Commercial Promoting Diverse City of Montreal Fails Miserably by Only Featuring White People

It’s one of those situations where you ask yourself, “What were they thinking?” and immediately feel better for your last oversight.

A now-pulled commercial to promote Montreal’s upcoming 375 anniversary has left organizers embarrassed and apologetic.

While the video was designed to pay homage to the diverse city of Montreal, it features only white people.

Released last Wednesday, the ad was intended to promote a variety show called “Montreal s’allume” (Montreal shines) that will be aired simultaneously on December 11 on four Montreal-based French TV networks, along with two English stations.

The show is the first in what will be a year of assorted activities and events celebrating the founding of Montreal in 1642.

Montreal s’allume is advertised as including “a wide range of performing artists” that will help viewers “discover a creative, modern, edgy and inclusive Montreal,” as The Toronto Star reports.


Screen image from Montreal s’allume ad

The commercial features an assortment of performers, including Celine Dion, the sketch comedy group Rock et Belles Oreilles, singers Marie Mai, Louis-Jean Cormier, Ariane Moffatt and the renowned performer Robert Charlebois.

While these are all talents to deserving of recognition and celebration, viewers were quick to notice that the 44-second video did not feature a single person of colour. Not one.

It’s not that there is a shortage of A-list celebs in Quebec that fit the bill and who reflect other nationalities, as The Star highlights. This includes people like Indo-Canadian comedian Sugar Sammy, the Senegal-born pop singer Karim Ouellet or Iraqi-Moroccan humourist Adib Alkhalidey.

After a column in the Montreal newspaper La Presse that slammed the ad was published Tuesday morning, the commercial was taken down.

It will now be tweaked and re-released as a more inclusive version.

montreal commercial

Screen image from Montreal s’allume ad

“The show, the way it was conceived, is trying to reflect the diversity of Montreal,” said Gilbert Rozon, head of The Society for the Celebration of Montreal’s 375th Anniversary and founder of the Just For Laughs Festival, according to The Toronto Star.

“But the advertising campaign chose some celebrities to bring the viewers and I didn’t have time to watch it. It went out without me approving it. It’s my mistake and I take full responsibility. It’s going to be tweaked and changed.”

As the Toronto Star reports, a spokesperson for the organizing committee said that all contracts that are issued include a clause demanding that the performances and products reflect the city’s diversity and that officials had asked for the addition of more inclusive material even before the emergence of the La Presse column.

The variety show will feature apparently more than 100 different artists, reflecting a diverse array of backgrounds.

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