Toronto, Oct 8 (IANS) Canada’s national weather service had publicly apologised and reissued an advisory, which singled out Diwali fireworks as a reason to prepare for poor air quality last October, a media report said.
According to documents accessed by the Canadian Press, Environment Canada went ahead and published the advisory despite warnings by two meteorologists, saying that it could be perceived as “discriminatory”.
The process of publishing the advisory began after November 2021 Diwali celebrations, when an air quality monitor picked up a small spike in air pollution in parts of the Greater Toronto Area, including Brampton and Mississauga.
It moved the air quality index from low risk to moderate risk for about four hours, and the staff traced the increase to local fireworks set off to celebrate the festival of lights.
Four days before Diwali in October 2022, discussions began about issuing a warning.
While one of the meteorologists suggested getting the Communications department involved before proceeding, another said targeting specific areas could be seen as “discriminatory”.
They said any decision to issue a warning must be based on meteorological conditions, not just the fact that Diwali was happening, the National Post newspaper said, citing Canadian Press.
Hours after publishing the advisory on the morning of October 24, 2022, complaints poured in accusing the national agency of being racist, stating that similar air quality warnings were not issued for Canada Day fireworks.
By the end of the day, Environment Canada’s inquiry line had received 60 formal complaints, calling it “racist”, “shameful” and “Eurocentric”.
“I am a Hindu who recognises Diwali as an important religious event and am concerned that this message may cause citizens who do not celebrate Diwali to target Hindus for polluting the air around them,” one person wrote.
The department had to reissue the advisory without mentioning Diwali and issue a public apology by the end of the day.
In addition, it was also decided that going forward, only meteorological conditions would be mentioned in the warnings.
In an internal communication about that spike written on October 25, 2022, Environment Canada said meteorological conditions had created “a perfect setup” for the fireworks to cause a spike in air pollution, with “very strong inversion and light winds”.