A locally-owned outdoor retail store, Taiga, has published a memorial tribute to controversial holocaust-denying columnist Doug Collins of Vancouver in their winter catalog.
Collins, who died last October, was known for his right-wing political views, especially concerning such issues as immigration and gay rights. In the catalogue, he is described as a “champion of free speech” who “has to be admired…for his lion’s courage in asserting and defending the rights of free opinion and free speech in these wimpy politically-correct times.”
Taiga president and secretary, Ekkehard Behrmann, who writes the catalogue, was unavailable for comment.
Company operations manager Karen Wu was quoted in the December 5 issue of the Province, claiming not to know who owns the company. She also complained that the company had been receiving many calls from concerned citizens and customers.
“I’ve got so many phone calls from Jews threatening our business. What’s the matter? Are we in a communist country? Are Jews the Italian Mafia? It really, really, really bugs me.”
Wu also said the reason Taiga ran the memorial was to defend free speech. “We want to show everybody, this is a free country.”
A former employee of Taiga says that the company’s action shows an insensitivity to an important issue that many people feel strongly about.
“They don’t care about politics or issues,” said Mathew Brunt, who worked for Taiga from 1999 to 2001. “They don’t care what people think.”
Brunt feels that the tribute reveals more about the company and its policies towards both employees and customers.
Furthermore, Brunt reveals that management pressured employees into not taking holidays and communicating misinformation about company policy, withheld paycheques, had discriminatory hiring practises, and promoted a tense and malevolently competitive work atmosphere.
“The whole management looks at things in a racial way” he said. “But they are careful not to do anything that could incriminate themselves.”
For example, Brunt cites a former Taiga employee, who because he was black, was told that he was not allowed to speak to customers and could only do stocking tasks. In another example Brunt spoke of discrimination against a pregnant employee. “They wouldn’t let a pregnant women have a stool to sit on while she was cashier.”
Simon Fraser University business ethics professor Mark Wexler says that the publication of the Collins memorial in the catalogue is “quite confusing.”
“This is both not good business and confusing in the ethical realm” said Wexler. “I don’t know why he would use a catalogue to present his personal views – there are probably easier and better ways to do that.”
Many students on local post-secondary campuses, including SFU, wear Taiga clothing.
“People who wear Taiga [gear] should be aware of this,” said Wexler.
“Nobody would defend this action in terms of getting results for a business,” Wexler said. “It seems to be both sloppy in execution and sloppy in results.”
As writer for the Vancouver Sun, the Province and the North Shore News, Doug Collins has written sympathetically about openly anti-Semitic teachers. He has accused Jews of “falsely” inflating Holocaust death tolls to six million, insisting that the real number was much lower. He has called the film Schindler’s List “Hollywood propaganda,” nicknaming it “Swindler’s List.” He has also questioned whether homosexuals could be proper role models for children.
In 1997, the British Columbia Human Rights Commission heard a complaint from the Canadian Jewish Congress, concerning a series of editorials published in the North Shore News. The tribunal dismissed the complaint.