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Go fly a kite — just not in Milliken Park

TORONTO — The simple act of flying a kite at a park in Toronto could result in a $100 fine after area residents complained about kite fighting, a popular practice among several immigrant communities.

TORONTO — The simple act of flying a kite at a park in Toronto could
result in a $100 fine after area residents complained about kite
fighting, a popular practice among several immigrant communities.


Coun. Chin Lee said he signed off on the ban on all kites at Milliken
Park after his parks staff recommended the ban for safety reasons.


The park has been the site of kite fighting — an activity often seen in
Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, whereby two duelling kiters attempt to
sever the other’s string, sending their kites flying.


Lee said the practice has left string all over the park and even caused human injury.


After complaints from his constituents over the past three years, Lee said he had no choice but to ban kite flying there.


``The people I represent are saying, ’You have to find a solution to
this,’’’ he said, adding complaints about string getting caught in
people’s legs and even injuring someone’s ear forced him to act.


``This is a safety issue.’’


The ban isn’t going over well with people such as Gogi Malik and Hareem
Haque, for whom fighting kites is a part of their culture.


``We love this sport,’’ said Malik, who is originally from Lahore, Pakistan.


He and Haque were in Woodbine Park on Wednesday afternoon, demonstrating the art of kite fighting for media and onlookers.


Cutting an opponent’s string through friction while kites fly in the air
takes skill and strength — and people who do it insist it’s a real
sport.


Haque grew up watching his extended family fly kites in Pakistan. When he moved to Canada, he said he continued the tradition.


``My grandfather, my father and my uncles used to fly kites so as a
young child I used to see them and I picked up the sport from them,’’
Haque said beside a pile of handmade paper kites recently imported from
Pakistan.


``We used to do it every evening after school, every day for seven days.
It didn’t matter what the weather was, we would go out and fly kites.’’


But Haque, Malik and the 50 or so kite fighting enthusiasts who are part
of their club now have one less park to practice their sport.


Malik said the ban took him by surprise, saying he’s never had a complaint from anyone about his group’s kite flying.


But he did acknowledge there is a small group of ``random’’ kite flyers
who use nylon or even metal string that could pose a danger to people
and wildlife.


Malik said this type of string is often cheaper and even comes with a
chemical coating that can break an opponents’ string more quickly.


His own group uses cotton string only and has rules and guidelines that
include designating four people to comb the park for leftover bits of
string and kite debris after a fighting session.


The ban has forced Haque and Malik’s group to revamp their schedule.


``I am afraid that if this is not resolved soon this ban might be in
effect throughout the GTA, so in effect kite flying would be shut down
indefinitely,’’ Haque said.


That wouldn’t sit well with kite flying enthusiasts like Masao Abe.


The retired man stopped by Woodbine Park to have a look at Malik and Haque’s kites.


Abe, originally from Japan, picked up kite flying last year and flies stunt, snow and water kites in his free time.


``I think basically it’s a sport so they can’t ban it totally,’’ he said.


Lee said he remains open to finding a solution and suggested Malik and Haque get in touch with his office to sit down and talk.


``We’ll sit down and talk about it and I’ll get the parks people there, and I’ll get my community there,’’ he said.


Ironically, Lee was himself a kite fighter in his youth.


Lee said as a child of five or six he engaged in the controversial sport in Malaysia.


``It was something we did as kids,’’ Lee said. ``I know what it’s all about. It’s not something new to me.’’

 
 
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