Saskatoon City Councillor Pat Lorje caused a stir on social media over the Labour Day long weekend after linking the Potash Corp fireworks festival to Syrian refugee trauma.
The Ward 2 representative sent out a tweet on Friday night touting the fireworks display as the “best” ever. The second part of the tweet suggested the noise from the fireworks could be triggering to refugees.
“I hope someone warned the Syrian refugees that the booms, bangs & other noise wasn’t from weapons,” she wrote.
Best #yxe fireworks ever tonite. But I hope someone warned the Syrian refugees that the booms, bangs & other noise wasn’t from weapons.
— Pat Lorje (@patlorje) September 3, 2016
The tweet drew a swift reaction from some corners, with several users calling it “insensitive” and “tone deaf.”
Lorje, a psychologist, defended the tweet and engaged with critics by providing context.
“Amazed that so many people do not know the connection between PTSD of war victims & soldiers, and fireworks which often triggers anxiety,” she tweeted Sunday.
Amazed that so many people do not know of connection between PTSD of war victims & soldiers, and fireworks which often triggers anxiety
— Pat Lorje (@patlorje) September 4, 2016
Lorje didn’t respond to several requests for comment Tuesday afternoon, but was tracked down outside a community radio station after a ward two candidates roundtable later in the evening.
She said in an exclusive interview with 650 CKOM she sent the tweet out of compassion.
“When you look at the people responding (on Twitter), they’re doing it for political purposes,” she said. “It’s rather sad that someone would do that with a tweet that was made out of concern for people.”
But Lorje said this incident will not make her watch what she tweets in the future.
According to Saskatoon Open Door Society, which assists refugees and immigrants, hearing the fireworks can trigger a brief reaction.
“Sometimes with people with mental health or trauma it can remind them,” said Executive Director Ali Abukar.
However he added that while there’s the possibility of trauma, the organization works with families to let them know about fireworks well in advance. They also try to educate newcomers on what Canadian customs are when it comes to celebrations.
Most refugees deal with the situation quite well.
“They can see the fireworks,” he said. “People know that these are celebratory.”