Edmonton Transit is pulling some controversial advertisements after complaints were made to the city.

The ads, part of a Canada-wide campaign by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, claim to offer help for young girls living in fear of the Islamic honour code.

"Is Your Family Threatening You? Is There a Fatwa on Your Head?" it reads, alongside pictures of several young women with the description "Girls honour killed by their families."

Five of the ads were rolled out on the exteriors of buses over the weekend, triggering a wave of complaints to the city.

Tony Clark complained to the city after he saw one of the “discriminatory” ads while shopping in Chinatown.

“I was surprised the ad was approved on city buses. I know they have generally rigorous standards for advertising and I was surprised this one made it through that filter because it really called out the Muslim community, when I’m sure that only a small minority of these sort of things happen in that community.”

City councillor Amarjeet Sohi contacted ETS about the ads after receiving several similar complaints from across the city.

“I was really disturbed. I found it to be very offensive,” said Sohi of the campaign’s message.

“I found it to be that it was targeting or singling out one single community,” he said.

“Honour killing is prevalent in many other communities so why only single out one Muslim community? The organization behind these ads is known for its anti-Muslim stance.”

Following Sohi’s call, ETS opted to remove the five ads in circulation until they are reviewed by Advertising Standards Canada.

However, AFDI head Pamela Gellar said she didn't understand why the racism-based complaints were made in the first place.

“One Muslim councillor voices unhappiness with this ad and they take an ad campaign down?” she asked. “What is controversial about trying to help girls?

“Honour killing is a grim reality that is largely ignored, and girls are suffering as a result.There is a real genuine threat, and there are few resources for these girls.”

Gellar said the ads were placed in Edmonton because human rights activists and other concerned citizens from the city had wanted to partner with her organization.

“I don’t know why feelings would be hurt. I would think that Muslims that would denounce the honour code under Islam would stand with us and would want these ads.”

Gellar said the AFDI won't be deterred and she doesn’t expect Canadians to take the removal of the ads lying down. She said the campaign is slated to run in other Canadian cities.


  • An earlier version of this story said ETS had 65 additional advertisements that were going to be posted on buses - this is incorrect.
    Oct 30, 2013 3:52 PM MT