Hudson’s Bay uses anti-racism advocate’s photo without permission

A prominent Black diversity consultant and lawyer in Toronto has called out the Hudson’s Bay Company for using her image without permission as part of an in-store promotion for its new “Charter for Change” social platform.

Hadiya Roderique, whose Twitter profile describes her as a “bias fighting badass, lawyer, writer, researcher, thinker, and speaker,” said that a friend alerted her to the fact her image was being used on a display at The Bay store in downtown Toronto.

“She said, ‘I didn’t know you’d being doing work for The Bay,'” said Roderique in an interview with CTV News. “And I said, ‘I didn’t know I was doing work for The Bay either.’ So that’s how I found out.”

The display featured Roderique’s image next to text identifying Charter for Change as a Hudson’s Bay Foundation initiative. The accompanying text read “Give money. Get change,” and invited customers to ask how they could donate “to support education, employment and empowerment opportunities for Indigenous Peoples, Black People and People of Colour across the Country.”

Roderique tweeted out an image of the display on Monday (above photo), tagging the Hudson’s Bay Company in a message that read “Hey @hudsonsbay, it would have been a good idea for you to get my permission to use my face and associated activism to solicit donations ‘to support employment and empowerment of IBPOC’ no?”

Her tweet has since been retweeted more than 1,000 times, and the story has been widely covered by major media outlets including the CBC, CTV and Toronto Star.

Roderique told the CBC that the photo was originally taken by photographer Luis Mora to accompany a 2017 essay Roderique wrote for The Globe and Mail entitled Black on Bay Street, documenting her experience as a Black lawyer. In the essay, Roderique wrote that she missed the legal world, but “I don’t miss the isolation and the nagging sense that other people didn’t feel I belonged.”

In a follow-up tweet Monday, Roderique said the photo had not been licensed from Mora or his agency, KZM. “Their policy is to get permission and approval from subjects, and they are very attuned to the meaning of the original article and accompanying images,” she said.

In a statement to The Message, Hudson’s Bay Company spokesperson Tiffany Bourre said that the image—which appeared as in-store signage in “select stores”—was used by mistake.

“It was from a photographer’s website used as inspiration when developing the campaign,” she said. “However it did not get updated, as was intended, to reflect one of the participating Canadians in the Hudson’s Bay Charter for Change campaign.

“We deeply regret the error and have reached out to Dr. Roderique to explain and correct.”

In a sign-off tweet on Monday, Roderique said she felt like the can in the infamous Pepsi ad starring Kendall Jenner, “looking around and wondering how the heck I ended up here…”

The Hudson’s Bay Company launched the “Charter for Change” social platform in March with a promise to “accelerate racial equity by changing how it invests in communities.” The company pledged $30 million over 10 years to organizations working to advance racial equity and inclusion, with three key areas of focus: Education, employment and empowerment.

The web page for Charter for Change states that the Hudson’s Bay Company, Canada’s oldest company, is working to “reconcile its past,” which was recently documented in “Cash Back,” a May paper issued by the Yellowhead Institute, an Indigenous-led think tank at Ryerson University in Toronto.

The controversy arrives amid a broader societal discussion about Black-created media being appropriated without credit.

Young Black TikTok creators, for example, are currently boycotting the platform for a second month, saying that the dances they create are being appropriated by white influencers and singers like Megan Thee Stallion without proper credit.

And last month, The View‘s Sunny Hostin pointed out that the white TikTok star Charli D’Amelio, who has amassed more than 119 million followers, has made millions of dollars by stealing dances invented by young Black women on the platform.

Chris Powell