Hoax camp ads outrage Torontonians

Advertisements for a summer camp where kids could learn to throw grenades outraged passersby on Toronto streets Tuesday. The posters turned out to be part of an elaborate campaign to raise awareness of the use of child soldiers.

Advertisements for an unusual children's adventure camp wherekidscould learn to throw grenadesoutraged passersbyon Toronto streets Tuesday.

Theposters turned out to be part of an ad campaign by a charity group promoting aid and awareness for child soldiers and children affected by war.

Posters for Camp Okutta, ostensibly an adventure camp for kids, peppered the city. Theyadvertised a summer of throwing grenades, shooting AK-47 assault rifles, and receiving minefield training — all for children aged eight through 12.

Some Torontonians didn't realize the blue, tree-motifposters were a hoax. Sarah Heywood told CBC News that she flew into a rage when she saw the ads on Queen Street West.

"It just brought up so much anger in me," Heywood said. "I immediately thought, wow, this is real, this is happening, people are now actually providing these kinds of services and opportunities for people who actually allow their children to go and experience something like that here in Canada."

She said she was so upset that she ripped down all the Camp Okutta signs that she encountered during the afternoon, "until my fingers were actually sore from tearing at the tape and ripping them off."

Heywood said other people on the street, including a group of teenagers, were also removing the posters. When she arrived home, she visited the camp's website and discovered the camp was part of a new War Child Canada ad campaign.

The charity group's elaborate website for the camp presentsthe illusionof a twisted but realistic camp. Viewers only find out that the camp is part of the ad campaign when they click to see where the camp is located, and are redirected to the War Child Canada website.

The Camp Okutta site opens an animated map of the fictional camp, with features such as cabins, a shooting range, a landmine pit and infirmary. The different places are clickable, and provide disturbing details — for example the cabins where camp leaders are permitted to assault children, the infirmary where children are given drugs because it makes them more obedient, and the grenade pit, which plays a video of average-looking campers learning to throw grenades.

James Topham, War Child's director of marketing, said he thought the website made it obvious that the camp was a fake.

Topham said thegroup, which runs humanitarian programs for children in 10 countries, wanted to draw attention to the plight ofmore than 250,000child soldiers,and encourage Canadians to help.

"The message of the advertising is that we would never stand for it over here, so we should not stand for it over there either," he said.

Topham said that he was a little surprised to hear that people were tearing down the posters, but said that it proved their message hit home.

"If people were ripping them down, it shows that such a camp would be outrageous in Canada," he said. "And yet these camps exist all over the world."

The campaign, which also includes a television advertisement, continued Wednesday with posters being put up in Ottawa, Edmonton and Vancouver.