'Acknowledge the true history of your company': Hudson's Bay slammed after omitting Indigenous Peoples on BIPOC board

RICHMOND, BRITISH COLUMBIA - NOVEMBER 22: A shopper wearing protective face mask walks towards the entrance of Hudson's Bay department store on November 22, 2020 in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced new restrictions and provincewide orders November 19 in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. British Columbians must wear masks in all public indoor areas, avoid non-essential travel and social gatherings. These additional restrictions will be in place until at least December 7, 2020. (Photo by Andrew Chin/Getty Images)
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Hudson’s Bay is yet again facing criticism in its attempt to create a diverse and inclusive company, this time for failing to include an Indigenous representative on their BIPOC advisory board.

The company took to social media to address the mistake head on, publishing a blank post with the “We made a mistake.” In the caption, it explains that its announcement of the advisory board for the newly launched Fashion Fund, intended to support Canadian BIPOC designers, did not include Indigenous representation.

“This erasure should not have happened. We are taking action,” the statement said, adding that the fund will not move forward until there are “Indigenous voices at the table” and apologized for not reflecting their own standards of inclusivity.

“Start by acknowledging the past with Indigenous people & the HBC,” wrote commenter MIhcelle Chubb, a digital creator who goes by indigenous_baddie on Instagram.

“Acknowledge your past mistakes. Acknowledge the true history of your company. Acknowledge the pain that your subsidiary companies are still causing Indigenous communities today. We don’t deserve to just have a voice or two, we deserve to be leading those tables,” wrote Scott Wabano, an Indigenous creative director and stylist.

Sage Paul, the founding executive and artistic director of Indigenous Fashion Week Toronto, addressed the issue in an Instagram post, stating that she had been asked to join the advisory panel, but declined.

“I had questions around their policies and governance before joining. Especially considering our (native) history with @hudsonsbay,” she wrote. “From my experience working with them, there is a lot of virtue signalling and it seems there is as little work done to just get by. I was unsure if I could trust their work when they invited me. I also have a lot of ideas for how they could be more inclusive with integrity, but they are clearly not interested and only looking for free images or BIPOC people without actually changing their colonial systems.”

She ended her post saying she hopes the company “seeks better relations with the people who were formative IN FOUNDING THEIR COMPANY.”

Paul could not be reached for comment.

Alison Kemper is an associate professor with the Ted Rogers School of Management. She says Hudson's Bay has 350 years of problematic history with Indigenous Peoples.

Part of their identity is this long-standing extractive relationship with Indigenous People. They don’t have any history or tracks on how to do it better. Their identity is pretty tied into the extraction.Alison Kemper, Associate Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management

Kemper says what the company needs to do is listen to Indigenous Peoples on how to move forward and be part of the broader process of antiracism and reconciliation.

“The relationship between that company and Indigenous Peoples is emblematic of the relationship of many companies with Indigenous Peoples in Canada,” she says. “It’s important for a lot of companies to figure this stuff out. It’s just that (the Hudson’s Bay Company) has a much more public and iconic presence in this issue.”

In July, the department store faced strong criticism after including an image of Black advocate and lawyer Hadiya Roderique’s in a campaign, without her permission. The unauthorized photo was used in a campaign that was intended to support empowerment opportunities and employment for BIPOC communities.

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