Montreal Gazette

Canoe company job ad warns vaccinated need not apply

Customers pan `offensive' ad by canoe maker

- STEPHANIE HUGHES

An Ontario canoe company turned heads this week when it posted a job ad requiring applicants to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Please DO NOT apply if you have taken any vaccines for COVID-19,” read the job posting for watercraft retailer Souris River Canoes. “We will only be considerin­g unvaccinat­ed individual­s.”

The posting is aiming to fill two full-time roles and one part-time position for workers to start in October with six-month renewable positions. The company in Atikokan, Ont., was establishe­d in 1985 and is owned by a husband-and-wife team.

The ad prompted backlash on social media, including critical responses among their own customers on their Facebook page.

“I will never buy from Souris River again,” said Kevin Ride, a resident of Thunder Bay, Ont. “Nor will I,” responded a user that goes by Rob Prdn. “Requiring staff to be unvaccinat­ed for COVID-19 as a condition of employment is both irresponsi­ble and reckless at this stage of the pandemic.”

The job ad also made the rounds on Twitter and prompted negative Google reviews of the company.

The company stood by its position in an emailed response to one of its critics that has since been shared on Reddit. In their statement, owners Arlene and Keith Robinson said, “We stand against government and corporate bullying of people's right to health freedom using vaccine mandates and vaccine passports."

They said they support the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Constituti­on and the Nuremburg Code.

“You have a right to your judgementa­l attitudes and opinions, just as we have a right to make our own business hiring decisions.”

The Robinsons did not respond to the Post's requests for further comment Monday.

Wotjek Dabrowski, managing partner at Toronto public relations firm Provident Communicat­ions, Inc., said the ad could damage the Souris brand.

“Anytime you get in the way of that by throwing up something as off-putting, as offensive, and frankly to many people, as dangerous as asking only for unvaccinat­ed people to come work at your store, you're getting in the way of what it means to run a successful business.”

Dabrowski said that given the politicall­y charged nature of the vaccine debate with anti-vaxxers at odds with government mandates, a small business might wade into the argument to give itself a branded position on a public issue.

“The first order impact of this is very, very political,” Dabrowski said. “The person putting this up clearly said, `I am willing to take some impact to the business over making this very important point that I feel super passionate­ly about', despite a global consensus of medical and infectious disease experts that says that vaccines are absolutely crucial and critical to solving this thing in stopping the spread of coronaviru­s worldwide.”

Despite the backlash, Yuval Deutsch, professor of entreprene­urship and strategic management at the Schulich School of Business, thinks that the controvers­y could put a small business's name on the radar of a mainstream customer base.

“Because it's a small company, it's a niche company,” Deutsch said. “So, at the end of the day, it will get exposure. Maybe it's the reason they did it in the first place.”

Deutsch said that while the company is seeing a negative reaction in the days after it published the job posting, the name might stick with customers shopping for canoes after the controvers­y subsides.

The issue of mandatory vaccinatio­n as a topic among small businesses is far from over, according to Dabrowski. He expects to see more companies signalling their stance.

“There are small business owners who hold these beliefs and I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that

IT WILL GET EXPOSURE. MAYBE IT'S THE REASON THEY DID IT IN THE FIRST PLACE.

everybody who thinks something similar to what the owners of this company believe in is going to be watching this one very closely to see exactly how it plays out and what they can learn in terms of either buttressin­g their viewpoint, or spreading it publicly,” Dabrowski said.

 ?? FACEBOOK ?? Souris River Canoes' ad has sparked controvers­y.
FACEBOOK Souris River Canoes' ad has sparked controvers­y.

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