CAPP withdraws yogurt ad in response to Sierra Club Canada complaint

Ottawa – Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) Council has ruled the contents of the tar sands tailings ponds are “essentially like yogurt” in response to a complaint laid last month by Sierra Club Canada. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) quietly withdrew the ad shortly after the complaint was filed. Sierra Club Canada was barred from public statements until the ruling was issued late Monday, November 29, 2010.

ASC Vice President, Janet Feasby, said in a letter, “It should be noted, however, that Council’s decision was not unanimous. Council was pleased; therefore, to learn from the advertiser that this commercial had been withdrawn and replaced by another that does not make any reference to yogurt.”

The television advertisement, one in a series created by CAPP to greenwash the tar sands, shows Shelley Powell, P Eng. of Suncor Energy saying of the tailings: “It’s essentially like yogurt”.

Sierra Club Canada argued this statement misleads the public by downplaying the toxicity of tailings ponds that contain numerous chemicals like arsenic, mercury and poly aromatic hydrocarbons produced by the tar sands operations. SCC alleged that CAPP had violated provision 1 of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. Part 1 of the code deals with accuracy and clarity:

(a) Advertisements must not contain inaccurate or deceptive claims…. […] the concern is not with the intent of the sender or precise legality of the presentation. Rather, the focus is on the message as received or perceived, i.e. the general impression conveyed by the advertisement.

(b) Advertisements must not omit relevant information in a manner that, in the result, is deceptive.

“The recent deaths of ducks in tailings ponds clearly and accurately demonstrated the tailings are toxic and definitely not yogurt,” said John Bennett, Executive Director.

SCC argued the commercial failed to reflect the numerous environmental risks and health impacts of tar sands production. Unfortunately, ASC apparently made a literal interpretation about the reference to yogurt and failed to see the real intent of the ad to mislead Canadians.

"CAPP's greenwashing campaign is not going to solve the increasing cancer rates, the treaty rights violations, or the environmental degradation caused by the tar sands."  said Sheila Muxlow, Director with the Sierra Club Canada Prairie Chapter. "Rather than spend so many resources trying to convince the public that everything is A-ok, CAPP should agree to a moratorium on new developments ensuring the problems are not made worse.


For more information contact:

  • John Bennett — 613 291 6888
  • Sheila Muxlow — 780-660-0312