Toronto cannabis store CAFE confronted with allegations of racism but owner denies it
Toronto's most famous chain of unauthorized weed stores has responded to allegations of anti-Black racism.
A day after accusations began circulating on social media that CAFE had allegedly threatened to terminate some of its staff for supporting Black Lives Matter, the company released a statement calling the claims "categorically untrue".
The exact origins of the rumours against CAFE — whose unauthorized stores have been raided and shut down by police multiple times — are unclear.
Conversations online circle back to an alleged Tweet from a CAFE employee Tuesday that has since been deleted.
toronto oomfies we no longer shop at CAFE. does anyone know of any black owned or at least not racist owned non-govt dispensaries in the city pic.twitter.com/9YyOOQzUyU— kelsie (@ERG_ABS) June 9, 2020
So far, accusations against the brand seen on social media include the dispensary allegedly sending messages to staff threatening to fire those who support BLM, and CAFE's co-owner Jon Galvano allegedly supporting All Lives Matter: a term used to downplay the deadly and disproportionate effects of police brutality on the Black community.
No proof has surfaced of either accusation, but some weed smokers have begun boycotting the brand in response to the reactions online.
One customer reached out to CAFE via e-mail asking the brand to confirm the rumours.
The screenshot of the company's response, which did not deny the allegation outright and instead accused the customer of "keyboarding", fuelled suspicions further.
been shopping at @cafe_six C/A/F/E dispensary in toronto for years. i will NOT be going back. this is how the owner feels about #blacklivesmatter @CityNews @globalnewsto @blogTO @omgblog @reachclubq pic.twitter.com/oYvA1nUmA6— Aaron Wolfe (@aawolfe) June 10, 2020
"Instead of social media and keyboarding, why don't you come by and ask our staff to their face," read CAFE's response. "Have a direct conversation and ask them if that's how things operate?"
When asked if it was appropriate to encourage people to drop by the physical store during COVID-19, an area manager for CAFE e-mailed: "If a person is unable to drop by the store and instead wishes to remain in a state of cognitive dissonance, there is little that can be done except for person to person communication."
The CAFE spokesperson also said that they had no idea where or how the rumour started, but added that 70 per cent of the staff are people of colour, and that some attended the BLM protests themselves.
UPDATE: CAFE IS GOOD YALL. WE LIVE!!! pic.twitter.com/wwHx7SvmUX— 🤍 (@LASTNAMELORDE) June 10, 2020
Since Wednedsay, an alleged staff member of CAFE came out on social media via text message screenshots in defense of the store's position on racism, and that Tweet was shared widely as well.
CAFE has since released an official statement outlining the diversity of their team and how they had actually "encouraged and provided time off" for their staff to participate in anti-Black racism protests in Toronto last weekend.
"We recognize that we did not act quickly enough when these accusations were made and that we failed in not proactively communicating our support for the rights and freedoms of all, especially for the Black community."
They also announced a number of new initiatives that the company would be taking on, including racial-equity training for staff and donating $10,000 to organizations including The Bail Project, Black Legal Action Centre, and Black Lives Matter Canada.
The statement is available on their website and in their Instagram bio, but was allegedly deleted from their main feed, said a spokesperson.
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