

Chant said he would also hate to have to threaten to cancel the parade every year to get assistance.

“In the end there is no way we can guarantee everyone will show up on parade day,” he said. “The Glace Bay fire department is community oriented; it kills me that we have to go this route."

The Christmas light-up parade and annual escorting of Santa Claus around the community during the holiday season is a tradition Chant grew up within Glace Bay, remembering at four years old sitting in the front seat of the Fire Chief Roy Wadden’s car.

“He used to pick me up and we’d go around the area,” he said. "I remember that as if it was yesterday."

Chant said their members will get Santa out there. They will be taking their float out during the holiday season to various places for people to see Santa, so Santa can give treats to the kids.

“We plan to take our own membership out and engage with the community,” he said. “We’re not disappearing, that’s for sure.”

The float is sponsored by the Cape Breton Post.

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