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Diwali celebrations in Brampton began with less of a bang due to fireworks ban

Pockets in Peel region saw some violations as celebrations kicked off Sunday, others said festivities were ‘night and day’ compared to last year.
Mahdis Habibinia
Nov. 14, 2023

Parts of Peel region saw a calmer start to Diwali on Sunday, with less fireworks commotion compared to previous years, but pockets in Brampton experienced a similar nuisance to previous years despite a citywide ban on private fireworks.

In Brampton, where personal fireworks are prohibited year-round, residents closer to the east and west complained of ongoing noise until as late as 4 a.m., exacerbated by complaints about city-dedicated phone lines unable to answer residents’ calls.

From Nov. 12 to 13, there were 981 service calls made to the city about fireworks, according to Brampton city spokesperson Natalie Stogdill, who noted some were complaints about the city-led event at Sesquicentennial Park. An additional 232 calls were made to provide information.

“I wasn’t expecting there to be any noisy fireworks (this year) but that was a lie,” said Kamalpreet Gulshi, who was “disturbed” late into the early morning.

The 47-year-old Brampton resident said she moved to Canada from India in 2013, but was disappointed last night to see residents’ disregard for air pollution and raucousness --- nuisances she said bothered her in India as well.

Brampton’s bylaws prohibit the sale, purchase and use of fireworks all year --- excluding city-led events, which this year included its first Diwali Mela celebration on Sunday.

Stogdill said the city issued 107 penalty notices for fireworks and public nuisance violations as of Monday, with fines ranging from $300 to $1,000. In addition, 12 warnings were issued.

“I saw so many complaints that 311 calls weren’t answered, so I didn’t bother. What’s the point?” Gulshi said. “It’s unfair because I don’t want to see (my community) continue with the same old habits.”

Scores of frustrated residents who were unable to get through phone waits took to X, formerly known as Twitter, in an attempt to grab Peel police and the city’s attention, noting hours-long fireworks set off in different Brampton neighbourhoods as well as in Mississauga during quiet hours. These included fireworks near Goreway Drive and Queen Street East, Hurontario Street and Wanless Drive, Bramalea park, Sheridan College and Malton, to name a few.

According to Mississauga city spokesperson Irene McCutcheon, the city received 97 calls about fireworks and five charges were laid for bylaw infringements at Century City Park, Kariya Park, Neebin Park, J.C. Saddington Park and J.J Plaus Park.

Peel police said they are currently investigating improper use of fireworks that occurred at Westwood Square Mall in Mississauga, near the Brampton border, but could not answer if that is the only active investigation.

Stogdill noted, though, that Brampton did not observe the same types of large-scale gatherings and non-compliance issues in plazas and parks as in previous years.

“It’s called a Festival of Lights, not Festival of Fireworks,” said 42-year-old Bedi Dhiman, who celebrates Diwali.

Dhiman added that the difference between Sunday’s fireworks and last year’s was still “night and day,” including waking up to minimal litter on his residential street and clean air.

The Brampton resident said extensive fireworks in 2022 kept him and his kids, 13 and seven, up on a school night. “Even the school parking lots were not spared,” he said.

Tejinder Sahota, a Punjabi-Canadian who celebrated Diwali, said he also noticed a difference from previous years because he was able to sleep. The 44-year-old lives in northern Brampton, where most people also said it was quieter.

“Last year, the intensity was so loud it felt like the whole city had gathered outside your house,” he said.

However, Sahota said his family in other pockets of Brampton experienced a similar nuisance as 2022.

Few community members have previously said complaints and regulations around fireworks use, including air quality advisories, are discriminatory and targeted at the holiday, which is celebrated in Hinduism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Dhiman emphasized that the story behind Diwali --- one of liberation and light over darkness --- involved oil lamps.

“It’s never been about bursting firecrackers and annoying animals or people,” he said.

Sahota said the complaints have produced a “false equivalency” from members of the community asking why fireworks criticisms aren’t brought up as prominently during other holidays.

“It’s not a race issue, it’s a noise and safety issue,” Sahota said. “You can’t light fireworks into cars, at plazas and at 3 a.m. (in general).”

Prior to this year, Diwali was one of a handful of holidays when residential fireworks displays were legal in Brampton, with the use of “short-range” fireworks permitted on private property until 11 p.m.

“Many people who actually do celebrate it safely for years are frustrated,” Sahota continued. “We’re getting punished for the acts of a few people.”