Community complaints and traffic rumble after unauthorized Lantern Festival

Six Nations Police are asking for the public’s help in identifying who was involved in staging an unauthorized large lantern festival on Six Nations over the weekend which saw local roads congested with traffic and community members outraged by the flood of non-community members coming to the surprise festival.

The event was sold online and advertised as taking place in the “Toronto area” by an advertiser in the United States.

Hundreds of vehicles were trying to find ownership of farmland on Six Nations, causing a massive traffic jam on the highway. 6 and Fourth Line Road on Saturday evening, resulting in the intervention of the Ontario Provincial Police to clear the roads and order the public not to attend the event.

The elected Six Nations Council blasted the organizers of the festival, calling it dangerous and a fire hazard.

The event, which was a festival of lights to launch fire-powered lanterns, raised concerns among community members due to the number of people attending the event and the potential fire hazard it created, the council said in a statement.

It is estimated that thousands of people descended on the community on Saturday night for the unsanctioned festival. Organizers had not consulted with any community organizations or Six Nations fire departments, the statement said.

The Council said in the statement that it knew in advance that the event was planned and that the organizers had received a letter on August 16 informing them that the release of the lanterns was not authorized.

The event continued to move forward, with the resulting crush of crowds leading to major traffic congestion, road closures, trespassing, property damage and risk to pedestrians who had parked their cars on the side of the road (on the fourth line near Highway 6).

Six Nations Police and the Ontario Provincial Police had to intervene to control traffic. The police had also requested that the lanterns not be lit. They were still on and loose and could be seen from outside Six Nations.

Photos of the lanterns floating in the sky flooded local Facebook groups, even as far away as Hamilton.

The statement said the lanterns were thrown “in violation of health and safety guidelines. Not only does this have a detrimental effect on our environment, but it also presents a significant fire hazard, as our territory is home to the largest expanse of Carolinian forest in the country.

Chief-elect Mark Hill called the event a callous disregard for life safety.

Chief Hill traveled to the event to speak with organizers on Saturday evening.

“It is unacceptable that outside organizations think they can exploit our sovereignty for their own benefit by staging events in the territory that have little or no benefit to our community. Six Nations and its residents deserve the respect of visitors to the land, as well as members of our own community.

The event unfortunately impacted family members who struggled to attend the late Manual Johnson’s wake that was being held that evening.

Police say around 30 to 50 lanterns were launched into the sky and charges are pending.

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