Controversial billboard no longer running

The billboard ad that sparked a few complaints and is now prompting the City of New Westminster to review the wording of its guidelines for advertising. - CTV BC News
The billboard ad that sparked a few complaints and is now prompting the City of New Westminster to review the wording of its guidelines for advertising.
— image credit: CTV BC News

A controversial billboard sign beside the Queensborough Bridge is no longer running but not because New Westminster asked it to be pulled said a city official.

But the city, said spokesman Blair Fryer, will be meeting internally to find a way to make sure a similar ad isn't put up in the future.

According to a CTV News story, the sign was paid for by the Khalsa Diwan Society of New Westminster. It declared "Sikhs remember 1984 genocide" and contained a picture of an elderly man being beaten by Indian police.

Before its run expired Sunday, the ad was shown on a continuous loop between ads for car leasing, mobile phone plans and Queensborough community events on a digital board that can be viewed as northbound commuters cross the bridge.

The city recently signed a 20-year deal with All Vision Canada for four signs on city property, including the one beside the Queensborough Bridge and the company is responsible for the maintenance and marketing of the signs, as well as making sure the ads meet the Advertising Standards Council criteria.

Fryer said the city received a couple of phone calls and several emails noting concern with the imagery used. He noted their contract with All Vision has a clause where the city may request an ad be removed if in the city's judgment it violates the moral and reputable character and policies of the Advertising Standards Council.

The city will meet internally to review the clause and "to develop a protocol to ensure violent imagery that could be offensive to any cultural group or our own community standards" is not accepted in the future, said Fryer. He also noted the city will be meeting with All Vision and its media buyers to prevent similar occurrences.

The Khalsa Diwan Society in New Westminster paid $2,000 for the sign, said a CTV News story. Society spokesman Sukhpreet Singh said the billboard was a reminder of violence committed against innocent Sikhs after Indian Prime Minister Indira Ghandi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards.

"We believe it's time to really put the pressure on the Indian government to send the message that we have not forgotten the genocide," Singh said. "We stand with the victims, and we still demand justice 29 years later."

The society insisted it wasn't a call for revenge, but a plea for justice because there are some perpetrators who haven't been held responsible.

According to CTV, city officials confirmed they had received complaints about the sign.

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