A recent advertisement, set to go up across Montreal was struck down, out of fear that it would offend the local Muslim population.
The billboard ad, designed by the producers of The Rebel website, criticizes Mayor Denis Coderre for choosing "Charia [sic] oil" over Canadian oil, and features an image of King Salman of Saudi Arabia. Coderre previously had struck down a bill to build an oil pipeline from Alberta, citing environmental concerns.
Although they had previously run inflammatory ads on the same billboard in the past, this was the first one to reference Saudi Arabia or "Sharia oil."
The billboard company, Outfront Outdoor, warned The Rebel in a series of emails not to cross the political-religious line.
"As an outdoor company we have to work with politicians and pitch for tenders," the OO apologized, explaining that their refusal comes from the political institution of Montreal. "The mayors and councillors are the ones that approve or disapprove these [sic] item."
When The Rebel called the company to contest their right to run the ad, Senior VP Michele Erskine refused their pleas, "Understand, of course, that billboards are not media they're...ours via agreement with our landlords, and so they're not really subject to the same rules that, you know, media or free speech."
When The Rebel's Ezra Levant offered to change the ad, showing a street scene of Saudi Arabia instead of the Saudi king, Erskine vehemently rejected it, citing controversies in Quebec, and her deep desire not to offend the local Muslim population, as well as her fear that others would vent their frustration on those self-same Muslims.
But Levant is not letting the issue go.
"We have free speech here," he writes. "We’re going to run this billboard in Montreal, even if I have to literally stand on the street corner and hold up the poster myself."