The Bay apologizes after using image of Black lawyer as face of fundraising campaign without permission

·4 min read
Anti-racism advocate Hadiya Roderique spoke out after a friend, who visited one of The Bay's department stores over the weekend, noted her face on counter-top sign seeking donations for the company's 'Charter for Change' initiative.  (Submitted by Hadiya Roderique - image credit)
Anti-racism advocate Hadiya Roderique spoke out after a friend, who visited one of The Bay's department stores over the weekend, noted her face on counter-top sign seeking donations for the company's 'Charter for Change' initiative. (Submitted by Hadiya Roderique - image credit)

The Hudson's Bay Company is apologizing after using a photo of a Black anti-racism advocate as one of the faces of a fundraising campaign for Indigenous, Black and people of colour without asking for her permission or that of the original photographer — also a person of colour.

Hadiya Roderique, who works as an advocate on equity, diversity and inclusion, spoke out on Twitter after a friend visited one of The Bay's department stores over the weekend and noted her face on countertop sign seeking donations for the company's "Charter for Change" initiative.

"She said, 'I didn't know you were doing work for The Bay,'" said Roderique, a lawyer, who is not practising.

Roderique replied that she wasn't.

The photo was originally taken by Luis Mora for a piece authored by Roderique for the Globe and Mail, called "Black on Bay Street," in which Roderique spoke out about working in law as a Black woman, fitting in and the roadblocks she encountered.

"For that photo to have been the one that was co-opted without my consent, without my permission, and as I understand it, without the consent or the permission of the photographer either, seemed particularly problematic," she said.

Launched in May of this year, the Charter for Change campaign was billed as a "social impact platform," meant to update the company's Royal Charter, first granted by the British in 1670, which gave it an exclusive trading monopoly over the Hudson Bay drainage basin.

The company said earlier this year it would give $30 million over 10 years to organizations "working to advance racial equity and inclusion, through … education, employment and empowerment."

"The goals of the campaign seem great," Roderique told CBC News. "But I'm an educator that certainly wasn't empowered or employed."

The company says the image was used "by mistake" and the photo has since been removed.

It came "from a photographer's website used as inspiration when developing the campaign," spokesperson Tiffany Bourre said in a statement.

"However it did not get updated, as was intended, to reflect one of the participating Canadians in the Hudson's Bay Charter for Change campaign. We deeply regret the error."

Roderique says she's been assured the company is working to pull her photo from its stores and that remains her main concern.

In a statement to CBC News, the photography agency representing Luis Mora, KZM Agency, said it did not sell the photo to The Bay or give it permission to use it, and was unaware it had been used by the company until being contacted by CBC News.

Part of its mission is to empower marginalized artists and "protect them from abuses in the world of photography and imaging," said the agency's founder, Kathi Ziolkowski.

"Before we would consider something like that, we would need to get permission from the person in the image — and make sure that they approved and were getting paid for it," she said.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, says he's worked with public and private organizations and has seen "a lot of learning" when it comes to connecting with diverse communities. But at the same time "a lot of mistakes are being made."

Representation, inclusion and empowerment "needs to be done with those parties — and with the permission of, and hopefully compensation of, as well."

"In this case, there's been an acknowledgement that a mistake was made. I think importantly The Bay needs to demonstrate how they're going to rectify the mistake."

For her part, Roderique says she might like to see The Bay make a financial contribution to a Black or Indigenous organization, but is still considering her next steps.

"When I spoke to The Bay, they didn't mince words and said this was completely their error. Good first step," she said.

Still, she says, it's a mistake that never should have happened.

"That happens so often when you have Black creation, Indigenous creation, creation from other people of colour — their words, their ideas, their thoughts, their images being used by others … and not really giving attribution to the original creator," she said.

"Especially when you're doing this of this nature; when you're using the images of people of colour to signal and try to solicit funds for anti-racism and other projects related to people of colour, you need to make sure, extra sure, that you are crediting them and crediting their work and make sure that people are being compensated."

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