Quebec-made Ungava gin issues apology for offending Inuit community
Award winning Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq joined Inuk Montrealer Stephen Puskas in denouncing ad campaign
Ungava gin has released an official apology today after many people expressed their anger with the company's advertising and branding.
"We are truly sorry that we've offended the Inuit community, as this was never our intent, nor does it align with our corporate values and beliefs," Charles Crawford, the founder and president of Ungava gin, said in a written apology.
"We are deeply sorry and we will do better."
Over the last week many members of the Inuit community, including Montreal visual artist Stephen Puskas and award winning throat-singer Tanya Tagaq, have taken to social media to express their disgust with the gin's advertising campaigns. Some photos featured young women dressed in parka costumes.
.<a href="https://twitter.com/Ungava_Gin">@Ungava_Gin</a> sexualizing Inuit to sell alcohol. Classy. <a href="https://t.co/2GTQyIppNI">pic.twitter.com/2GTQyIppNI</a>—@tagaq
What does <a href="https://twitter.com/Ungava_Gin">@Ungava_Gin</a> do when there are no Inuit to model their ridiculous costumes? Hire Asian ladies. <a href="https://t.co/JKFDYRyphl">pic.twitter.com/JKFDYRyphl</a>—@tagaq
In an animated ad titled "Discovering the Inuit" and published to Ungava's YouTube account in 2013, a man's voice can be heard chanting the word "Ungava" in the style of Inuit throat singing as characters in parkas smile and wave.
The two cartoon Inuit characters then jump into canoes and paddle across a body of water in front of a tundra-like landscape that includes igloos and polar bears.
Puskas said Crawford's apology is a step in the right direction.
"Less than a week ago [Crawford said] that my concerns are just a one-off, but I'm glad that they've acknowledged these concerns and that they've apologized," Puskas told CBC.
While Puskas is "cautiously optimistic" about the company's apology, he said he still feels that there's much more to be done.
Puskas suggested that Ungava gin goes against the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.
He referred to article 92, which states that the corporate sector in Canada needs to commit to "meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships,…obtaining informed consent of Indigenous peoples…before proceeding with economic development projects."
Our identity has got to be worth something.- Stephen Puskas , visual artist
Puskas said Canadians have to start asking themselves how to apply the resolutions from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He added that there needs to be more Inuit inclusion with companies that brand themselves as an Inuit product, such as Ungava.
"Our identity is tied to their brand...Our identity has got to be worth something."
Puskas also said that some of the money from the recent $12-million dollar sale of Ungava to Toronto-based Colby Spirits and Wine LTD should go to the Inuit community.
"You can say you're spreading good will about Inuit all you want, but it's not going to feed hungry Inuit in the North who are experiencing a food shortage or build homes for Inuit during a housing crisis in northern Quebec," said Puskas.
In his written statement, Crawford acknowledged the need for Ungava gin to reach out to "key cultural influencers to gather explicit feedback on our use of Inuit symbology, and we are committed to being more culturally aware and sensitive in our advertising efforts going forward."
The company also said it plans on reviewing all of its media channels and removing all ads that are considered offensive.