The biggest holidays of the year for many South Asian communities will look a little different in Brampton and Mississauga on Sunday night, as municipalities tighten their rules around fireworks.
Thousands of Hindus, Jains and Sikhs are expected to gather in temples, gurdwaras and homes to worship and celebrate, traditionally light-filled gatherings.
And while those in Mississauga will still be able to use fireworks on their private property, those wishing to celebrate with fireworks in Brampton must do so exclusively at a city-organized event after city council voted last year to ban pyrotechnics.
The ban was not the right choice, according to Yudhishthir Dhanrajh, Hindu spiritual leader of the Brampton Triveni Mandir.
“We think the ban on fireworks is a little unfair because we like to use them as part of our celebrations,” he said.
Hindus celebrate Diwali as the triumph of light over darkness and decorating one’s home with the use of lights is very important to people, Dhanrajh said.
The City of Brampton will host a Diwali Mela from 4pm to 10pm on Sunday, with performances and “a dazzling 15-minute fireworks show” at Sesquicentennial Park.
“I look forward to coming together as a community to celebrate,” Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown said in a news release.
The city hosting such an event is “nice,” Dhanraj said. He says he hopes it goes well, but it’s not the same type of experience.
“I know people will be a little sad this year that they can’t do that in their own homes or in front of their homes, their community,” Dhanraj said, adding that he hopes the rules can be reconsidered in the coming years.
Hundreds of complaints led to the ban
Brampton’s blanket ban on fireworks in public places or private property came after hundreds of complaints made to the city last year, particularly during the Diwali period. There were concerns that the fireworks were being set off early in the morning or too close to home.
Count. Guratap Singh Toor, who supported the motion that led to the ban, said during a November 2022 council meeting that councilors “heard loud and clear… on the issue.”
While the council approved the use of sparklers, lighting fireworks illegally now carries a $1,000 fine.
Similar safety and nuisance complaints prompted a months-long review of Mississauga’s fireworks bylaw this year.
While the city decided not to enact an outright ban, it limited fireworks to private property on designated days, including Nov. 12 this year and New Year’s Eve until 1 a.m.
Last month, Mississauga council also approved a fine of up to $100,000 for major violators of fireworks regulations. The rule change will not take effect until December.
“I think it’s extremely important that we send the message that we’re really not going to tolerate this anymore and that these fines are going to be significant,” Coun said. Matt Mahoney, who introduced the motion in Mississauga.
It says the $100,000 fines are aimed at “bad actors” who sell illegal fireworks and those who take over places with disruptive or dangerous activities involving fireworks.
Alternatives to fireworks
The rule changes have some looking for alternatives to fireworks.
There are many, said Amreet Singh Jassal, general secretary of the Ontario Khalsa Darba, a Sikh Gurdwara in Mississauga.
Sikhs celebrating Bandi Chhor Divas on Sunday, a holiday celebrating the release from prison of Sikh spiritual leader Guru Hargobind Sahib, were often interested in setting off fireworks on gurdwara properties, Jassal said.
However, he told CBC Toronto that the gurdwara stopped the practice a few years ago for safety reasons. He says it is important to ensure safety and respect leaders, rules and regulations.
“You can light the candles. You can light up your house,” Jassal said.
He says spending time with your friends and family and thinking about what this holiday really means should be key.