MEC owning up to diversity problem a good step say local hikers
Local hikers say they're glad to hear change is coming
Local people who love the outdoors say they appreciate Mountain Equipment Co-op is acknowledging its diversity problem and hope other companies will recognize hikers come in all colours.
The company's CEO David Labistour put out an open letter this week acknowledging MEC's advertising and marketing had previously given the impression that people of colour didn't hike or climb.
"White athletes hold the spotlight in advertising, while the diversity that exists and continues to grow in outdoor spaces isn't represented in the images we produce and promote. The truth is that we haven't represented the diversity of Canadians or of our five million members," he wrote.
Labistour promised the company would change and would look at not only its advertising, but also adding more diversity to the board.
Arif Jaffer, who likes to hike and climb, said the industry doesn't represent diversity well.
"You don't see people who look like me so people think we don't exist in these spaces," he said on CBC's All In A Day. "Even when I am out there I feel like I am tokenized. I am not a guy who likes to hike, I am a brown guy who likes to hike."
Rabab Gomaa, a member of the Ottawa Outdoors Club, said it's not just about advertising; stores need diverse staff as well. Having grown up in Egypt, she said she had a different perspective on outdoor gear and weather.
"My body does not tolerate temperature the same as someone who grew up in Canada," she said.
If someone with a similar background told her a sleeping bag or tent was good for cold weather she is more likely to believe it, she said.
"I would trust that they know my struggle and they would come up with something that meets my needs."
She said the company does appear to be moving in the right direction.
"I definitely see a good step. Having the CEO admitting there is something and we are willing to change."
Jaffer also applauded the company for recognizing it had a problem and committing to change. He said he has been to MEC stores in Toronto that offer classes in different languages. He said continuing actions like that would be a sign the company saw this as more than an image problem.
"That for me is what a lot of companies should start looking at, not just the lip service, but what can we offer to people."