We gratefully and respectfully acknowledge that we are writing to you from the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh (Squamish) Nation.
We wanted to update you on where we are at in our social justice and anti-racism journey.
First, we want to express our sincere gratitude to all of you who provided feedback and comments surrounding our first online post . Thank you for the supportive comments acknowledging our efforts to be courageous and transparent. And we equally thank all of you who have been critical and are holding us accountable.
Many of the comments express a shared conviction towards a brewery culture in B.C. that is diverse and inclusive, and is able to admit mistakes and make corrections. We should all be encouraged at how much our local beer community cares about the state of the community. We at Backcountry are humbled.
Many of you have asked why we did not make a public post sooner.
We struggled with the timing of making a statement. And in retrospect, we should have said something sooner. We simply did not want to put out a public post without having first done some real, tangible work on our end. This was never a PR exercise for us, and we wanted to be sincere in our efforts in becoming an organization that was safe and inclusive. We have been open with many of our clients and vendors who have been asking.
But, in our attempt to avoid any window-dressing, we may have given many the wrong impression. Since the summer of 2020, we have been working to make substantial changes in our structures and culture at Backcountry, and continue to do so. But, we came to learn that approaching this work with positive intentions is not enough.
The reality is that this journey has forced us to think in ways we have not before; as we are a leadership team of mostly white men, this speaks significantly to our privileged positions. In fact, just being able to call this correction and learning a “journey” is in itself a privilege. We acknowledge that while this is a learning experience for us, many Indigenous, Black and people of colour are impacted by casual and more systemic forms of discrimination every day.
Here, we hope to provide context for the many assumptions that arose from our first post and the ensuing discussion online, and give you a better sense of our journey so far.
We want to affirm that in June, one of our employees left, citing an unsafe environment for them to work in.
The truth is clear: we failed. We failed to protect our employees, and we failed to uphold Backcountry’s values as an inclusive workplace. We failed to demonstrate that we value the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) employees. We know that we must take responsibility for our serious missteps, particularly in the context of the land we live and work on: as a business, we are situated on the unceded lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) First Nation, making our misstep that much more hurtful.
A BIPOC employee approached us in late Feb 2020, concerned about a lack of anti-discrimination and anti-racist specific policies at the brewery. After our meeting, we reached out to an American racial equity consultant who had been recommended by this employee. Unfortunately, that possibility had to be tabled as COVID hit soon after. In the midst of trying to adjust to the new reality of a COVID world and survive as a business, we unfortunately lost sight of our initial intentions. As we were looking to reopen our taproom in June, this same employee reminded us that we had yet to follow through on the discussion that we had earlier in the year. We chose to delay our opening in order to address this oversight. We formed a diversity and inclusion committee made up of employees and ownership with the task of crafting new anti-discrimination policy for Backcountry. The committee worked tirelessly and managed to complete this policy prior to our reopening. Unfortunately, ownership failed to successfully implement this policy due to disagreements over its rollout and application. This ultimately resulted in the resignation of this same BIPOC employee. As we mourned the loss of this employee, we also realized that we did not have the expertise or resources to both analyze what we needed to change and actually implement those changes. While we had positive intentions, our impact is what matters, and our impact was not what anyone wanted. We are so sorry for this. We know we need help to carry out this work, and that it cannot be done on a whim without proper support, which is why we reached out for help.
Many also asked why we haven’t named names or made a more public apology. We had considered this. Unfortunately, what we’ve learned is that even in acknowledging our culpability, even if this shamed the brewery, publicly naming (current and/or former) employees could inadvertently do them harm. In no way would we want to do that. Breaching the agreed confidentiality of internal employment issues could also have the very negative impact of discouraging those from coming forward with any future concerns.
At the same time, we also want to respect our former employee’s privacy and own process of healing and moving forward. For these reasons, we will not name names.
In the spirit of transparency, we want to be open with our community while we are on this journey. The following describes what we have been working towards since last summer. We will also be posting more information and regular updates to our website that will add more context and detail to the work that we are engaging in.
Our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Initiative
We are investing time and resources to push forward a long-term Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) strategy to educate ourselves, create policy, and transform the culture at Backcountry Brewing to one that we can confidently call anti-racist.
We cannot do this work alone; we have a lot to learn and we want to get this right. To that end, we are working with one of Canada’s best EDI consultants and firms.
In June, we connected with Inclusive Excellence Strategy Solutions Inc., a local BIPOC-owned and operated consulting team and began our work. Yes, we’ve done a bit of training, but only as part of a larger, long-term plan, involving a rethink of our structure of accountability, our processes and our workplace culture — both front of house and throughout the brewery. We want to make it clear who we are and who we aim to be: an inclusive, anti-racist brewery.
Training began in August of 2020 and is ongoing. In addition to training, our leadership team also meets and communicates regularly with our consultants for on-going self-reflection and to plan for short-term and longer-term outcomes, specifically, to clarify exactly how the owners, supervisors and staff should respond to the impact of racist or sexist remarks, whether coming from patrons or staff.
We have come to learn that becoming an anti-racist, inclusive and safe brewery requires structures of accountability that support inclusivity and anti-racism. So, we are also in the process of reviewing and rewriting our formal policies that address discrimination and harassment.
We have been collaborating in workshops, inviting all our staff to deeply consider who we are, as Backcountry today, who we will be in the future, and what we will need to be the safe and inclusive brewery in our vision. For us, addressing our issues of discrimination and exclusion, will in many ways build upon our workplace strengths, but will also redefine our workplace culture.
We are committed to ensuring our tasting room is inclusive, and that our full community feels safe, valued and reflected at Backcountry, online and in-person.
As owners, we’re committed to doing the work around the learning and the self-reflection needed for a team of mostly white men. We know it can never be enough, but it is a start — and we are in this for the entire journey. We know that this type of change and self-reflection must go beyond the workplace in order to be authentic, and so we are each dedicated to engaging in personal development.
We know this issue is important to our customers and our community, both in Squamish and around B.C. We invite you to continue to hold us accountable; we take pride in knowing that Backcountry’s customers value inclusion and expect us to be an anti-racist workplace. We also acknowledge Backcountry’s patrons are racially diverse, and for many the experiences of racism are personal.
As we move along and fumble more, learn from our mistakes, and grow as leaders and as a workplace, we hope to share what we’re doing to become a better version of Backcountry Brewing. Again, we do this with a little trepidation, that this gesture be misunderstood as self-serving. That even this post may be seen as self-serving. That said, we still felt the benefits outweighed the risk.
Thank you in advance for your passion for our beer community and for your feedback.