A popular gourmet food supplier, caterer and retailer in Canmore, Alta., has fired one of its owners after he sent a transphobic email to organizers of that city’s Pride events.
Canmore Pride has reached out to Valbella Gourmet Foods to ask about sponsorships or food donations for an “inclusive and liberating event” to be held in mid-September.
The response – which contained conspiracy-laden, transphobic and homophobic slurs – shocked Canmore Pride co-chairman K Kealey.
“I was really shocked and obviously very disappointed,” they said. “I’m a trans person myself, so you know, it’s very hurtful and always very frustrating when people still think that way. And a lot of his messages just bring out these horrible stigmas that are dangerous to our society.”
The email, signed by his wife, Jeff Von Rotz, repeated lies about trans people being dangerous to children and perpetrators of violence. But it’s actually trans people who are most at risk of being on the receiving end of violence and abuse, Kelley said.
“It’s extremely hurtful and upsetting,” Kealey said.
Kealey said the owners posted the email on a private messaging group for queer people living in the Bow Valley to let the community know how they treat trans people and that it may not be a safe place for them to be a caretaker.
“Everybody was really upset and upset when someone said something like that,” Kelley said.
The message was eventually posted on Twitter, causing a social media storm as the wider community showed their support for Canmore Pride.
The company released a statement Tuesday afternoon after users began calling major customers such as Fairmont Hotels and Banff Center to end their relationship with Valbella.
Owner Chantal von Rotz apologized for the email and said the person who wrote the email has been removed from the company and is not responsible for his actions.
“The words of one person do not reflect the opinions of the many people who work as part of the Valbella team,” he wrote. “On the contrary, we strive to make our company an inclusive workplace where everyone is welcome.”
The email, written by Jeff Von Rotz, addresses the false claims common among right-wing conspiracy theorists about LGBTQ people preparing children for child abuse, that there is another “organization that is mentally ill enough to help you.”
“I’m sorry to say but you can’t pay me to sponsor anything to do with child treatment T—-,” he wrote.
Following recent disclosures in the Bow Valley community and Valbella Gourmet Foods, Banff Center has chosen to remove all Valbella products from the company’s operations and will retain any business relationships.
Social media users went through a list of Valbella’s offerings and called on them to stop buying from the business.
Several Valbella clients later said they were canceling their contracts, including the Banff Center and Fairmont hotels.
The City of Canmore also released a statement in response to a Facebook post in support of the LGBTQ community.
The City of Canmore stands proudly in partnership with LGTBQIA2S+ residents and visitors who make this city a more vibrant and diverse place to call home. Our municipal buildings and programs are safe places for everyone. pic.twitter.com/ydPLz3px52
Kealey called the reaction “shocked” when the public said they no longer supported the business, wondering if the family company had put Jeff out of business.
“I’m not sure how you get rid of the owner of a family business,” they said. “Is there a guarantee that he owns the email signature and that he won’t continue to profit from the business if you remove him?”
Valbella also has a long way to go in terms of improvement, Kealey said. You can talk about how Jeff Von Rotz was removed and explain some steps you can take to undo some of the damage caused by his comments.
CBC News submitted interview requests to both Jeff Von Rotz and the company, but did not receive a response.
Kealey recognizes that it is a challenge that the community can help beyond supporting the community during Pride.
“I think this is a prime example of why we need open space, especially for people in marginalized communities,” he said.