Residents of Lytton, British Columbia, say they feel taken advantage of by a new ad featuring their community, which was almost completely destroyed by a wildfire last summer.
An advertisement for ATCO Group, a Calgary-based structures and logistics company, shows two young children walking through a burned-out city while carrying a tree seedling in a cart to a cover version of the 1985 hit Katrina and the waves Walking under the sun.
The young girls walk past a sign that reads “School reopens today” and try in vain to dig a hole. An ATCO worker stops what he was doing and helps the young girls plant the seedling.
The advertisement ends with the slogan “For more than 75 years, we have been where the world needs us”.
But the company admits the story of a school reopening is a work of fiction. In reality, up to 90% of the community’s buildings and homes have been destroyed, and residents unable to return are frustrated by the slow pace of rebuilding – and, for some, the publicity is salting those wounds.
“I think this publicity is in very poor taste, and why are they trying to capitalize on our tragedy?” Lytton resident Micha Kingston said.
She said it’s hard to watch an ad featuring young children in Lytton when she and her daughter aren’t even allowed into town.
“For them to suggest that the children of Lytton are happily rolling their carts through the streets of Lytton to school is, well, it’s ridiculous and it really lessens the suffering of all the residents who are still displaced. .”
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She also notes that if they were allowed into Lytton they would have to wear full PPE, unlike the people in the advert.
“It’s kind of like a slap in the face to see these little kids walking around,” she said.
Video “entirely fictional”
In a statement, ATCO Group said it was working with the village and donated to reconstruction efforts before filming for the commercial began.
“It was not our intention to portray Lytton but to film a story inspired by our work, which includes disaster response and building schools in Canada, Australia and beyond,” the company said in a statement. communicated.
On Twitter, he said the story was “entirely fictional” and part of the ad was shot in Lytton.
The story is entirely fictional and part of this video was filmed in Lytton, BC where a wildfire devastated the town in 2021. ATCO has worked with the town to provide meaningful support for their recovery and to their reconstruction.
According to BC Assessment, 97% of residential and commercial properties were damaged by fire, resulting in a partial write-down of these property assessments for 2022.
Public Safety Minister Bill Blair was in Lytton on Thursday to tour the damage and said the federal government was working on a request for funding from the BC government.
Peace River North MPP Dan Davies raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, asking why a private company was allowed to film a commercial in Lytton before residents were allowed to return to rebuild their lives.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said it was a decision made by Lytton council, adding it was not something he would have done.
“They’re not coming to ask permission from the province,” Farnworth said. “Quite frankly, I found it mind-boggling that this is what, in fact, happened.”
Lytton Mayor Jan Polderman said Thursday he had not seen the final commercial, but the filming did not interfere with cleanup efforts in Lytton.
He said there were a small number of reviews of the video, which is meant to show that recovery efforts are beginning.