Mountain Equipment Co-op now has Judith Kasiam as an ambassador after she questioned their white-only marketing earlier this spring. Kasiam is seen above enjoying one of her favourite pastimes.(Instagram/CBC)

Mountain Equipment Co-op apologizes for racist marketing

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Mountain Equipment Co-op, the outdoor equipment company that has thrived in Canada over the last 47 years, is now awakening to the diversity of the country.

We need to represent the diversity that is Canada, and if we don’t, we will not remain relevant into the future”

In an interview on CBC Radio’s, The Current, at the end of October, MEC CEO, David Labistour explained the change.

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“We need to represent the diversity that is Canada, and if we don’t, we will not remain relevant into the future”, he said.

Labistour apologized last month in an open letter to the co-op’s members for using only white models in its marketing and advertising.

Judith Kasiama was a catalyst in this epiphany.

Kasiama fled the war in her native Congo, and is now an avid outdoor enthusiast in Vancouver, British Columbia.

In an Instagram post she questioned why there were never people who looked like her in the co-op’s advertising and marketing.

Hundreds of people attend a discussion on diversity in the outdoors this past weekend in Banff, with the CEO and several ambassadors of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC). (CBC)

This past weekend, Kasiama took part in a forum in Banff, Alberta, to talk about diversity in Canada’s great outdoors.

“I know what war is like,” she said. “And being in the mountains … has allowed me to really reach that path of healing.” CBC News reported.

David Labistour has since announced his intention to step down from his position as CEO in June 2019, but the new direction for the company will continue.

This past weekend, The Banff Centre hosted a panel discussion on diversity in the outdoors, with Labistour and several ambassadors of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC).

Rebeccah Kellman lives in nearby Canmore, Alberta. She attended the panel on Sunday. She told the CBC she welcomes the conversation about including people of colour in advertising.

“As a woman of colour living in Canmore, I can relate. I look around, I’m the only black person in the climbing gym. I go climbing outside, I’m the only black person at the climbing crag,” she told CBC.

“So it’s important to have these conversations and it’s nice that MEC has acknowledged that there’s a problem and I can maybe see someone like me in their advertising.”

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According to a U.S. national parks study, only 7 percent of black folks visit national parks. While 78 percent of all parks visitors are white. There seems to be a narrative that BIPOC don’t enjoy the outdoor compare to their white friends. This is not rooted in actual reality but a myth perpetuated by marketing that caters to predominately white audience. If you don’t believe, check out companies such as @mec, @arcteryx @arcteryxcanada @hellyhansen who fail to diversify their adds. Painting a narrative that people like me don’t enjoy the outdoors. I love nature and spending time outside! I hope these companies can diversify their adds. Sadly I couldn’t find any studies in Canada. #truthfultuesday Pc: @neverbadtimeforchanges

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(With files from CBC)

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