The request for the absolution, which was put forward by Hindu Forum Canada at last week’s council meeting, was analyzed and backed by Mississauga’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee (DIAC) at a meeting on Aug. 6.Mississauga city councillors elected to consult with DIAC on whether or not to allow temples to broadcast hymns over the course of three upcoming Hindu holidays: Krishna Janmashtami (Aug. 11), Ganesh Chaturthi (Aug. 22) and Onam (Aug. 31).
After possessing off on making a decision to append enforcement of the city’s noise bylaw to allow Hindu temples to broadcast hymns over the course of three holidays, members of council voted in favour of the exemption at a special council meeting on Aug. 10.
The city says Hindu temples will be allowed to broadcast religious hymns once per day at 7:00 p.m. for a maximum of five minutes between the period of Aug. 11 and Sept. 1, 2020.
Hindu Forum of Canada asked permission for local temples to broadcast the religious hymns Gayatri Mantra and Hanuman Chalisa once a day for about three weeks to allow Hindus to celebrate the three special occasions.
“Due to the constraint and challenges posed by COVID-19 pandemic, our Hindu diaspora have not been able to appear in Mandirs or observe their religious ceremonies – and thus have been impoverished of experiencing much of their culture, religious practices and the experience of having their religious songs being sung publicly during these trying times,” Rao Yendamuri, President, Hindu Forum Canada, wrote in the letter.
“Therefore, granting the Mandirs in the region to broadcast religious hymns at Aarti time in the evening and stage a limited number of religious parades once a week will act as a origin of comfort, notably to the seniors who are at a greater risk of infection by COVID-19 and are unable to leave their homes, even now when the economy has at least partially started to re-open.”
As of now, places of worship are allowed to open for in-person assemblage but can only operate at one-third of capacity.
While the move to allow the call to prayer to be broadcast received support from a number of organizations, including Canadians United Against Hate, others called the exemption “unconstitutional” and said it was “forcing religion” on residents.Hindu Forum Canada was one organization that spoke out against the exemption, calling the exemption “unconstitutional” and “anti-national” in a May 2 press release.
The city said the exemption will be provided for this year only due to the pandemic—or at least until newly drafted noise bylaws are vetted through public consultation meetings between city staff, councillors and residents.