To Suzanne Smoke, we are deeply sorry for the misuse of your image. First because of the individual harm it has caused you and in addition to the labour and burden you have undertaken to engage with us in our learning. As well, we recognize that in using your image without permission we also misrepresented you and your community. We missed an opportunity to engage with you directly to build allyship in your work supporting survivors of human trafficking and communities experiencing homelessness. We are deeply regretful of our actions and hope that this apology shows our commitment to moving beyond this indiscretion towards a more meaningful relationship.
To the Indigenous communities and individuals who have been impacted by our actions, we are sorry for the harm we have caused. We continue to learn that this is one of many let downs by allies in a long history of resistance and struggle against colonization. We commit to doing better and will work toward deeper understanding, self-initiated learning, and awareness of the impacts of our actions — or inaction — moving forward.
Grassriots is a company that is owned and operated by settlers. Living in an ongoing aparthide on Turtle Island, and in the settler-colonialism that is active in 2020. We know that we are going to make mistakes in our work.
When we make mistakes, we have 3 priorities: 1) accepting full accountability for our mistakes, 2) applying maximum effort to repairing the harm caused by the mistake and, 3) actively deepening our learning to cause less harm in the future.
Recently, we made a mistake. We, at Grassriots, sourced an image of Suzanne Smoke, an Indigenous woman, for fundraising purposes that had an editorial-only license. This mistake is problematic on its own. It is made especially problematic because the fundraising campaign in question was not directly benefiting the community of Suzanne Smoke.
We recognize that this is one of many harms caused by the digital advertising space, and we are deeply sorry for the harm caused by our participation in continuing a pattern of tokenization of Indigenous communities who are subsequently not supported in their work.
We want to do better, and we know that we are only as good as our most recent errors and how we learn from them. We also know that the labour of educating, teaching, and naming these harms is done by Indiginous and marginalized peoples and that as settlers we must properly compensate people for that labour.
Our current plan of accountability includes both private and public apologies. We do not want our learning process to be private; when mistakes remain private we risk further harm and miss an opportunity to engage our community of allies. It is important that Indigenous and other marginalized communities and organizations know the process and place we are in our learning so that they can make safe and informed decisions for themselves. Accountability also includes private reparations to Suzanne Smoke, who featured in the image, and continued training and conversations at every level of our staff and management team in our role as settlers, and how to build stronger anti-oppression practices.
It would be easy for our friends, our clients, and other settler organizations to like this post, to thank us for being transparent and public in our process. But this wasn’t written with that intention. Our hope for this public apology is that other companies and organizations in our sector will think about how they can preemptively do some of this learning who you hire, what training and workshops can you bring to our teams, and how we all can speak with, and not over Indigenous communities.
We are committed to doing better.
The Grassriots Leadership Team
Ryan, Leah, Ryann, and Kelly