When Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward accepted an invite for a community convoy of vehicles to stop at a dozen different places in her city this last weekend, she realized how problematic it was.
Meed Ward said more than 150 vehicles participated in the “drive-by” parade to celebrate birthdays, the birth of a new baby and someone’s retirement. While the intention came from a good place, Meed Ward said these types of procession celebrations have grown significantly in size, duration and frequency. So the City of Burlington announced Thursday it is prohibiting any drive-by parades with more than five vehicles.
“We had a huge birthday parade and it’s the second I’ve heard of,” said Ward Meed on Friday.
“It was organized by a local community group who do a lot of charitable work. They invited me to join in, which I thought was awesome. It turned it out be about 125 vehicles, 30-odd motorcycles and a staging around at the mall parking lot. At one point, the procession was 2 km. long on a highway. It was a lot of cars on the road.”
The mayor wants to make clear that there is no new bylaw the prohibition falls under — it is a recommendation by the city.
“We haven’t banned parades,” said Ward Meed. “The way we read the provincial emergency orders is they ban parades and the limit of gatherings is five people or less, so that’s where we take our guidance from the size and scale. There’s no need for further laws or ticketing, we’re not going to go down that path.”
Ward Meed said the community group who had planned the parade wanted to do it again this weekend, so the city decided to publicly discourage it.
The province said a funeral service is an exception to this rule as 10 people can attend.
Premier Doug Ford said Burlington could stand to be more “lenient.”
“If everyone is in their cars, who are they bothering?” he said at the province’s press briefing Friday. “You have to celebrate a little bit. I’ll leave that up to the mayor of Burlington … I’d understand if it was groups of people marching down the street, side-by-side, chanting. But that’s not the case.”
Halton Region Public Health has provided guidelines for small-scale, local processions, including: remaining in their vehicle during the entire event, not interacting or gathering with people outside the vehicle, limiting the number of vehicles, ensure only household members are in the vehicles and continuing to follow the rules of the road.
For smaller scale parades with five or fewer vehicles, the City of Burlington suggests limiting participation to immediate family and close friends, alerting neighbours ahead of time, making sure any decorations on a vehicles — including ribbons, balloons and stuffed toys — are properly secured. Instead of gathering at a centralized location to form a queue, provide a window of time for participants to make their way individually to the location and drive by and ask observers to stay on their own property and two metres away from any neighbour.
“We encourage our community to continue to find alternative ways to celebrate and come together while staying apart, in adherence with provincial emergency orders and public health advice, such as Zoom parties, or charitable donations in the individual’s name,” the city said in a release.