British Columbia

Kelowna ads accused of being too white

Banners surrounding a construction area feature people who live and work downtown. But all of them appear to be white.

City-produced banners criticized for a lack of visible minorities.

Images featured on banners around downtown Kelowna are being criticized for being too white. (Chris Walker/CBC)

Some Kelowna residents say marketing materials and banners produced by the City of Kelowna are too white and don't reflect the racial diversity of the community.

The banners were posted as part of an ambitious revitalization of its downtown core. Fences surround a three block area where construction crews are working. They are covered in banners featuring pictures of people who live and work downtown.

But all of the people appear to be white. According to the most recent census data, just over six percent of Kelowna's residents are visible minorities.

 "There was not a lot of diversity represented [on the banners]," said Kamilla Bahbahani, who lives in downtown Kelowna and is an equity advisor at UBC Okanagan.

 "There didn't seem to be a lot of diversity in ancestry in particular and everyone did appear to be able bodied and other types of diversity also weren't represented."

Bahbahani wrote a letter, complaining to the city's mayor and council.

"I can tell you that I personally felt excluded, that I was concerned for the message this would send my daughter about her place in this town and who is welcome," she said in the letter.

City's business liaison disputes claim

The city's business liaison for the revitalization project, Kelly Kay, says the marketing materials are more diverse than they appear.

"Our [banners] actually do feature individuals from Latin America, Lebanon and Europe and then we also have individuals of African-American and Asian descent in our other marketing material for the project," she said.

However, in a reply sent to Bhabahani , Kelowna's communications co-ordinator, Lesley Driscoll, acknowledges the marketing campaign's lack of visible minorities.

Her letter says 25 people responded to an open call looking for volunteers to participate in the campaign.

"While there was a variety of age ranges, there were not a variety of ethnicities," she wrote.

Driscoll also said the city is working to make sure future marketing materials are more diverse.

"We did put out another open call for participants and have a handful of participants with various ethnic backgrounds this time around whose faces will be appearing in various marketing collateral such as our e-subscribe bulletins, website, fact sheets and brochures."