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Vancouver's Hootsuite cancels ICE contract following staff revolt

Last Updated Sep 24, 2020 at 4:08 pm PDT

Hootsuite's owl mascots are shown in the company's cabin-themed office in Vancouver in a handout photo. Canada's technology sector was a hotbed of activity this year as investors circled a new generation of startups in hopes of getting in early for the next rising star. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Hootsuite
Summary

Vancouver tech company is backing out of a deal with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement

ICE's "human rights violations" put it at odds with company values

CEO says contract cancelled after it "created a divided company"

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The Vancouver-based social media management company Hootsuite has cancelled a contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency in response to an employee revolt.

On Wednesday, a Twitter user identifying herself as a Hootsuite employee said more than 100 of her coworkers had been “extremely vocal in their opposition to this deal.”

“ICE’s repeated human rights violations are, to put it lightly, seriously at odds with our publicly stated values around [diversity, equity and inclusion], the Movement for Black Lives, and our purpose to champion the power of human connection,” she said.

The immigration agency has drawn scrutiny – with some activists and politicians calling for its abolition – in recent years for its tactics under the Trump administration, including separating migrant families and putting children in cages.

Hootsuite CEO Tom Keiser released a statement on Thursday after news of a contract between his company and ICE drew condemnation online.

Contract talks with the agency “sparked a great deal of internal conversation – and the formation of a committee to further that discussion and consider all points of view,” he said.

“Considering the various factors, including our belief in the power of communications and social engagement to break down barriers, and supported by the set of objective guidelines that emerged from the committee, we made the decision to proceed with signing a contract with ICE.”

But the “emotional and passionate reaction from our people” this week led to more dialog, Keiser said. “The decision has created a divided company and this is not the kind of company I came to lead. I – and the rest of the management team – share the concerns our people have expressed. As a result, we have decided to not proceed with the deal with ICE.”