Toronto's Drake Hotel Accused of Racist Practices by Ex-Employees

Backlash against the venue follows its participation in #TheShowMustBePaused
Toronto's Drake Hotel Accused of Racist Practices by Ex-Employees
Following the Drake Hotel's participation in #TheShowMustBePaused — an act of solidarity amid ongoing racial injustice — self-identified former employees of the Toronto venue have flocked to social media to criticize it for engaging in alleged racist and discriminatory practices.

A number of comments on the company's "blackout" Instagram post on Tuesday (June 3) indicate dissatisfaction with the Drake's history with discrimination, blogTO reports. Multiple users have noted the Drake's alleged avoidance of "urban crowds," as well as the poor treatment of Black employees, the sale of pro-police merchandise and unsatisfactory HR practices.

In the comments section of the Drake's post, former music programmer Iain MacNeil penned a detailed account of his years working at the venue, alleging that the company's head of security "did not want black people within their establishment."

MacNeil wrote the following:

The amount of times I was met with challenges on black focused programming during my years working for the Drake as Music Programmer can't even be put in to words. I was told by ownership and the head of security that they did not want black people within their establishments. I had to hide events such as @manifesto_to because the owner believed it would bring an "undesirable crowd" since it was an "urban" festival...this is just the tip of the iceberg. There was a fear bread in to the building of black people which started at the top. As an establishment that calls themselves "the hotbed of culture" I cant even explain how false that is. I saw countless POC employees leave because of how poorly they were treated and it didn't seem to matter if any of us spoke was "just how things are" or "just the way he is". I see what @willsonsounds has been able to accomplish during his time there and hope that is the beginning of change. I believe in you and can't imagine how hard you must be fighting to push through the progressive and inclusive programming you have brought to the establishment.

Another user responded: "I also worked at The Drake as a music programmer and corroborate the racism that permeated the building during my time there. Like Iain said; thinly veiled racist comments and talk of wanting to avoid 'urban' crowds."

Countless other comments have filled the Drake's social feed, the entirety of which can be found at its Instagram profile. Some of those messages can also be read below.

"You refused to pay the Black creatives I brought in only to have your employees — my colleagues — actually mock how little I made while my back was turned," wrote one user. "Countless Black people have dined and worked with you only to come out despising everything you stand for. Can't wait for this hotbed of culture to burn down."

Another user added: "Couldn't at all recount the incidents of racism I experienced and witnessed as a former employee, in your four walls."

Yet another commenter detailed a lengthy account of their employment at the Drake:

I was used as their token black girl in over three unpaid photoshoots (asked twice while my hair was in locks) and somehow snuck my way into their event pics even though I was the one black girl in a room full of hundreds of white people. On the last occasion I was asked I said no because I refuse to be a token. the fact I'm half-white made me much more palatable than the black boy dishwashers y'all wanna hide so bad the back. I asked three times for the RCMP merch to be removed (we had customers complain too that it was insensitive and damaging) and was told "we understand that some people could feel upset by it but removing it would offend some of our customers who are loyal to the police and it's a better business decision to continue the program". The Drake remains hiring black people for music programming so they can "build more culture and bring culture to the neighbourhood" but don't want to elevate us in any other capacity. Walking into head office was like stepping into the 60's, the accountant is Asian and everyone else is white. Myself and other precious employees have addressed this heirarchy in HR complaints to only be met with silence.

In the comments section of the blackout Instagram post, the Drake has since issued a statement in response to the various allegations:

We are a group of individuals, imperfect and flawed, who care deeply and want to do the best we can to support all Black and diverse communities. We hear these comments and we are listening. More than that – where we can and where we should — we will act. We believe in the culture we have built. We know that participating in this conversation is essential to getting to where we aspire to be — the most inclusive environment possible.

In another statement published by blogTO, Drake Hotel Properties wrote:

What has become clear to us in the last 24 hours is that there are deeply rooted feelings about our company's performance as an employer. We are listening, learning, and are determined to grow. We have not and will never be an organization that encourages or allows for discrimination in any form. This is a painful moment of self reflection, but we are determined to do the right thing, learn form this experience, and change.

The company also pledged to conduct a full internal audit of the organization and execute diversity training for all staff, adding it would be creating a "robust internal diversity committee."

"Once the hospitality industry is allowed to re-open and commence its recovery, we will ensure Black people and all minority groups are even better represented in new hires to the company at all levels," the company stated. "We will assure that our cultural programming continues to support and provide a platform for Black and diverse artists. We will use our robust platforms to advocate for positive change and spearhead fundraising efforts in support of Black advocacy groups."

However, many have responded to the company's statement saying that the apology isn't enough and misses the point by taking credit for building "the culture."

See the Drake's post below, and click through to see more accusations of its complicity in racial discrimination.

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