Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Atheist ads: fear and loathing at OC Transpo [updated]

Ottawa has joined two other cities--Victoria and Halifax--in an Axis of Benightedness.* The decision has been made: no atheist ads on our buses.

Canadian Cynic has a good account of OC Transpo official John Donaldson's prevarications. But thanks to Councillor Alex Cullen and the Ottawa Citizen, we can, thankfully, cut to the chase.

OC Transpo discriminates.

It turns out that the wretched officials over there have already approved religious bus ads, which could be appearing shortly.

In 2007, OC Transpo approved ads for Bus Stop Bible Studies, a campaign on panels inside buses quoting scripture and asking life’s big questions. Roughly 2,400 ads have run in Calgary, Burlington and Toronto, but the sponsor has not yet raised enough money to place the ads on Ottawa buses.

The sponsor of the ads seems like a stand-up guy:

Though the group hasn’t yet run the Bible-quoting ads in Ottawa, its founder is puzzled city staff’s rejection of the atheists ads.

“I don’t follow the logic,” said Bus Stop Bible Studies founder David Harrison. “Why would they approve ours and not theirs? If we don’t stand up for (the atheists’) rights, ours will be trampled too.”

Meanwhile, Donaldson continues to make it up as he goes along :

OC Transpo frequently rejects ads that might be considered sexist or show “inappropriate body images,” Donaldson said.

“We receive complaints about advertising material of all kinds of different subjects,” Donaldson said. “The same thing applies — if people are offended, and let us know about it, then there’s a provision in the contract to ...remove it.”

But clearly this sexist tripe** is perfectly all right with him.

Now OC Transpo's blatant double standards have been dragged into the pitiless glare of the noontime sun, this story may soon be concluded. But in the meantime, why not send an email ( to let OC Transpo know what you think of their rank hypocrisy. And don't forget to copy it to Councillor Alex Cullen, Chair of Ottawa City Council's Transit Committee (

UPDATE: (February 18) The Ottawa City Council Transit Committee has met. By a vote of 3 to 3, and for want of a majority, Councillor Alex Cullen's motion to permit atheist advertising on buses was defeated. On the side of the angels--so to speak--were Councillors Cullen, George Bedard and Jacques Legendre. The knuckle-draggers who prevailed were Rainer Bloess, Doug Thompson and Marianne Wilkinson.

The matter is going to the full City Council on March 11. For God's sake Please write to the Ottawa City Councillors and the Mayor, and remind them about the benefits of public debate in a democracy, the problem with OC Transpo's blatant double standards, what century we're living in, etc.

UPPERDATE: (February 19) CC got to it first, but this comment from the fossilized Marianne Wilkinson deserves quoting, without further comment:

I don’t think we should be demeaning people in advertising at OC Transpo. I think the words are offensive to everyone who believes in God, regardless of what religion they are. To me, as a Christian, it is demeaning. It grates on me.


*Three other cities, in fact. Somehow I missed Vancouver. [H/t commenter beluga2]

**Virgin Radio has now pulled its ads voluntarily--no thanks to the selective censors at OC Transpo.[H/t The Fifth Column]


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