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Tourism agency apologizes after sexualizing Canadian city’s name

City Hall in Regina, Canada, in January 2014. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Michael Bell)
3 min

When it came to rebranding itself, a Canadian tourism organization wanted to be both bold and cheeky. On Thursday, it released a music video to announce its new name: Experience Regina.

The slogan has been used as a joke about Regina, the capital city of the Canadian province Saskatchewan, after a 2008 YouTube video popularized the phrase.

The gag? Regina rhymes with vagina.

The announcement included racy new slogans promoting the city, such as “Show us your Regina” and “The city that rhymes with fun.”

“Our City has been living this brand for a while now,” Experience Regina wrote on social media with its announcement, “and we thought it was time to own it.”

But after some residents of Regina complained that the name was juvenile and insensitive toward women, the tourism organization apologized Sunday and conceded that some of its slogans had crossed a line.

“There was such positive feedback around Experience Regina; however, it was clear that we fell short of what is expected from our amazing community with some of the slogans that we used,” chief executive Tim Reid said in a statement. “Regardless of our intent, the impact is valid, and for that, we apologize.”

In an interview with Regina radio station CJME on Monday, Reid said Experience Regina, which was previously named Tourism Regina, will change its advertising.

“When you find yourself seeing negativity, you don’t want anything that draws you back to those places,” Reid told CJME. “And so our team is going through that right now. … I can tell you that the pieces that people thought were offensive, we’re stripping all of that.”

In 2008, two Americans composed the original “Experience Regina” song after traveling to Canada, according to the Regina Leader-Post. After being posted on YouTube, the video gained traction over time, with a notable appearance on Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show” almost a decade later. In the years in between, multiple movies — including “Deadpool,” “Barely Lethal” and “Goon” — have made quips about Regina.

Reid told CJME that the goal was to pick a unique name for Regina’s tourism marketing agency. Hoping to joke about the city’s stereotypes, the organization gathered local musicians — including a chorus, a string quartet and a DJ — to recreate the 2008 song for its announcement.

“Our strategy was accept, you know, everything from the ‘Experience Regina’ song that we laugh at and some people hate, to all the slogans that are used,” Reid told CJME. “And then essentially come back with our manifesto … that was really about owning our story, our message and our brand.”

Regina’s mayor, Sandra Masters, supported Experience Regina’s rebranding, writing on Facebook on Friday that it “embraces who we are — fun, genuine, and bold.” In addition to Experience Regina, some local businesses included the slogans on merchandise but have since deleted social media posts and apologized.

When lifelong Regina resident Krista Keeley saw the name and slogans Friday, she thought they were an early April Fools’ joke. The 34-year-old spoke with her high school English students about the slogans, but Keeley said they didn’t find them funny.

“It’s so offensive, and it’s triggering for some people who hear that and see that and automatically, you know, feel like an object,” Keeley told The Washington Post, “or it reminds them of harassment that somebody gave them.”

Keeley said she’d rather Regina be known for its nickname, Queen City — it was named after Queen Victoria — as well as its museums, fields and friendly people.

“We’re selling our city short,” Keeley said, “and we’re so much better than this.”