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"Distasteful" ad prompts Canada Action to further distance itself from former volunteer

Last Updated Jul 25, 2016 at 3:24 pm MDT

Canada Action, the grassroots movement which runs the I <3 Oilsands campaign, is further distancing itself from Robbie Picard and the Canada Oilsands Community following a sexist, homophobic ad posted on the group’s Facebook page yesterday.

“This ad is not connected to us in any way, shape, or fashion,” said Cody Battershill of Canada Action. “I think that this ad is distasteful, this graphic is distasteful, and I don’t like it.”

He said the message the ad is suggesting, that the discussion around the oilsands should include a look at the social justice record of foreign oil producers as well as the environmental one, is an important message, but he said the way it’s presented is “not okay.”

The ad’s creator, Robbie Picard, said he doesn’t feel the ad is inappropriate.

“I think it’s two pretty girls kissing on a poster. I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” he told MyMcMurray. “Using the words ‘lesbians are hot’ is subjective. Not every lesbian in the world is hot but not every lesbian in the world is not hot. So, I just wanted to strike up a conversation in a little bit of a kind of a fun kind of way. I’m a gay guy so I suppose it’s sort of ironic that I’m using two hot, pretty girls kissing on a poster to try to get a conversation about pipelines approved but the bottom line is lesbians come in all different shapes and sizes and some are pretty, some are not, if you’re in Saudi Arabia and you’re a lesbian, your head is chopped off,” he said.

He agreed there were many ways to get the message out and said he had done other ads in the past about other groups within the LGBTQ community including one featuring two gay men who were hung because of their sexual orientation in Saudi Arabia.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with two pretty girls on a poster kissing and if, I don’t know, the heterosexual guys are all up, trying to say it’s a horrible thing, it kind of says a lot about what’s in their subconscious,” he said.

More than just the image

But it wasn’t simply the image that raised the ire of hundreds on Facebook, it was the message that a woman’s sexuality or relationship with another woman is intended for any outsider’s sexual gratification.

“Hi, actual bisexual person here,” wrote Alix Kemp. “This is repulsive. I support the responsible use of Canada’s oil sands. But this? This is awful. Being considered “hot” by drooling teenage boys is *not* a compliment, it’s not something I enjoy. I am a person, not a piece of pornography to be applied to whatever marketing BS you’ve come up with. What I enjoy about living in Canada is having equal rights under the law, and having the right to marry whomever I choose. Having misogynistic assholes think my sexuality is there for their enjoyment, however, is not a plus. You are idiots.”

Others pointed out the ad had managed to be racist, sexist, and homophobic all in one.

“You should be deeply embarrassed by this. There’s no shame in pointing out the fact that we’re a world leader relative to other oil producing nations when it comes to human rights. There is all kinds of shame when you use a tired (and sexist/juvenile) stereotype of female same-sex relationships to make that point,” wrote Max Fawcett. “If you’re marketing to 17 year old boys? Well, I’m sure this will resonate with them. But if you’re marketing to adults — and decision-making adults, more importantly — this is just going to alienate them.”

“In Canada, lesbians are considered humans, not objects to be consumed for heteronormative entertainment, you misogynist scumbags,” wrote Torrance Coste.

Picard no longer volunteering with Canada Action

Battershill said Canada Action had already parted ways with Picard as a volunteer with the grassroots movement that encourages Canadians to take action and work together in support of our vital natural resources sector.

“I have to say that I really appreciate Robbie’s commitment of time and his sort of passion for the movement that he’s invested over the last year, year-and-a-half,” said Battershill, saying the time had come to part ways with the vocal local volunteer during the wildfire.

He said the organization is extremely small, with few revenues above what they make selling t-shirts and a limited number of volunteers.

“We try to do a lot with a little and we’re really just trying to get everyone motivated to spend a few minutes a few times a week to learn more and speak up and share the facts about what the oilsands and Fort McMurray and across Canada all of our resources,” he said. “I think we just decided with Robbie that he had some other plans and some other things that he wanted to do and we thought it was a good fit for us to sort of say, ‘time to go our separate ways’ and Robbie would be able to do his own thing.”

Social justice conversation

Battershill said it is very important for Canadians to be having the conversation about the social justice record of the countries producing the oil we consume.

“Every barrel of oil that isn’t produced in the oilsands is replaced by a barrel of oil produced, typically, in countries with weaker standards for both how we treat human beings and how we treat, manage, and innovate our progress on the environment,” he said.

“That’s not to in any way excuse this ad,” said Battershill. “This ad is 110 per cent distasteful, I don’t like it and it’s not okay. I don’t know how else to describe it.”

He said Canada ranks in the top 10 globally on the social progress index, miles above the other top oil reserve countries.

“If we’re talking about social progress, social justice, equality, freedom, environmental transparency, carbon regulation, climate change progress, a number of other key and critical values that people hold, freedom of the press for example, there’s no country that even comes close to be able to compete with Canada amongst our top 10 oil reserve peers and these top 10 countries hold over 80 per cent of the world’s oil reserves,” said Battershill.

“That’s an important message, this ad is juvenile, it’s distasteful and it’s something that we never would have done,” he said.

Battershill said people across the country are invited to learn more about the work Canada Action is doing to further the conversation about energy resources nation-wide.

With files from Bradley Karp