An ad from the Institute for Canadian Values that activists say is transphobic and misleading, and that appeared in the National Post and Toronto Sun during the Ontario election campaign, has returned on the Sun News Network.
The new ad is a televised version of the print ad using the same graphic and text with additional still photography of little girls in school cut with photos from the Toronto Pride parade. It misleadingly suggests that schools are "teaching" girls to question their gender and sexuality.
A girl’s voice reads the text of the ad aloud:
“Don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. My teachers are leading me to question if I’m a boy, or transgendered, or transexual [sic], or intersexed, or two spirited [sic]. I have to search images of the gay pride parade. My mommy says they won’t allow her to withdraw me from class. Read textbook: Am I a boy or a girl? Don’t confuse me. I’m a girl. Can you help me! [sic],” the ad says.
An adult voice then asks the viewer to sign a petition at stopcorruptingchildren.com.
According to Sun News Network ad rep Michael Poelman, the ad has been running on Sun News Network since Oct 10, but queer activists seem to have only taken notice on Oct 24. This is the final week of a three-week ad purchase.
Poelman says he’s received no complaints about the ad as yet.
When the ad ran in print, it sparked outrage from activists who peppered the National Post and the Sun with complaints. The original ad contained several misleading quotes from an optional Toronto District School Board anti-homophobia curriculum and called on candidates in the Ontario election to eliminate the curriculum. The television ad includes headlines from stories about the new sex education curriculum that the McGuinty government withdrew last year after pressure from Charles McVety, who runs ICV's parent Canada Christian College. The ad does not explicitly state what policy or even what province it is directed to.
The National Post decided to run an apology for allowing the ad to see print and announced it would donate proceeds from the ad to an organization that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people.
The Toronto Sun told Xtra it would not run the ad again but did not apologize.
Both the Toronto Sun and the Sun News Network are owned by the media giant Quebecor, but Poelman explains that the TV network has different advertising standards than its print cousin.
“I think the underlying belief is that one of the founding principles of Sun News Network is allowing a diversity of opinion and that’s an important foundation of why the Sun News Network is here,” he says.
“I think there’s a principle involved in allowing the same freedoms to advertisers that our people are allowed on air, as long as its not defamatory and it passes the telecaster’s approval,” he says. “In this case it is telecaster approved.”
“The nature of the station is such that we present multiple points of view and debate them heartily,” he adds.
Queer Ontario’s Casey Oraa says the group plans to respond to the ad and may request an investigation by Advertising Standards Canada. He says the fact that queers did not notice the ad during its first two weeks of airing “shows you how many people watch Sun TV.”
“They have no qualms with printing it as long as no one’s watching it who shouldn’t be,” Oraa says. “So obviously they don’t really care. They only care when they think they should care because people are giving them flak.”
Charles McVety, whose Canada Christian College houses the Institute for Canadian Values, says he doesn’t believe the ad is homophobic or transphobic.
“We’re upset that the Ministry of Education would force our children to learn things that we don’t agree with and, secondly, that they will not allow us to withdraw our children [from the lessons],” McVety says. “Eight-year-olds are very impressionable, and to confuse an eight-year-old is egregious.”
Trans activists made a video response to the ad when it ran in the Post and the Sun earlier this month: