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Snacks & Candy

Couche-Tard Removes Controversial Candy

Complaint lead to re-evaluation

LAVAL, Quebec-- Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. has agreed to remove from its Quebec convenience store shelves candy that prompted a complaint of racism before the province's human rights tribunal, reported the Canadian Press.

The Laval, Quebec-based company also agreed to donate $18,000 to a Montreal group for black youth in order to settle the complaint by Laurraine Leblanc.

The wrapper on the candygummy insects sold under the store's Sloche brand namefeatured a scowling black face with a crooked mouth, a gold tooth and dreadlocks [image-nocss] in the shape of a spider.

What I found offending is that in a collection of insects and animals that were depicted on their packaging, that there was only one with a predominant face and it had to be a black face with stereotypes, Leblanc said. I wouldn't have a problem with it if there was another white person or a Hispanic person represented. But why single out just that one, and it was very aggressive-looking.

The settlement was the result of mediation by the commission.

Leblanc made a written complaint to the company last summer after her three-year-old daughter asked for the candy in a corner store. I thought, Why am I seeing something like that again in 2005?', Leblanc said.

When the company did not respond she took her complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

In addition to the $18,000 donation, the company will destroy $12,500 worth of the candy it has in stock. The candy was only available in Quebec.

Michel Bernard, vice president of operations for Couche-Tard in Eastern Canada, said he could not comment on why the original letter of complaint did not receive a response. He said company officials did eventually sit down with Leblanc. When we listened to her and her personal interpretationher personal understandingof the packaging, it was at that time that we made the decision to remove the candy and pursue mediation, he said.

Bernard said the company did test the packaging on a group of teens that included black and Arabic youth who did not have the same concerns as Leblanc. No decision has been made on whether to repackage the candy for sale under the Sloche brand. It's a brand that we're really proud of, and it's really popular with young people, Bernard said.

Leblanc said she was satisfied with the response. In a society like Quebec, I think that as Couche-Tard, which is a big corporation, it only makes sense for them to do something like that and to be respectful of us, of black people, and of everybody, she said.

Couche-Tard has more than 4,900 stores under the Couche-Tard, Mac's and Circle K stores banners throughout Canada and the United States.

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