Warning: This story contains graphic content. Reader discretion is advised.
An Alberta energy company is facing a wave of criticism on social media for an image that includes their company logo, and a woman or girl resembling climate activist Greta Thunberg.
The image, which appears to be a sticker or decal, shows the silhouette of a naked woman or girl from behind, with her two long braids being pulled back by hands behind her.
The word “Greta” is written across her lower back, and an “X-Site Energy Services” logo is at the bottom of the illustration.
The image resembles Thunberg, a 17-year-old activist from Sweden who drew a massive crowd when she attended a climate strike in Edmonton last fall. The teenager frequently wears her hair in two long braided pigtails.
Thunberg responded to the incident on Twitter Saturday morning:
Rocky Mountain House, Alta., Councillor Michelle Narang told Global News she almost cried when she saw a photo of the image, which she said was sent to her by a friend who works in the oil industry.
“I sat on it throughout the day and thought, ‘There’s no way I’m going to be quiet about this because it’s not OK. It’s absolutely not OK.'”
Disgusted, she shared her thoughts and the photo in a post on Facebook.
“This company represents everything that the oil and gas industry needs to fight against,” Narang said to Global News while reading what she had posted online.
“I am absolutely sickened that X-Site Energy Services would think that the hard-working men and women in the energy industry would condone this representation of a child clearly being raped.”
She didn’t feel the sticker could be ignored so she said she called X-Site Energy Services general manager Doug Sparrow to ask him if they had made the stickers.
“His response when I asked him if he was aware that there are stickers circulating with his logo depicting the rape of Greta Thunberg. He said yes, that he is aware,” Narang said.
“And I said, ‘So you are fine with an image that your company condones the rape of children?’ And he said, ‘She is not a child, she is 17.'”
Due to the graphic implied nature, Global News has chosen to obscure part of the image.
On its website, X-Site Energy Services describes itself as an oilfield and industrial-based company serving central Alberta and northern British Columbia.
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Global News reached general manager Doug Sparrow on the phone Wednesday night. When asked repeatedly if his company printed the sticker, he repeatedly responded that his company did not post the photo of the sticker online.
He said he was fielding many calls about the image, “personally and business-wise to mitigate the damage that has been done.”
When asked if he was defending the image as Narang said he had during their phone call, he said “I’m defending the fact that I never posted it. I never posted it. I’m not a pedophile. I’m not what they say. Alright? I’m not that guy. We did not post that picture.”
When asked what he thought of the sticker, Sparrow had no comment. He said he was shutting down all of X-Site Energy Services’ social media pages, including Facebook because they were being attacked.
“We did not post those stickers or pictures on social media. They have been tagged on our accounts — personal and company — which I’m shutting down right now to try to mitigate the damages. We did not post that stuff on media, OK?”
Global News tried several times to ask Sparrow about the origin of the sticker with the company’s logo on it, but he would not comment on that. The phone call lasted just over four minutes.
Narang said she is a staunch oil and gas advocate but said she can’t be silent about anyone advocating, whether it be explicitly or implied, for rape and misogyny. She said the sticker is the worst depiction she has ever seen and showed it to her teenage daughter, who was upset.
“If she can see through that and see the message, I’m pretty sure a grown adult man who is a leader in the industry — a business owner in industry — should be able to see and understand the message that he’s putting out there,” Narang said.
“We do not rape women and girls to teach them a lesson. This is not our oilpatch,” Narang said to Global News. “We can’t have this representation of the oil patch and the oil companies and of our industry be accepted as normal. People need to start speaking out about it.
“It’s not OK.”
Alberta RCMP is aware of the image and on Twitter said concerns about it had “been forwarded appropriately.”
In a news release Friday, Red Deer RCMP said it had completed its investigation into a vehicle decal that “purportedly depicts a well-known climate change activist engaging in a sexual act.”
Officers determined “the decal does not meet the elements of child pornography… nor does the decal depict a non-consensual act that would be a direct threat to the person.
“Alberta RCMP do not believe it constitutes a criminal offense,” the news release said Friday.
Late Thursday morning, Alberta’s Culture, Multiculturalism and Status of Women Minister Leela Aheer tweeted that she considers the image “completely deplorable, unacceptable and degrading.”
“This is not what our province stands for,” the tweet reads. “Whoever is responsible should be ashamed and apologize immediately. I stand with Albertans against this horrendous image.”
Premier Jason Kenney replied to Aheer’s tweet with a post that said “Thank-you for denouncing this odious image and the message it sends.”
With files from Global News’ Phil Heidenreich