Was Environment Canada's warning 'racist'?: Diwali weather alert sparks debate, criticism

Environment Canada issued, then removed, what is believed to be their first air quality warning in relation to fireworks from a specific holiday celebration. Diwali, also known as The Festival of Lights, is a major holiday celebrated by Hindus, as well as some Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists.

Many questioned why Environment Canada had decided to issue a statement singling out Diwali fireworks. They eventually released a statement apologizing for and clarifying their reasoning behind the warning.

Watch the video to learn more.

Video by Shibani Gokhale

Video Transcript


SHIBANI GOKHALE: Environment Canada was accused of racism, violent messaging, and a lack of diversity for their air quality alerts relating to Diwali fireworks. But some say they were right to issue the warnings. A few residents in Ontario took to Twitter to post visuals of heavy smog and fog blanketing their areas after Diwali firecrackers earlier this week.

Now, it should be noted that Environment Canada removed references to Diwali and later apologized for the impact such statements can have on minority communities. But many questioned, why had they singled out Diwali and not other holidays like Canada Day or Victoria Day, which also typically see a lot of fireworks? The agency issued a clarification and said that fireworks can have a greater impact depending on weather conditions in the fall and winter when compared to fireworks in the summer, like Canada Day.

Climatologist David Phillips said in an interview with the "Toronto Star" that anecdotal evidence does point to a spike in air quality deterioration after the Diwali. He said the weather conditions are such that the smoke might not easily disperse and move away. It could just linger.

In fact, 67% of Yahoo readers said the original warning was appropriate. But many Canadians on social media do not agree with this and said the agency appeared to be deliberately targeting South Asians and called it the weather equivalent of please don't reheat your curry in the lunchroom microwave. Others said they could have just issued a warning without making references to any holiday. What do you think of Environment Canada's warning?