Corporate Bigotry & Silver Linings

Valbella Gourmet Foods’ self-immolating email got us thinking about corporate cultures and their historical impacts on the LGBTQ2 community. In the short-term, flammable corporate moments—like Valbella’s—lead to concerted damage control and reputation management. On the other hand, the Canmore Pride society, the scorched recipient of the email, has felt an outspoken (but perhaps transitory) lift in community support.

Occasionally, corporate homophobia and transphobia can lead to significant organizational change and have positive after-effects.

The Family of Man statue in front of the Delta Bow Valley Hotel in Calgary 

In this vein, the catalyst for the formation of the Calgary Lesbian and Gay Political Action Guild (CLAGPAG) came out of an act of discrimination. In 1988, the Delta Bow Valley Hotel cancelled a gay community fundraising dinner when they realized the booking was for a gay group. A similar media firestorm ensued: but before the internet, this meant sensational newspaper and television coverage. The apology from Delta corporate headquarters in Toronto included a cash donation. This payoff became seed money for CLAGPAG, who later started Calgary’s annual Pride Parade and did critical social justice work in our city.

At Imperial Oil, a gay chemical engineer named David Mitges, who had been working for the company since 1980, started attending his company’s annual shareholders’ meeting in 1993. For eight sequential years, he asked Imperial to offer same-sex benefits, despite the booing and harassment from the audience present. The national press described Mitges’ protracted tussle as “David vs. the Energy Goliath.” Finally, in 2000, Imperial capitulated and began offering same-sex benefits, which by that time had become more normative in corporate culture.

For historians, it will be useful to revisit Valbella Gourmet Foods and the Canmore Pride Society in 2032 to record what happened in the intervening decade.

{KA}

2 responses to “Corporate Bigotry & Silver Linings

  1. I am not going to visit Valbella’ts or the town of Canmore. That corporate entity has always been like the writer of the letter expressed and always will be. Infact, the whole town is small enough and whispering that the entire population knew exactly how the owners thought and operated like. I am ashamed that Canmore is in Alberta and is a direct representation of what some Albertans think of the LGBTQ Brand. Just because Canmore got found out is not going to change that homophobic spot on our map. The remarks that were published shamed all Albertans that we have always had Red Necks in this province and always will have. I for one, will never forget that Canmore has been outed as homophobic. Let those ignorant bastards suffer the financial wrath for harbouring homophobes like Valbellas.

  2. Pingback: The 30 Years Ago Culture War | Calgary Gay History

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