Illegal fireworks have hit the streets, and a McLaughlin on Your Side undercover investigation has exposed just how easy they are to get and how dangerous they can be.

We meet a young man in a Richmond parking lot. We have no idea what to expect, and he doesn't seem to know exactly what he's selling. 

But for $70, he sells us a box of 50 modified explosives. These have clearly been tampered with; a fuse has been added where there shouldn't be one. 

We head straight to the Vancouver Fire Department to put them in safe hands.

“These are not legal for sale, possession or use in the City of Vancouver for a multitude of reasons,” Capt. Jonathan Gormick says.

It quickly becomes clear why. 

“Something like this is dangerous just because of the explosive power,” Gormick says as we watch the explosive blow apart two treated four-by-four pieces of wood.

The explosives we purchased were modified Air Bangers. Normally, they are fired from a small gun to scare wildlife away from crops and airfields.

In their original form they can be sold legally for those purposes, but these had been altered, with a fuse stuck into the end. 

"You can only imagine the damage it can do to something that's less dense, like your hand," Gromick says.


But we don't have to imagine the damage. We’ve seen the pictures of maimed teens like Adam Felardeau, whose fingers were blown off several years ago when he was in Grade 9.

“I was in hospital for a week and basically it’s changed my life,” he told CTV News in an earlier interview.

The modified explosives were advertised on Craigslist as M-80s which are also illegal. YouTube is littered with stunts demonstrating their firepower, including a person using a modified explosive to blow up a toilet. 

The modifications can make them more powerful, and more unpredictable. In fact, the explosives we bought are so dangerous that federal officals wanted to issue a seizure notice to CTV to have them destroyed. 

Last year, the RCMP had a 25 per cent increase in calls about fireworks safety concerns.  And in an undercover operation, Vancouver police seized more than $18,000 in illegal explosives - fireworks that could easily have gotten into the hands of minors.

Part of the problem is figuring out what's safe and what's not, and there's a patchwork of laws surrounding the sale of fireworks that are meant to keep buyers safe.

There are complete bans in Richmond, North Vancouver and Abbotsford. Legal fireworks can be sold at licensed retailers in Vancouver, but buyers must be 19 or older and have a permit. However, retailers can sell fireworks to minors if they have written permission from their parents.

But those rules only apply to legal products. The Canadian Fireworks Association has prepared this list of banned explosives.

You can also check with Natural Resources Canada, which has an online tool where you can verify whether what is being sold is legal.

The bottom line: check with your municipality to determine what is allowed. Fireworks can only be legally sold in B.C. from Oct. 25 to 31. 

The young man who sold us the modified explosives appeared to be in his early 20s, and was clean cut. He was driving around in an SUV with explosives in the back seat.

“Are these legal?” I asked him.

“Not too sure,” he replied, then asked why we were recording him. When pressed further about the dangers he drove away.

illegal fireworks