02/28/2020 16:54 EST | Updated 09/11/2020 16:19 EDT

'Greta Thunberg' Sticker Is Offensive But Not Child Pornography: RCMP

The House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion condemning the sticker.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg marches in a school strike climate protest in Bristol in southwest England on Feb. 28, 2020.

A sticker linked to an Alberta oilfield company that appears to depict teen climate activist Greta Thunberg being sexually assaulted “does not meet the threshold of a criminal matter,” according to the RCMP.

The drawing shows a naked female and two hands pulling her braids back, with the word “Greta” written across her lower back. Below that is the logo of Edson-based company X-Site Energy Services Ltd. It has drawn staunch criticism, and serious concerns that the imagery constitutes child pornography.

Swedish activist Thunberg, 17, has galvanized young people around the world to call on global leaders to act on climate change. She made several stops in Canada last year, including a climate rally at the Alberta legislature. Supporters of the oil and gas industry from United We Roll countered the event with a convoy meant to show their pride for the sector. 

Previously on HuffPost: Greta Thunberg joins rally in Edmonton. Story continues after video.


Michelle Narang, who lives in Rocky Mountain House and called out the image on Facebook, told the Canadian Press that she reported the image as child pornography to to the RCMP Thursday. 

On Friday, RCMP Supt. Gerald Grobmeier told HuffPost that while his detachment in Red Deer had not been assigned to the complaint, officers there “took it upon themselves” to review the image after seeing it on Facebook.

“We had the image analyzed by our experts in child exploitation matters. They determined that it does not meet the threshold of a criminal matter, so there isn’t an investigation underway,” he said.

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. 

“There’s a lot of assumptions on who that person is when they write the word ‘Greta.’ Unfortunately, with criminal cases you can’t make assumptions, you need facts,” Grobmeier said.

“We also don’t feel it’s appropriate, of course, but it isn’t a criminal matter,” he added.

‘Room for interpretation’

Francis Fortin, an associate professor of criminology at University of Montreal whose research has focused on child pornography, said the RCMP’s decision is a sound one.

While the image leaves “room for interpretation,” the explicit character or sexual purpose of the image is questionable, from a legal standpoint. For example, it would be hard to prove to a judge that the image depicts someone under 18 years old.

“With a 16- or 17-year-old girl, it’s hard to establish their age. Some are more developed than others,” said Fortin, pointing out this is part of the reason why most arrests for child pornography deal with images showing prepubescent children.

Illustrations or drawings can prove even trickier to prosecute, since “the spirit of the law is to stop the proliferation of those images to protect children from being victimized.” 

Fortin said, “You need to put the context aside and look at the image on its own, staying very true to the law. I don’t think someone could make the interpretation [that the image shows Greta Thunberg]. Greta is a fairly common name.”

That is not to say the sticker should ever have been distributed.

“It’s definitely in bad taste,” said Fortin. “But it couldn’t be considered child pornography in Canada.”

On Friday afternoon, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion condemning the sticker. NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice, who tabled the motion, described it as “encouraging a violent sexual assault on a young environmental activist.”

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