CALGARY (CityNews) – An Indigenous woman who is running for city council in Calgary says a new coffee brand called “Wasted Native” is hurtful and negatively stereotypes First Nation populations.
Marilyn North Peigan, who is running to be Ward 7’s new councillor, says the name, logo and slogan of the new coffee is not an accurate reflection of Canada’s Aboriginal population.
The man behind “Wasted Native” is Calgary mayoral candidate Kevin J. Johnston. The ads for the coffee, which appear on Johnston’s personal website, feature a cartoonish Chief Wahoo logo and the slogan: “Forget gas, huff this.”
“This does cause trauma to the majority of the population who are affected by these kinds of stereotypes,” said North Peigan, who is vying to become the first Blackfoot person on Calgary’s council. “I wasn’t surprised because sadly these beliefs are still existing in Canada.”
North Peigan attended a federal Indian day school, where children experienced sexual abuse and emotional and physical harm. Her grandparents attended residential schools, and her parents were part of the ‘60s Scoop.
“That is a division in community and not bringing it together,” she said of the coffee brand. “And we have to actually voice that and put these people where they’re supposed to be: in the past.”
In an interview with 660 NEWS, Johnston claims the reason behind the name was to spark a conversation about racial issues in Canada. He says the name itself was first suggested to him by a friend of his, who is Indigenous.
“What we were discussing here was how could we possibly get to the public and open up a proper dialogue about all of the issues that are currently taking place between white people and Natives,” said Johnston.
It’s not the first time the Calgary man makes headlines for remarks that have been widely viewed as culturally insensitive.
In 2019, he was ordered to pay a Toronto restaurant owner $2.5 million for defamation after he used what the court called “hateful Islamophobic” comments.
On his website, Johnston claims his coffee “was a hit with real Native Indians in northern Alberta” and that “they all wanted an Indian face, name and joke on the package.”
He insists “Wasted Native” is not meant to cause offence.
“If you’re offended by the fact that there’s a Native mascot out there, and you want to get rid of it, you have to keep in mind that you are entirely responsible for the erasure of your own history.”
North Peigan says Johnston’s coffee brand is yet another example that cultural representation is needed at city council.
“We need to have that voice at the table that states why we shouldn’t be doing this and why it’s not acceptable,” she said. “Because a lot of these communications, they are met with silence.”