Controversial Diwali Advisory Sparks Backlash, Revision, and Apology from Environment Canada


In what emerged as a controversial decision, last October saw an advisory issued by Environment Canada, specifically attributing Diwali fireworks as a cause for potential air quality degradation. This advisory was rolled out despite numerous cautionary discussions raised by staff, who feared it could be perceived as discriminatory.

The unexpected directive sparked an uproar prompting a quick modification of the issued statement along with an apology. The morning the advisory was released coincided with the Indian festival of lights – Diwali, an event marked by grandeur and festivity worldwide.

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Revealing the behind-the-scenes of this occurrence, dozens of emails exchanged prior to the controversial advisory’s issuance on October 24th, 2022, were obtained through an access-to-information request. The insights obtained unveiled that at least two meteorologists had expressed reservations about the advisory. Their concern was rooted in the fact that attributing Diwali to potential air quality issues could inadvertently be considered a discriminatory act.

The outrage evident in the complaints that were filed on the day underscored this fear. Many of these grievances accused the national agency of racist behavior. They argued the unfairness of the advisory, as no similar warnings were released regarding air quality issues during Canada Day fireworks.

An interesting revelation in the saga was that this Diwali advisory appeared to be the first instance of Environment Canada associating air pollution warnings directly to fireworks. However, there seemed to be a concerted plan within the agency to extend air pollution monitoring to include other holiday fireworks and institute similar advisories in the future.