You can’t match hate with hate: Barrie Pride offering diversity training to discriminatory Brantford photographer

"education and awareness is key to acceptance"

A Brantford-based photographer has caught plenty of online heat after an email exchange was posted online, showing the photographer refusing to cover a same-sex wedding. A glance at the company’s Facebook review page contains words like discriminatory, homophobic, and more, with calls for boycotts ongoing.

A representative of Barrie Pride says the online vitriol being sent towards this photographer isn’t the way to go. “I do not believe that boycotting a business or service changes fearful or discriminatory ideas and practices,” Jessie Lawson, Barrie Pride’s Chief Operating Officer told Barrie 360 via email. “I believe that education and awareness is key to acceptance and progress towards a day when we can all embrace the concept of love is love without cultural or religious fear or shame.”

To that end, Lawson is offering diversity training to Brantford-based Caramount Pictures, through a locally-designed program. “Barrie Pride offers diversity training through an educational seminar called Rainbow Orientation, created and facilitated by various Barrie Pride board members and myself,” said Lawson. “The diversity training, although mainly offered locally, is not restricted by area in Ontario. If Caramount Pictures was interested in changing their bigoted views to inclusive ones for the sake of their business and community we would love to help. “

Any Ontario business, service, or individual interested in Barrie Pride’s Rainbow Orientation can contact jessie@barriepride.com for more information on how to book diversity training.

Despite Barrie Pride’s optimistic approach to this incident, Lawson says the email still hit close to home. “That the refusal from Caramount Pictures was received on the 15 year anniversary of [the] legalization of same-sex marriages demonstrates unequivocally that, although we have traveled a distance for LQBTQ+rights, we must be ever vigilant that fear and ignorance be highlighted and resolved through awareness, education and community support.”

Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Barrie Pride began the process of a program called Pride Positive Places, and hopes to grow a list of local businesses that have vowed to support the LGBTQ+ community. However, Lawson says discrimination can exist anywhere. “I believe that, locally and worldwide, people as a group can become complacent about familiar cultural discrimination or can assume that since there are seemingly many LGBTQ+ advocates we can focus elsewhere now. So although many were probably saddened few would in my estimation be shocked.”

Barrie rainbow crosswalk

Subsequently, Barrie Pride is offering some suggestions should anyone experience similar discrimination. “The most important step is to get the word out. Tell people, family, friends, and social media you have been unfairly treated and ask for advocacy, advice, and support from your community,” Lawson concluded. “If you keep quiet about a hurtful incident you experience it allows the opportunity for it to happen again to you and others. Together we are a force for inclusivity, awareness, and change.”

Barrie 360 reached out to Caramount Pictures for comment, but has yet to receive a reply.

Meanwhile, reports suggest a photographer has offered their services for free to the soon-to-be-married couple.