Val-David café owner closes amid harassment over her politics, gender identity

Cantine Vegane

A trans businesswoman says she's had to close her café in the Laurentian community of Val David last month because of a wave of harassment, both online and off.

Not only that, Sophie Banks says the harassment over her gender identity, and over her opposition to Bill 21, is causing her leave Quebec altogether.

Banks opened her café, the Vegan Canteen, this past spring. At the time the it opened, there had already been pieces published online about it, and its policy of paying its workers a proper living wage — $25 an hour — instead of allowing for tips.

But not long after the opening, the trouble started.

"Within a week or two, there was a dead bird left outside the front door," Banks told CJAD 800's Natasha Hall. "The next day, we came in, and we were broken into and robbed. And then, following that, every week, second week, I'd coming in and there would be smashed glasses, bottles, all the patio furniture would be flipped all over, another dead bird left at the door, people would be urinating on the doors and the windows of the café, that sort of thing..."

All of this, she says, left Banks stressed, and constantly wondering what was going to happen next.

 

Meanwhile, the café began receiving a torrent of negative reviews and comments online. They not only attacked Banks for being trans, they attacked her over social media posts denouncing Bill 21.

"I've always been politically outspoken, with my trans advocacy...and I've always been very critical of the current Quebec government and outspoken against Bill 21. I was commenting about how I felt very uncomfortable on my personal Twitter, of living in Quebec knowing so many people supported this bill which I consider pretty racist."

Many of the comments openly told her to go home; that she was not not welcome here. "It just spiraled very quickly to the point where I don't feel safe at all right now," she said.

Banks says she opened in Val-David because it reminded her of an idyllic mountain town in B.C. Now, she says she and her partner will be moving to B.C. in a matter of weeks, having lost "tens of thousands" on her business venture in the Laurentians.

She's hoping to make some of that money back through crowdfunding, and a fundraising variety show set to take place on Sunday, Sept. 22 at Sala Rossa on St. Laurent Blvd.