Lanita Schreiner feels helpless.
For the past several years, the resident of southeast Edmonton has known that many in her community are going to be having Diwali celebrations this time of year, and she is all for celebrating — but she’s had enough with how those in her community celebrate.
“The fireworks started and didn’t stop until after midnight. I suffered trauma as a child and loud noises always scare me. The fireworks were just going non-stop,” said Schreiner.
“My dog doesn’t like loud noises either, and she just wouldn’t stop shaking and drooling. I couldn’t get her to go outside to go to the bathroom.
“I understand it’s a cultural thing, but they don’t seem to have any respect for anyone that doesn’t celebrate that holiday.”
Diwali is a Hindu festival of lights that includes fireworks shows and Edmonton firefighters were forced to respond to a large number of complaints and calls over the course of this past weekend, including a large grass fire at Ivor Dent Sports Park on 50 Street Sunday evening.
A person needs a permit in order to set off fireworks and Schreiner feels that if the city doesn’t come down harder on those breaking the bylaw, or put an outright ban on setting off fireworks in city limits without a permit, someone will get seriously injured or even killed.
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“I truly feel that something tragic will happen, whether it’s because of a fire getting started, or from them setting them off and getting hurt. They’re amateurs,” said Schreiner.
Schreiner has lived in Edmonton for 11 years and she said over the last five years it’s gotten worse and worse with all the loud bangs and noises coming from people setting off the fireworks.
“You know it’s coming but there is no way to prepare for it. I know they’re coming, but it doesn’t make it any less annoying or disrespectful,” said Schreiner.
“It was getting so bad on Sunday night that I almost was going to go out and find who was setting them off. I had enough, it seemed to never end. Over the last five years, it’s really become problematic.”
While there are many concerns being raised by citizens across the city, it certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed by people within the Hindu community, as well.
Rajeev Arora, who is the president of the Hindu Society of Alberta, is disappointed to hear the reports of noise complaints and fires being set off during the Diwali celebrations this past weekend.
“I agree that it shouldn’t be allowed in residential area, but, it should be allowed at the community (temples) level,” said Arora.
“Everyone wants to celebrate, but you have to be considerate of your neighbours and the people who live around you.
“I think if people aren’t following the bylaws and the proper instructions, they need to face the consequences.”
Arora said he took part in Diwali celebrations at his temple and where they had a prayer session and a dinner. After dinner, they all went out into the parking lot and lit sparklers.
One thing he feels the city needs to do moving forward is to make the bylaws more clear.
“I get a lot of people coming up to me asking me why (some group) is doing fireworks? Do they have a permit? Are they doing it illegally? It needs to be more clear in the bylaws.”
‘I received well over 50 complaints’: Tang
Karhiio Ward Coun. Keren Tang spent the weekend celebrating Diwali with several members of the community but is very concerned with the number of incidents she’s heard from concerned residents in her ward.
“I received well over 50 complaints of people who wrote letters to me or sent me video clips (of the incidents), and for me, it was very concerning,” said Tang.
“You have to have a permit to use fireworks in residential areas and we made it very difficult to get a permit, so I would venture to guess many people are using these fireworks illegally.
“In one video, someone had set off fireworks in the driveway of a house at 1 a.m. and you could hear a baby crying in the background. That is not OK, and not a respectful way of celebrating.”
Tang said that city council has had many deep discussions when it comes to the fireworks bylaw, but she believes more needs to be done.
“We can do better. We fell short on the communication side of things,” Tang said.
“We need to inform people what they’re allowed to do and not do.
“I’m ready to reach out and see how we can make a collective effort and get the word out and work with different groups.”