Black lawyer finds herself in Hudson's Bay diversity campaign without her permission

A prominent Black lawyer and diversity consultant from Toronto is speaking out after the Hudson's Bay Company used her image without her permission for the Charter for Change campaign, which supports the “education, employment and empowerment” of racial minorities.

On Monday, Hadiya Roderique got a call from a friend.

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

Roderique tweeted a photo later that day of of a display at Hudson’s Bay for “Hudson’s Bay Charter for Change,” along with directions to scan the image for information on how to donate to empower “Indigenous peoples, Black People and People of Colour across the Country.”

The sign also had a photo of Roderique displayed prominently beside the text.

“I was pissed,” Roderique said.

Her image had been used in a national advertising campaign, without her permission, and without her even knowing about it. The photographer who took the photo was also not consulted or aware, Roderique revealed in a follow-up tweet.

“It clearly suggests that within the Hudson’s Bay communications department, there are some people who are missing the message here,” Clive Veroni, a marketing strategist, told CTV News.

The retailer wanted to amplify the voices of racialized Canadians, but ended up using a photo mock-up in the final ad instead of images of people they’ve profiled.

“To make a rookie error like this, to take an image from a mock-up and use it in public is absolutely unforgiveable,” Veroni said.

In a statement to CTV News, The Bay admited Roderique’s image was used "by mistake,” adding "we deeply regret the error.”

Roderique is a lawyer and diversity consultant, so she is careful about who and what she publicly supports.

“I didn’t want to be associated with a campaign that I didn’t know anything about,” she said.

At more than 350 years old, Hudson’s Bay is Canada’s oldest company and its beginnings are tied to the exploitation of Indigenous communities.

On the company’s website, it says it is “working to reconcile its past and is committed to change for a more equitable future for all.”

The Charter for Change is an initiative seeking to “accelerate racial equality” by investing in Black and Indigenous communities, as well as other racial minorities, the company says.

“Mistakes are certainly not unusual as corporations, individuals endeavour on a journey to equity, diversity inclusion,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto.

The retailer has pulled Roderique's images from its campaign and apologized to her as well. The two will talk again to discuss any next steps that need to be taken.