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Poor air quality across Ottawa Sunday causes many events to be cancelled


Environment Canada is warning of poor air quality in the capital as plumes of wildfire smoke from Quebec again blanket the sky, causing outdoor events to be cancelled and many outdoor amenities to be closed.

Festivals across the city have either cancelled or modified their schedules and the cities of Ottawa and Gatineau have announced the closure of outdoor pools and beaches.

The weather forecast for the city calls for widespread smoke throughout the day and overnight.

The Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) showed Ottawa's air quality was 10+ 'very high risk' at 3 p.m. It is forecast to remain at that level through evening. The advice to the general public is to reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors, especially if experiencing symptoms such as coughing and throat irritation. Children, the elderly, and people at risk, such as those with chronic lung issues, heart disease, or who are pregnant, should also avoid any strenuous activities and physical exertion outdoors, Environment Canada suggests.

A special air quality statement for the city says conditions are expected to improve Monday. A smog warning is in effect for Gatineau.

Wildfires have been burning in Quebec for weeks, causing hazy conditions in Ottawa throughout the month of June. The fire risk has prompted evacuation orders most recently in small villages in northwestern Quebec near the boundary with Ontario.

The Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre says there are 473 active fires burning across the country, 242 of which are out of control. Three new fires were reported Sunday alone.

Approximately 7.2 million hectares, or 72,000 square kilometres, of forest has burned this year so far. For comparison, the province of New Brunswick has an area of around 73,000 square kilometres.

Experts note that climate change is creating conditions that lead to stronger and more widespread forest fires, which in turn spread smoke over large areas. The current forecast map on shows smoke affecting much of eastern Canada and significant swaths of northern Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C., with some smoke reaching as far north as the Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.


The city of Ottawa cancelled all city-run outdoor recreational programs and leagues Sunday and all wading pools and outodoor pools were closed. City beaches all have a no-swim advisory for the day. 

Splash pads remain open and all indoor programs remain unaffected.

The city says sport fields, ball diamonds and city parks will remain open, but organizers can make cancellation requests to the city through the inclement weather process to receive account credits, where warranted. All drop-in programs that operate outdoors will move indoors, where possible.

Programming and facilities are expected to operate as normal on Monday.

The city of Gatineau also announced the closure if its beaches and outdoor pools as of 3 p.m.


Races at the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney's Bay continued through Sunday morning but were cancelled as of 11:40 a.m., according to a statement Sunday afternoon. Vendors were permitted to remain open until 3 p.m.

"We were one of the fortunate teams, we were able to do two of our three races today," Corina Clouthier said. "Really hoping for the 500 (metres) but really everyone's health and safety is the most important."

A spokesperson for the Ottawa Jazz Festival says Sunday's programming is going ahead, but the festival will keep a close eye on conditions as the day progresses.

Executive producer Catherine O'Grady says they have been in contact with health officials through the day.

"Their advice has been all day to avoid exerting activity, so we are monitoring that," O'Grady said.

"It doesn’t say don’t go outside. But, if it said that we would have to think about that."

O'Grady adds the artists are "comfortable playing" in the conditions.

Escapade Music Festival pushed back its opening time Sunday to 2:30 p.m. The festival said in a statement it is monitoring the AQHI.

The Ottawa Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival cancelled its Pow Wow and other outdoor activities Sunday.

"As much as I love this event, I love our community more and we just needed to make a decision to keep our Elders and our artists and our community really safe in this," Trina Mather-Simard, Indigenous-Experiences CEO, said.

Smoky conditions at the Rideau Canal Locks in downtown Ottawa. June 25, 2023. (Josh Pringle/CTV News Ottawa)


An Ironman event in Mont-Tremblant, Que. was cancelled due to the wildfire smoke. 

In a post on its website, Ironman 70.3 Mont-Tremblant said it made the decision to cancel Sunday's triathlon in consultation with provincial health authorities.

"IRONMAN has strict safety benchmarks in place for air quality, which have not been met and the forecast does not suggest the AQI will improve throughout the day," the statement says. "It is always our priority to ensure the safety of our participants, spectators, volunteers, staff, and all others that are involved in the event."

Mont-Tremblant and much of southern Quebec is under a smog warning from Environment Canada, which warns of deteriorating air quality and poor visibility.

There are currently more than 80 active wildfires in Quebec. 

Disappointed triathletes gather under smoky skies in Mont-Tremblant, Que. on June 25, 2023. The Ironman 70.3 race was cancelled due to poor air quality caused by northern wildfires. (Courtesy image)


The evening and overnight forecast includes widespread smoke and an AQHI of 10+. The low is 18 C.

Monday's forecast is smoky in the morning with an AQHI of 7, or high risk, dropping to a moderate risk level of 4 by the evening. Monday's high is 26 C with a humidex of 34. The forecast also calls for 15 to 25 mm of rain showers in the afternoon with the risk of a thunderstorm.

Tuesday's outlook is cloudy with showers and a high of 25 C.

Wednesday could also see showers with a high of 22 C.

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Shaun Vardon and Natalie van Rooy, CTV News Montreal and The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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