Bylaw enforcement set to ticket parties held on Diwali weekend, as officials fight to stem surge in COVID-19 cases in Peel

·3 min read

Brampton’s mayor is warning that the City will be ticketing people holding parties during this weekend’s Diwali celebrations in Peel.

The plea for Peel residents to stick to their immediate households, and forgo religious and large family gatherings for Diwali comes as the region rivals Toronto for the dubious title of the highest daily COVID-19 case count in Ontario.

“Peel police and bylaw enforcement will be making sure there are no large gatherings,” said Mayor Patrick Brown Friday afternoon. “They (law enforcement) do this every weekend, but there is nervousness at (Peel) public health about this weekend.”

Dr. Lawrence Loh, Peel’s medical officer of health, says that, while there aren’t any public health concerns with Diwali, itself, there is with large gatherings, which Diwali celebrations can involve. Brampton represented more than half of the of the Region’s 440 new COVID-19 cases reported Friday.

Loh said that Peel residents should limit close contacts to their immediate houshold, and avoid leaving home, save for only “the most essential reasons.” Residents should practice restraint for at least two to four weeks as the region struggles to stave off steeper case increases in the current second wave, he said.

Brown said that Diwali and Bandi Chhor Divas, celebrated largely by South Asian and Hindu communities this Saturday, comprise an event he’s “got a lot of concern over,” due to the surge in cases that followed Thanksgiving and Halloween.

A census of the region found that South Asians account for more than half of Brampton’s population.

“I believe the community will listen to Dr. Loh, but bylaw enforcement will be ready if there are people who don’t,” Brown said Friday.

Brampton was thrust into the spotlight in the summer when it became the hotbed for parties, one of which attracted an estimated 200 people in July and another where police were called to a shooting that same weekend.

Brampton officials confirmed Friday that, since March 31, “officers have laid 940 charges, including 66 summonses that have been served or are in the process of being served, for violation of the relevant provincial rules and City By-laws,” targeting large residential gatherings and other emergency-measures violations. In Mississauga, 424 tickets and or fines were handed out over the same time. In both cities, people hosting residential gatherings accounted for most of the fines.

Cases against people fined for hosting illegal parties in the summer are trickling through the courts.

In the past week, there were only two social gatherings that resulted in fines, compared to a time “in the summer when we were dealing with, literally, 100 social gatherings in a week,” Brown said.

Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic

Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star