Starbucks Partners Connect Canadian Communities with Pride
To Starbucks Canada, Pride isn’t just about celebrating all backgrounds, cultures and abilities. It’s about demonstrating an unwavering commitment to inclusion and ensuring diverse perspectives are represented throughout the company, up to our highest levels.
And at the heart of this commitment is a network of passionate partners (employees) striving to make their communities a better place.
Beginning as a small coalition of dedicated partners, the Starbucks Canada Pride Network now includes thousands of members in chapters across Canada and around the world. Starbucks Canada partners are powerful advocates for LGBTQIA2+ individuals aiming to create a positive impact on Canadian communities for many years to come, both inside and outside the company.
Starting Conversations in Québec
Francois (he/him), Genevieve (she/her) and Audrey (she/her) are three of these partners making a world of difference through Starbucks Canada Pride Network.
Francois is an eight-year Starbucks partner and the co-chair of the Québec Chapter of the Canada Pride Network, alongside co-chair, Genevieve, district manager in downtown Montreal. Starbucks partner, Audrey, is the Chapter’s communication lead and office manager at the Montreal Regional Office.
They each have their own reasons for wanting to get involved in the Starbucks Pride community and have made a profound impact stemming from unique personal experiences.
“My sister came out as a lesbian a couple of years ago, and I was really her supporter, helping her try to navigate this new world,” says Audrey. “That's what I want to show other partners—that it's not just for the LGBTQIA2+ community—it's really for allies as well.”
For Francois, his support derives from a childhood memory: “When I was a teenager, and I did my thing coming out, everything was perfect. I think all the teenagers who come out wish to have the same experience as I had,” he says. “And this is one of the reasons why I decided to join the Pride Network: to educate myself and to be more proactive incase situations arise that might not be as welcoming as the one I experienced.”
Recognizing not all partners, customers and community members share the same experience, the Québec Chapter decided to partner with Interligne, a bilingual LGBTQIA2+ helpline and organization, to train every partner in the province of Québec on the importance of inclusion and ways to create safe spaces for all Starbucks partners.
But the Québec network hasn’t stopped there.
Recently, the Chapter raised approximately $6,500 for the Coldest Night of the Year event, surpassing their initial goal by over $2,000 and raising funds for the St-James Drop-In Centre. Both organizations work to provide a safe and supportive environment for those who are marginalized and/or homeless.
As they look forward to the future, the team is nothing short of ambitious.
The Chapter aims to engage in multiple initiatives per quarter: educating on inclusive topics, volunteering at community events and hosting get-togethers. And while hosting events is sometimes difficult due to cold Québec winters, that doesn’t stop the team from moving full steam ahead and making the most of the remaining 2022 summer months.
“In August, we're going to be part of the Pride Parade in Montreal with a Starbucks banner. We're super excited and we're going to be able to wear all our yellow Craft Your Pride t-shirts,” says Audrey. “We'll end the year in September with a barbecue in Montreal.”
When it comes down to it, the Québec Chapter is determined to create a safe space for everyone in their Starbucks community, no matter where you come from or how old you are.
“I think what it shows is that Starbucks is like the pioneer. It makes me proud that we celebrate, we uplift our partners like that,” says Genevieve. “We are showing the path. We’re not perfect, but we can help show you the way.”
Creating Allies in the Atlantic
A little way away from Montreal, co-chairs Kyle (he/him) and Morgan (he/him), are learning the ropes as they rally partners for one of Starbucks newest Canada Pride Network chapters, Atlantic Canada.
“The challenges that queer people and those in the LGBTQIA2+ community face in Atlantic Canada are really much different than other parts of the country,” says Morgan. “Last year, I had about five high schoolers come through my café and ask if they could do their graduation photo shoot in our cafe because we had so many Pride flags and they said it was the safest place they felt in the county. And that made me realize that we need to do this for every community in Atlantic Canada.”
“I think in a lot of Canada, it's super important to recognize that a lot of our population is in rural areas. The town I live in has 3,000 people in it, and there are a lot of queer people that are afraid to be themselves in areas like this,” he adds.
One might call the east coast friends a ‘dynamic duo’. And a powerful one at that. Although separated by distance, the co-chairs seem to be on the same wavelength as they navigate diversity, equity and inclusion on the eastern shores.
While Kyle manages Newfoundland and the surrounding areas, Morgan has been making his mark on Nova Scotia in a big way.
“My store and my team in the Pride Network hosted a World AIDS Day fundraiser in Pictou on December 1st, 2021. We had a great turnout of between two and three hundred people,” says Morgan. “It was hosted by local drag queens, one of them being one of my supervisors. With the money raised from the drag show, we were able to give to the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia.”
Apart from the World AIDS Day fundraiser, the Atlantic Chapter has hosted a series of events, including a film screening and two additional drag shows, one in support of Ukraine and another for the grand opening of Morgan’s Starbucks location, with all funds going to the AIDS Coalition of Nova Scotia. The team will also have a presence at the Halifax Pride Parade for the first time this year.
Similar to Morgan, Kyle has been making connections in his community, partnering with organizations like the Tommy Sexton Centre Shelter, which is a local charity providing group homes, amenities and services for people with HIV, or at risk of having HIV.
Like many other Chapters, Kyle is particularly excited about the St. John’s Pride Parade. Recognizing not all Chapters have the opportunity to march in the parade, Kyle and his team are gathering as many partners as possible to show up for the LGBTQIA2+ Atlantic community and walk in unity as citizens.
His involvement in the Network, and subsequential partnerships, initiatives and events like Pride are particularly impactful due to his personal growth, which he attributes to Starbucks.
“I was 26 when I finally actually came out to my family and friends, and a big part of that was because of Starbucks, because of my store. The store that I started out at was filled with lesbians and gay men and trans people. And before that, I didn't have a space that I felt comfortable in or a space that I felt fully welcomed,” says Kyle. “And I think because of Starbucks, I am out and I'm proud today. It means a lot to me that Starbucks, one, is this kind of place, and two, that I'm able to continue that work and make more people feel safe, and more people can find themselves.”
The pair are proud of the work they’ve been doing in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and are excited to tackle the rest of the Atlantic, already building relationships in P.E.I. and New Brunswick to ensure their region is being fully represented province-to-province.
“It's just super impactful to me. It allows me to show up every day as my best self at work and to be passionate about what the Atlantic Chapter or what Starbucks Canada Pride Network actually means,” says Morgan. “We don't need to move mountains in our first year, but I think about the long-term strategy of how we’re going to make an impact on life in Atlantic Canada.”