Can Target be trusted to leave their CEO’s anti-gay sentiments at the border between Toronto and Minneapolis or will Toronto gay parents have to hit the sidewalks again? In the US, retail giant Target is the subject of a massive gay parents boycott over the company’s political donations. Now Target has bought the leases of 220 Zellers stores across Canada. This purchase could result in the Target brand of anti-gay support influencing hundreds of gay parenting communities across Canada and in Toronto where Zellers are the only major retailer servicing such gay parenting communities.
The Minneapolis-based chain, the United States’ second-largest discount retailer — behind Walmart, expects to open 100 to 150 stores throughout Canada in 2013 and 2014.
Twenty-eight-year-old gay activist Mike Russell, a single gay parent of two sons living in Toronto’s east end has been fighting Target for years. “I had shopped there while on previous visits to the US for cheap clothes for the boys but I will not shop there again until they have a new CEO,” says Mike.
Last year, Target came under fire after it donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to American political causes which openly fought against gay parenting, gay marriage, gay adoptions, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and a full spectrum of anti-gay political crusades launched by many extreme religious right groups across the US.
“If a CEO of a company wants to give out of his own personal income, which the CEO of Target has done, and hire staff… which the CEO of Target has done… that’s fine. But when the CEO of Target takes company profits which are not his own and donates them to anti-gay political causes, that is dangerous to Canadian gay parents,” says Russell.
Target spokesperson Amy Riley insists that Target finances causes strictly because they are pro-business, not because they’re anti-gay. After experiencing a huge public US gay backlash, CEO Gregg Steinhafel apologized, saying the company “will more closely scrutinize” political donations in the future.
“What we have done is paused, taken the time to think and come up with another process. [As for political donations in Canada], when we go to Canada, we’ll take a look at the laws there. We want to be a good corporate citizen,” says Riley.
In addition to political donations, Target gives money to a variety of community groups. In the US, it donates to public parenting programs, food pantries and a number of different Gay Pride Festivals. In a recent statement, Target said it would continue to give the same amount of money to community-building in Canada. Can Target be trusted to leave their CEO’s anti-gay sentiments at the border between Toronto and Minneapolis or will Canadian gay parents have to hit the sidewalks again? You be the judge!