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Lantern fest wrongly used Six Nations, Ont., land, community member says as organizer defends chaotic event | CBC News

Lantern fest wrongly used Six Nations, Ont., land, community member says as organizer defends chaotic event | CBC News

A resident from Six Nations, Ont., the First Nations reserve where a U.S.-based event company held a controversial lantern festival last weekend, says local laws around land use are different than other jurisdictions and need to be respected. 

“These organizers need to understand Indigenous lands are not to be seen as a wasteland [where] our territories and the safety of our people don’t matter,” Rick Monture, who is Mohawk with the Turtle clan, told CBC Hamilton on Thursday.

The Lights Festival was held on a farm in Six Nations on Aug. 20, despite community concerns around permissions and safety. Many ticket holders, some who came from more than 100 kilometres away, were turned back by Six Nations police, while others were able to reach the property and release lanterns. 

Monture said while some municipalities like Toronto have banned sky lanterns, Six Nations is among reserves that don’t have the same laws, which “creates a loophole” for event organizers. 

“They don’t care if it causes any potential harm or threat to the community … I would put the onus squarely on the event organizers,” said Monture, who is also a McMaster University associate professor in the departments of English, cultural and Indigenous studies.

Following calls from many ticket holders for a refund and fuller explanation, the festival’s organizer told CBC Hamilton this week it relied on the venue to ensure last weekend’s event could move forward.

“We did everything that the venue had told us to do,” said Drew Dunn, a manager with U.S.-based Viive Events.

The event, held on the same property in 2019, had prompted concerns from Six Nations community members before it took place again this year. Six Nations police, who called the event “unauthorized,” blocked the area and, according to one neighbour, it turned into “mayhem.”

“They said they were taking care of it,” Dunn said of the property owner. “I’m the first to admit it did not go how we wanted it to go.”

CBC has been unable to reach the property owner, and Dunn has not provided more information about the venue.

How the night unfolded

Viive Events is the Utah-based company behind the The Lights Festival, where people light a lantern and let it fly through the sky.

Festivals take place across the U.S. and Canada, and have triggered concerns before. The Six Nations event, marketed as taking place in the Toronto area on Aug. 20, was organized remotely, Dunn said.

The company held the event on private property, the Johnson Farm.

The First Nations reserve is also home to the the largest Carolinian forest in southern Ontario.

Rick Monture had strong words for the organizers of The Light Festival, which took place in the First Nations reserve on Aug. 20. (McMaster University)

Terri Monture lives next to the farm and described a scene of “mayhem” Saturday night — darkened roads lined with cars, with people trying to get to the location despite police blocking it off. 

She said she spoke to at least one person who wasn’t aware the area was a reserve. She told them they weren’t supposed to be there and “our band council and our hereditary council have condemned [the event].”

At least one formal letter from the community that was signed by Mark Hill, chief of the elected council, was sent to organizers before the event, saying it was too dangerous to release lanterns and that organizers had no authority to do so. 

When asked if Viive Events had made any contact with the elected council or the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council (HCCC) — the traditional, hereditary leaders on the reserve — Dunn said he wasn’t sure and needed to double check.

The HCCC declined to comment.

While there was an announcement from organizers on the day of the event asking the roughly 5,000 ticket holders not to fly the lanterns, some floated through the sky Saturday night.

Others were turned away by Six Nations police, who said this week it was investigating and may lay charges.

Dunn said the organizers didn’t know police had arrived at the event and were turning people away. He said the company couldn’t get in contact with police, which he said was the reason for their delay with a public statement. The company posted a note online Sunday evening apologizing “for any confusion and inconvenience.”

“We were confused as participants … no one would talk to me,” Dunn said, adding he hadn’t heard about any potential charges by police.

Six Nations police didn’t respond to questions from CBC Hamilton.

Event company says it follows ‘correct protocols’

In a statement released Tuesday, Hill said the event represented “a callous disregard for the safety and well-being of the people of Six Nations.”

One family had trouble driving to a relative’s wake because of traffic from the event, he said.

“It is unacceptable that outside organizations think they can exploit our sovereignty for their own benefit by hosting events on the territory that have little to no benefit to our community,” he wrote.

Rick Monture said he was particularly upset by one part of the organizers’ Sunday statement, which said they were happy for those who got to release their lanterns.

They were essentially saying “good for you people for disobeying the police and threatening the lives and well-being of people in the community,” Monture said.

When Dunn was asked about both community and ticket-holder concerns, he said there has never been a single fire throughout the five years the event has been in operation.

The company goes through “all the correct protocols,” he added.

A person releasing a lantern into the sky.
Lights Festival organizers say they’re setting another date for the event to make up for last weekend’s event in Six Nations that they say caused ‘confusion and inconvenience’ to ticket holders. (globetrotter.mitul.kathuria/Instagram)

“Not everyone loves the event, that’s just like anything in life … that’s part of doing a special event,” Dunn said.

“People don’t realize the thousands of people that are going there because they’ve lost a loved one or they’re starting to do a job … that’s what we give to people.”

He said the venue itself is private property and they can host an event when they want. He also said the event went well when it took place there in 2019.

Terri Monture previously told CBC that event raised some concerns.

Organizers issuing limited refunds

Dunn said Viive is working with customers to issue refunds to some with tickets, but not all.

“When a musician goes on tour and the artist loses their voice, they don’t refund everyone, they reschedule,” Dunn said. 

The company has 52 complaints registered with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), many of them around accessing refunds and or events not taking place.

“The consumers reach out to the business for refunds and are unsuccessful in reaching them,” the website says.

However, Dunn said, “We’re not here to steal money, we’re not here to be a scam, we’re here to bring an awesome event to people.”

The festival’s frequently asked questions section says tickets are non-refundable unless the customer opts for the Refund Protection Plan.

The other chance at getting a refund is if the event is cancelled and a new date isn’t set within 90 days of the original event. 

Dunn said Viive hopes to have another Ontario event by October, but said it won’t take place at the Johnson Farm.

Instead, it will be in a municipality that supports the event, he said.

“We are working day and night to find another venue to do it the right way so these people can experience what a cool event it is.” 

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London, Ont. to host several events in June in memory of Afzaal family – London |

London, Ont. to host several events in June in memory of Afzaal family - London |

The city will host a slate of community events in early June as organizers look to honour the four members of the Afzaal family who were killed in last year’s targeted vehicle attack in northwest London, Ont.

In what marked the deadliest mass murder in London’s history, the attack on June 6, 2021, targeted a local Muslim family out for an evening walk in the city’s Hyde Park neighbourhood.

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London, Ont. council committee recommends June 6 as ‘Day of Remembrance’ for Afzaal family

They were struck by a pickup truck in what police have labelled a hate crime that targeted the family based on their religion.

Salman Afzaal, 46, Madiha Salman, 44, their 15-year-old daughter Yumna and her 74-year-old grandmother Talat Afzaal were killed in the attack. The couple’s nine-year-old son, Fayez, was seriously injured but survived.

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From left to right: Yumna Afzaal, Madiha Salman, Salman Afzaal and Talat Afzaal.

Supplied by family

A full list of the events is available now on a dedicated webpage on the City of London’s website.

They include an Our London Family March on June 5 which will have participants travel from Oakridge Secondary School to the London Muslim Mosque.

There will also be a vigil on June 6 at the site of the attack itself.

The Youth Coalition Combatting Islamophobia (YCCI) is one of the lead organizers for the upcoming events and coordinator Selma Tobah says there’s a significance to where the vigil is being held.

“It’s this notion of reclaiming this space and saying this intersection, this area where the attack occurred will no longer be marred by the violence itself, but by the remembrance of the beautiful lives that were taken,” Tobah said.

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Click to play video: 'How to speak with your kids about the London attack on a Muslim family'

How to speak with your kids about the London attack on a Muslim family

How to speak with your kids about the London attack on a Muslim family – Jun 14, 2021

YCCI was formed in the wake of the June 6 killings and is made up of young Londoners who were personally impacted by the attack, particularly those who were close with Yumna.

“That’s really been the purpose of this coalition is to give these young people an avenue to use their voice in a way that’s productive and in a way that they feel is healing and really honours their friend that was murdered in this attack,” said Tobah.

Read more:

September 2023 trial date set in London, Ont. attack on Muslim family

Amplifying youth voices was one of the recommendations that came out of London’s Action Plan to Disrupt Islamophobia, the result of months of consultation with local stakeholders that followed the June 6 attack.

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London’s anti-racism and anti-oppression director Rumina Morris, who had a leading role in developing the action plan, says the upcoming events also follow through on another suggestion that emerged from those consultations.

“People in the community were really looking for the city to take the lead in terms of bringing people together, so not leading to organize, but to bring people together and make those connections,” Morris said.

Some of the people being brought together include the London Muslim Mosque, the Thames Valley and London District Catholic school boards, the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Service Integration and the London Public Library to name a few.

Read more:

London, Ont. officials unveil ‘Action Plan to Disrupt Islamophobia’

Behind the scenes, Morris says police and other emergency services are working to make sure the events stay safe.

She hopes the anniversary will provide an opportunity for reflection for all Londoners.

“The days after the attack, I think everybody was in absolute shock that this has happened in our community and the impact of it was really, really intense in terms of emotions,” Morris said.

“I don’t think the emotions are going to be any less intense, but I certainly see it as an opportunity to really reflect on what we have done since that one year and how we are really – as a community – coming together … to really address Islamophobia in all of its forms.”

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Click to play video: 'Community honours legacy of four murdered Muslims'

Community honours legacy of four murdered Muslims

Community honours legacy of four murdered Muslims – Jun 9, 2021

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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London, Ont. event looks to raise funds, share stories of those impacted by war in Ukraine – London |

London, Ont. event looks to raise funds, share stories of those impacted by war in Ukraine - London |

Members of the Ukrainian community in London, Ont., and several international students from Ukraine are expected to share their stories Sunday afternoon as part of an event aimed at raising funds to support the Canadian Red Cross and those impacted by Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine.

The London Multicultural Community Association (LMCA) is spearheading the initiative, in partnership with several other local groups including the London branch of the London Ukrainian Congress, the London Ukrainian Centre and the Polish Combatants Association.

The event, set to run from 2-5:30 p.m. at the Polish Combatants’ Hall at 80 Ann St., just southwest of Oxford and Talbot streets, comes just over a month since Russia invaded Ukraine.

A poster for Sunday’s event.

London Multicultural Community Association

In that time, more than 10 million people have had to flee their homes, including some 3.7 million who have fled the country according to the United Nations. Another 6.5 million have been displaced within Ukraine.

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At least 1,081 civilians have been killed during the war and 1,707 have been injured, the UN says, noting actual figures are believed to be “considerably higher” due to reporting and confirmation delays.

“Many of them have friends and families in Ukraine, so they are updated on a daily, sometimes hourly basis,” said LMCA President Jack Malkin, referring to members of the local Ukrainian community who will be in attendance.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to learn firsthand what they are experiencing. Usually, in times of crisis or catastrophe, we look at the big numbers and we kind of move on, but when we hear personal stories, it’s easier for us to relate and actually educate ourselves about what’s really going on there.”

Read more:

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All donations collected during the event will go to support the Canadian Red Cross and its ongoing Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal campaign. The Canadian Red Cross says donations allow it and Red Crescent Movement to “respond to humanitarian needs in Ukraine and surrounding countries.”

Of the more than $82 million the Canadian Red Cross says it has contributed to the international Red Cross so far as part of its Ukraine campaign, two-thirds is going to support people in Ukraine, while one-third is going to help those displaced in surrounding countries.

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Click to play video: 'Ukraine’s cities devastated, Russia’s forces seemingly stalled 1 month into war'

Ukraine’s cities devastated, Russia’s forces seemingly stalled 1 month into war

Ukraine’s cities devastated, Russia’s forces seemingly stalled 1 month into war

Malkin says someone from the Red Cross is expected to be on hand for the event, as well as some 10 to 20 people who are members of the local Ukrainian community or international students from Ukraine.

The event will also feature a display of Ukrainian arts and culture, along with dancing by members of the London Barvinok Ukrainian Dance Ensemble.

“It will be an informal event – not (one) that people will stand in front of the audience and speak – people can interact with them directly and ask questions and share experiences and so on,” he said.

Read more:

300 Ukrainians killed in Russian airstrike on Mariupol theatre, say officials

“We can’t even imagine how difficult it (would) be if houses around you (were) being destroyed or there’s a lack of food or health-care services. It’s really horrible to sit here and to be spectators to one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world, probably since World War Two.”

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With no immediate end in sight to the ongoing conflict, Malkin says it’s possible that a future fundraiser may be held with a focus on local international students from Ukraine who may now find themselves with limited means.

“Their parents may not be able to send funds anymore. They may not be able to go back to Ukraine, so they will need some resources to be able to stay here… Perhaps when Ukrainian refugees come to London, we may be able to help them as well.”

Those unable to attend Sunday’s event can donate to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal campaign through LMCA via the Canadian Red Cross website.

Donations can also be made through the London Ukrainian Centre by phone at 519-686-9811, or by email e-transfer at

Read more:

Aeolian Hall benefit concert for Ukraine raises over $30K for Red Cross

It’s not the only event taking place in the city where Londoners can show their support for the Ukrainian people.

More than $30,000 was raised Thursday night for the Red Cross as part of a two-night benefit concert at London’s Aeolian Hall featuring 23 musicians and two choirs of around 57 people.

The benefit concert ends Friday night.

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— with files from Sawyer Bogdan and the Associated Press

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Moffatt claims silver medal in men’s slopestyle event despite cancellation of final

Moffatt claims silver medal in men's slopestyle event despite cancellation of final

TIGNES, France – Canada’s Max Moffatt claimed a silver medal in a men’s World Cup slopestyle ski event after high winds forced the cancellation of the final Saturday.

Moffatt won the silver medal based upon his qualifying run Thursday. The Caledon, Ont., native had a score of 87.25 points to qualify for the final.

Moffatt captured his second silver of the season, claiming his first in Stubai, Austria, in November.

“Unfortunately, there was a lot of wind (Saturday) and it wasn’t safe to ski,” Moffatt said. “This wasn’t really the way I had hoped to win a medal this weekend, but it is what it is.

“Everyone would have preferred to ski, but the health and safety of the athletes was the top priority, so it was the right decision.”

Norway’s Birk Ruud won the competition with a qualifying score of 88.50 points, while Sweden’s Jesper Tjader placed third with 86.00.

Bruce Oldham of Parry Sound, Ont., was 16th, two spots ahead of Calgary’s Mark Hendrickson. Dylan Deschamps of Quebec City was 36th while Philippe Langevin of Mont-Tremblant, Que., was 41st.

The women’s qualifiers and final were both cancelled Friday and Saturday, respectively.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 12, 2022.

The Canadian Press. All rights reserved.