There may be a fence around the park and security guards checking backpacks at the entrance next year, but Barrhaven’s Canada Day celebration will continue, vows volunteer organizer Darrell Bartraw.
The community can’t allow a bunch of teenage hooligans who threw firecrackers into the crowd this year to scare people away, says the president of Canada Day Barrhaven Inc.
“They are not going to beat me.”
Organizers will meet next week to discuss what security measures will be added next year, he said. A fence will probably be erected if they can find money to pay for it. He doesn’t want to charge admission because that would mean the community party would not be open to all.
“I want families to come here and feel safe. We’ll do whatever it takes to do that.”
Bartraw says he can’t believe what transpired at Clarke Fields Park during the fireworks show this year. “I’m saddened, completely saddened, and aggravated and mad.”
His doctor won’t be happy about his blood pressure, adds the retired justice of the peace. “I’m stressed. I work 365 days a year on this frigging thing. It’s my life. It drives my wife crazy. I’m 61, I don’t need this.”
For 38 years, Barrhaven has prided itself on staging a family oriented Canada Day, what Bartraw calls “the safe alternative” to the huge party on Parliament Hill.
Bartraw can’t explain why a gang of teenagers disrupted this year’s event. Maybe the youths were emboldened because it was dark and they were part of an anonymous crowd, he speculates. “They aren’t all bad kids. It’s like pit bulls. It was a pack mentality.
“A few kids lead it and the others just followed.”
Witnesses say a group of teenagers threw fireworks into the crowd for about half an hour.
Volunteers escorted several teenagers out of the park, but the kids just came back in, says Bartraw. “It just escalated and escalated.”
He saw police arrest a 15-year-old who was subdued with a Taser and handcuffed. A group of about 100 teenagers surrounded three police officers trying to arrest the boy and started pushing, says Bartraw. “They were all just circling (the police) and chanting, ‘Fight the police! Fight the police!’
“Another young girl was trying to pull the cops off, saying, ‘That’s my brother!’ ”
Police pepper sprayed the teens to get them to disperse.
“Some of the kids who were screaming (at police) before were crying like babies,” says Bartraw.
Volunteers at the first aid tent treated about half a dozen people for burning eyes, while Ottawa paramedics said they also treated three people who were sprayed.
However, Bartraw said he didn’t see any fighting or weapons. “Just pushing, threatening police and anyone in authority.”
Some of the fireworks the teens set off were roman candle types that shot multiple sparks, according to witnesses.
“One went off about 10 feet in front of us,” said Eric, who didn’t want his name used because he fears the teens would retaliate against his business. “A little girl got hit right in the face. She was about four. She was holding her cheek and screaming and crying.
“Her dad scooped her up, and the mom picked up the other child, and they just ran.”
Eric said he and a few other men in the crowd began yelling at the teenagers: ” ‘Why do you want to be idiots? You are letting off fireworks in the middle of the crowd. There are babies here!’
“A lot of us started getting really angry.” His friend called 911.
Several of the estimated 100 teenagers in the group challenged the bystanders to fight and kicked one man before they ran away, he said. His two children, aged four and 12, were frightened, said Eric. “My son was crying because he thought I was going to get hurt.
“I was a bad kid, too, and I did stupid things,” says Eric. “But nothing like that. Come on. What if a little girl loses her eye?”
He won’t go back to the Barrhaven Canada Day party, he says.
Bartraw emphasizes that the rest of the day was lovely. There was a midway, a fun zone for kids, craft and food tents, a free breakfast for seniors, a citizenship ceremony and live bands on the main stage.
The rowdy teenagers didn’t show up until dark, just before the fireworks began. “I know they didn’t come to see all the great shows and take part in the midway,” says Bartraw with a sigh. “They were just hanging out.”
And he points out that several dozen other teenagers volunteered to help out during the event. “We have some great kids in this community.”