An anti-LGBTQ+ billboard paid for by GetAwake Canada, a far right-wing organization dedicated to “pushing back” against “woke narratives,” was taken down this week after protests from residents in the small town of West Kelowna in British Columbia.
The billboard depicted a COVID-masked teacher with purple hair standing in front of a Progress Pride flag, with text asking, “What are your kids REALLY learning in school?”
The sign was vandalized a day before being taken down, after a week of calls for its removal.
GetAwake Canada claims to crowdsource funds to erect provocative billboards across Canada. The school teacher signage was the third billboard GetAwake has sponsored, after two anti-vaccine messages claiming the COVID vaccines kill.
The organization’s mission statement includes: “Informing parents about the triad of Race, Gender, and Political indoctrination of our children”; “Standing up to the Gender Bullies”; and “Starting the discussion parents want to have about BC schools.”
The message went up February 6 and quickly ignited a backlash among local residents before it’s removal on Wednesday.
The billboard sits on First Nation-owned land in the area.
The area’s indigenous community, Westbank First Nation, explained in a statement, “While the billboard is on private land and WFN cannot confirm any involvement of the landowner in the removal of this ad, WFN did receive a large volume of complaint letters and reached out to the signage company who ultimately made the decision to remove it.”
Adding to the controversy, B.C. Billboards, the company that leases the site, claims it was bullied into its decision to remove the message.
“There’s an enormous amount of bullying of free speech right now across all media,” he said.
“We use the Canadian Charter of Freedoms and Rights as our guide, and this individual has been well within that,” an unnamed spokesman for the company told iNFOnews.ca.
“We have leased space to members of the gay community for their businesses, happily. This is not about that,” he said. “But the issue is what’s happening in schools.”
LGBTQ+ organization Advocacy Canada credited local residents for calling out GetAwake Canada.
“We’re incredibly happy that people in Kelowna, West Kelowna, and the surrounding area spoke up to bring awareness to the agenda of anti-queer propaganda which is to have us be invisible,” chair and co-founder Wilbur Turner said.
Westbank First Nation came down clearly on the side of LGBTQ+ Canadians.
“WFN is an inclusive community and encourages people to speak out when they see something they feel is wrong,” they wrote in a statement. “We applaud the power of the LGBTQ+ community in coming together to see this ad removed.”
For their part, GetAwake sees the campaign as a success, despite the billboard’s removal.
“In the 10 days this billboard was Live, the campaign had over 250,000 views on social media, 10,000 visits to our website, and generated news coverage across Canada which showed overwhelming ratios of public support,” GetAwake claimed on its website.
“We firmly believe in the right to free speech and the rights of parents to raise their children how they see fit without interference from government and activist organizations,” GetAwake said after the vandalized sign came down.