Controversial ads in Vancouver urging families to have fewer kids removed after racial criticism


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Several advertisements in Vancouver that encouraged couples to have fewer children and that sparked major criticism over possible racist messaging have been removed.

The ads were part of a campaign aimed at raising awareness about overpopulation, according to World Population Balance, the non-profit behind the series.

However, the organization says some of the billboards were interpreted to have a racist tone when taken out of context.

“We would like people to know that some people interpreted one of our ads as racist and that couldn’t be further from the true,” Dave Gardner, executive director of World Population Balance told NEWS 1130.

“We apologize for crafting an ad that left the door open for someone to misconstrue the meaning of the ad.”

Gardner says part of the purpose of the campaign was actually to overcome racism.

“The most loving gift you can give your first child is to not have another,” one of the billboards in Vancouver read, accompanying a picture of a Black baby. Gardner says this ad, as well as similar ads that featured families “of other nationalities and skin colour” were removed.

“We had a very inclusive campaign, but if you only saw the one ad and that one ad got picked up and shared in social media by people who really wanted to make sure we were having a bad day and that we would never want to talk about overpopulation again, that was unfortunate.”

World Population Balance says the campaign “generated a flurry of media coverage and dialogue,” so much so that a “spike in visits” crashed the website.

While the non-profit issued an official apology on Tuesday, Gardner says the apology isn’t for the campaign itself.

“It’s an apology for making choices about that ad that made it just a little bit too easy to get the wrong impression,” he explains.

Gardner says the group had the ads that were interpreted as racist removed “immediately,” and that the campaign continues to run in Vancouver.

“It’s a lesson learned. We don’t ever want to be blind to the possible lessons that we can learn from mistakes and missteps,” he explains. “We’ve got two tinderboxes that kind of cross paths here — one is the much-needed alarm about racism and the commitment to eliminate that from our society.”

The other, he says, is that people have long assumed that conversations around overpopulation are motivated by racism.

“That has long not been true, but people have jumped to that conclusion because there have been instances in the past that were racist. There’s really no place for racism in the modern sustainable population movement.”

World Population Balance says it’ll look for ways to be inclusive without making any possible references to racist messages in the future.

The remaining billboards will stay up until Oct. 18 when the campaign ends.

-With files from Kelvin Gawley

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