Michelle Narang cried when she first saw a sticker of what appears to be a drawing of teen activist Greta Thunberg being sexually assaulted and the name of an oilfield company printed boldly across the bottom of the decal.
Narang, who lives in Rocky Mountain House in west-central Alberta, is a proud supporter of Canadian energy. Her relatives earn a living in the oil industry, which also supports the non-profit she works for. She calls the investment that oil and gas companies make in communities, like her town, “beautiful.”
“This is an industry Alberta is fighting for so desperately. This sticker is not something Alberta or Albertans need,” Narang told HuffPost Canada in an interview Thursday.
Narang decided she couldn’t stay silent. As someone who knows survivors of sexual assault, she never wants her 13-year-old son to see the sticker, or be OK with violence against women. So, she posted the image to Facebook as a way to call it out: “This company represents everything that the [oil and gas] industry needs to fight against.”
The sticker shows a drawing of the back of a nude female and two hands pulling from behind on her braided hair. The word “Greta” is written across her lower back. This image has been censored.
“Silence never creates change,” Narang said. “It’s sad to me (the sticker) went through a supply chain of people, who thought about it, printed it and distributed it. It blows my mind anyone would think it’s funny.”
A friend who works in the oil industry sent an image of the sticker to Narang. They spoke to HuffPost Canada on a condition of anonymity, fearing repercussions at their job. The sticker, reading “X-Site Energy Services,” was handed out recently as promotional material at job sites to be worn on hard hats, the worker said.
Although the actual stickers weren’t distributed at their workplace, they said the graphic image was circulating among their colleagues on Wednesday. The worker said the company was asked if it would be interested in a similar sticker.
“It was completely disgusting and wrong,” the worker said.
Narang said she called the general manager of X-Site, Doug Sparrow, asking him if he knew about the sticker that appears to depict the rape of a minor. He said he was aware of it, according to Narang, and his response was, “She’s not a child, she’s 17.”
Under the Criminal Code, child pornography is any visual representation of a person under the age of 18 engaged or depicted to be engaged in a sexual activity.
UPDATE - Feb. 28, 2020: RCMP have investigated the image, and determined it is not considered child pornography. “According to our experts, the image does not meet the criteria for it to constitute a criminal offence,” an officer from the Red Deer detachment told HuffPost.
Sparrow did not respond to HuffPost’s repeated requests for comment, but he told City News Edmonton Thursday that neither X-Site, nor any X-Site employee, was involved in making the sticker.
“Someone has done this. That’s all I know,” Sparrow said.
He told Global News that he was shutting down his company’s social media pages because of online “attacks.”
Velocity, a printing company in Red Deer, has been accused of printing the stickers. A representative told HuffPost that while X-Site was a previous client, its work history shows Velocity did not print this order.
Thunberg, a Swedish activist, has become a symbol for climate change action, as the world faces significant global warming and only 10 years to curb catastrophe, according to the United Nations and other experts.
Watch: Greta Thunberg calls out world leaders during a speech in Montreal. Story continues below.
At the same time, the Alberta oil industry is facing increasing pressure from other provinces and environmentalists to cut carbon emissions and transition to green energy.
Just this week, Teck Resources backed out of a $20-billion Alberta oilsands mining project, blaming Canada’s unclear climate change policy. Across the country, Indigenous protesters have blocked major railways in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who oppose a natural gas pipeline in B.C.
Highlighting the national discord, four Alberta Conservative MPs released a document called the “Buffalo Declaration,” calling for “equality” and a louder voice for Alberta at the federal table.
‘This is not what our province stands for’
Alberta’s Minister of Culture Leela Aheer denounced the image on Twitter, calling it, “completely deplorable, unacceptable and degrading. This is not what our province stands for. Whoever is responsible should be ashamed and apologize immediately. I stand with Albertans against this horrendous image.”
Premier Jason Kenney, in a comment, thanked Aheer for denouncing “this odious image and the message it sends.”
Narang emphasized the sticker is not representative of her community and does not want it to be used as fodder by the “anti-oil, anti-Alberta side.”
“I really want Eastern Canada to understand this (sticker) is the craziest thing possible,” Narang said. “There’s way more good news stories and we love our environment.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include politicians’ responses and an additional comment from Doug Sparrow.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this story included an unedited image of the sticker. It has been updated to blur the image as it is an implied depiction of a minor.