Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, July 14, 2005 --- Couche-Tard, one of North America’s largest convenient store chains, should show more sensitivity towards members of the Black community of Montreal by treating their complaints seriously; it should follow responsible corporate practices and recall from its stores a candy product with a racially offensive image on its package, declared CRARR at a press conference held today in support of Black Youth in Action (BYIA).

BYIA and other members of the Black community have denounced the product image as offensive and in bad taste because it reinforces derogatory stereotypes towards Black men in particular.

According to Mr. Fo Niemi, executive director of CRARR, companies that respect their clients normally react in a more sensitive and courteous manner to consumer complaints, especially when these involve discrimination. Last May, CRARR wrote to Couche-Tard to express its concerns, ask for product recall and set in place good will measures to reinforce its relations with the Black community. One month after, it received from Couche-Tard a standard form letter in which the company justifies the racially offensive image as part of an “approach that is off the wall and somewhat tongue in cheek, and therefore more likely to grab (teens’) attention.” Couche-Tard only commits itself not to replenish the existing product rather than recalling it.

Consequently, CRARR has written to the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to solicit its support, given Couche-Tard’s operations in the U.S. “Given the American business connection and the importance of the African American market (...), we are calling on your organization to examine whether Couche-Tard affiliates in the U.S. carry this product and to mobilize American consumers accordingly,” Mr. Niemi wrote. Couche-Tard is present with 4,900 stores in 6 Canadian provinces and 23 American states under the name of Mac’s and Circle K.

CRARR also questions the conformity of the racially offensive image with the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. After reviewing Canadian jurisprudence on the issue, whereby courts have declared restaurant signs, t-shirts and buttons with stereotypes of Black and Asian Canadians to be offensive and discriminatory, CRARR believes that Black individuals who are offended by this image can take legal action under the Quebec Charter against Couche-Tard.

“We prefer a more positive and winning approach for Couche-Tard if there is good will to correct this situation,”, Mr. Niemi said. “Couche-Tard shouldn’t make the same mistake as Mexico did with its stamps with very derogatory depictions of Black people. We call upon it to once again act as a good corporate citizen to regain the support and confidence of Black and other consumers,” he concluded.