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Failure to launch ignites controversy instead of closing ceremonies

Originally published on Nov. 13, 2014

The Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO) has found itself in an explosive situation—literally.

Led by the SFUO executives vice-president social Ikram Hamoud, other vice-president socials from the university’s federated student bodies decided at a meeting in July to put on a fireworks display at the 101 Week closing ceremonies at Strathcona Park.

Those fireworks never went off.

According to Hamoud, the SFUO had consulted with the Ottawa Fire Department and the City of Ottawa prior to the launch, but the city rejected their request to use the park due to a capacity limit. The SFUO was expecting more than 200 attendees, meaning there wouldn’t have been enough space to safely operate the fireworks.

“This information was unfortunately not communicated with me when I inquired prior to making the reservation,” said Hamoud.

At that point, Hamoud said she contacted the National Capital Commission (NCC) in hopes of finding another location, but all the locations the NCC proposed were “too far,” she said.

Now, the SFUO is sitting on a $10,000 pile of rockets—this time, figuratively—with nothing to celebrate.

The fireworks were not refundable, so the SFUO has held onto company credit with B.E.M. Fireworks.

Hamoud said the $10,000 price tag is “comparable to other entertainment costs of closing ceremonies from past years.”

But student officials who were at the meeting in July to plan the closing ceremonies are now wondering how and why the SFUO ended up in this situation at all.

“It’s hard not to worry about $10,000 of unusable product,” Christine Backs, vice-president social of the Engineering Students’ Society, wrote in an email to the Fulcrum.

“How can you expect to use them later if every potential venue had denied you in the first place?”

According to Hamoud, the roundtable discussed several options for the celebration and decided to move forward with the fireworks display. She said the student reps were kept informed “every step of the way.”

But Backs said it wasn’t a decision based on the consensus of the room.

“We had several discussions about what to do for closing ceremonies, but as soon as fireworks were mentioned you could tell that that was the only option that (Hamoud) would stick with,” she said.

Although the roundtable participants were aware the SFUO would be looking into buying fireworks, they didn’t know how many or how much they would cost, she said.

Anne-Marie Cook of the Science Students’ Association said the SFUO didn’t clearly explain what research they had done prior to buying the fireworks.

“They didn’t really say yes or no, it was kind of more of a, ‘We should be fine, it’ll be OK,’” said Cook.

Kelsea Bendall, vice-president social of the Conflict Studies and Human Rights Association, wrote in an email to the  Fulcrum: The roundtable “tried all (they) could to find a working alternative” when the SFUO was denied a permit.

“Perhaps the situation could have been avoided through clearer communication, but that’s never certain.”

Curious as to what students think of this issue? The Fulcrum took to the streets to find out:

Fun facts about this article:

-The University of Ottawa Students’ Union doesn’t know where the fireworks are.

-To this day the fireworks were never officially used.