New tourism ad faces scrutiny for not showcasing diverse cultures of St. John's

·3 min read
Sobia Shaikh, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, says a new tourism ad for St. John's is missing diverse representation from the city.  (CBC - image credit)
Sobia Shaikh, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, says a new tourism ad for St. John's is missing diverse representation from the city. (CBC - image credit)
Sobia Shaikh, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, says a new tourism ad for St. John's is missing diverse representation from the city.
Sobia Shaikh, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, says a new tourism ad for St. John's is missing diverse representation from the city. (CBC)

A new tourism ad for Newfoundland and Labrador's capital city is coming under fire for what some are calling a lack of diversity.

Destination St. John's released the video ad earlier this week as part of a new campaign to attract tourists from within the Atlantic bubble when it opens on April 19, but critics say the exclusion of Indigenous people and people of colour is disappointing.

"We're concerned because the ads actually perpetuate racism and exclusion, and we want ads that promote the diversity and beauty of its place," Sobia Shaikh, co-chair of the Anti-Racism Coalition of Newfoundland and Labrador, told CBC News on Friday.

Destination St. John's CEO Cathy Duke said concerns from the BIPOC community are valid, and her organization did plan to have diverse representation in the new video, but scheduling conflicts during the week-long shoot in the fall meant the talent they had lined up couldn't make it into the final video.

"Unfortunately by the time we got our funding and we got everything in place in our agency, we needed to do some filming before the leaves were off the trees and we had still had green grass. So we needed to do it quickly, but we also were prevented in doing some [filming on] particular days because of weather," Duke said.

"So it just turned out that a couple of our talent that we had lined up, that did represent more of our diverse community, actually weren't available to participate in that video."

The newest Destination St. John's ad is raising flags for anti-racism groups in the province.
The newest Destination St. John's ad is raising flags for anti-racism groups in the province. (Destination St. John's/YouTube)

Shaikh said she doesn't understand how such an omission can happen in 2021. She said the new ad is a missed opportunity for showcasing the province's diverse culture, but added she's understanding of deadline challenges.

But, Shaikh said she wonders if there was any diverse representation at all on the production crew itself.

"Have they capitalized on the cultural production by racialized and Indigenous people in the province? Those are questions that I have," Shaikh said.

"Who are the folks that are doing the production of these ads? And how do they miss this?"

Duke points to the Destination St. John's ad in July that focused on the city's hotels and convention spaces, while featuring a number of people from diverse backgrounds. She said the latest ad did miss the mark, but promises her organization will do better in the future.

"We will certainly do our best going forward. We are going to have some other short videos created for this campaign, so it's a very fair comment," Duke said.

Shaikh said she appreciates the promise, and it's an important step for a province that's actively trying to draw new Canadians, both as visitors and residents.

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