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Atheist ads on the STM

by Archives February 10, 2009

Montreal may be the next target for a pro-Atheist advertising campaign, according to one of Canada’s leading secular groups.
Humanist Canada, a non-profit organization that says you can be “Good without God,” claimed to have purchased ads on Vancouver buses last week, but the statement was quickly denied by BC transit corporations. Now more groups are trying to break out into the mainstream.
“We are currently organizing campaigns in Calgary and Halifax, but Halifax is giving us trouble,” said Justin Trottier, president of the Freethought Association of Canada. “Montreal is definitely on our radar, although we aren’t planning anything yet.”
The Freethought Association of Canada has already set up fundraising activities for a Toronto campaign, and the ads have already been submitted for approval to CBS Outdoors, the firm that takes care of advertising for the Toronto Transit Corporation. According to Trottier, Montreal would be an ideal next step once those campaigns are done with.
“I admire Quebec for its strong leadership and secularism,” Trottier said. “Montreal has led the way since the Quiet Revolution in terms of open-mindedness and intelligent conversation with minorities, as we could see with the reasonable accommodations.”
The association would not be the first to place philosophical advertisements on public transit vehicles. The Catholic Church of Montreal is well known for its ads when fundraising season comes around. Advertisements promoting St-Joseph’s Oratory are also visible in metro stations like Square-Victoria.
“If those advertisement campaigns ever happened, we might launch a counter-campaign, but we would have to evaluate first,” explained the Montreal Archdiocese’s communications co-ordinator Lucie Martineau. “The message can discourage some people, but it does not intervene with the Church’s message.”
The Société de Transport de Montréal has not yet received submissions from any of the groups.
“The STM has to comply to advertising norms. If ever such a submission were made, we would have to treat it like we treat any other advertisement with a religious connotation. We would have to make sure it respects other communities and also respects our clients,” explains STM media rep Marianne Rouette.
“If they already have set precedents of religious advertisement, I would hope the ground would be clear for our ads to get the message across and show the other side,” said Trottier.
The first campaign originates from Britain. Back in January, London resident Ariane Sherine noticed ads on buses saying non-believers went straight to hell. As a response, she launched the Atheist Bus Campaign and raised enough money to put her own ads on 800 buses across the United Kingdom. “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life,” read the advertisement on double-decker buses in London. Similar campaigns have since rolled into prominent cities like Madrid, Barcelona and Washington D.C.

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