THE PROVINCE HAS DECIDED TO SELL WINE ON THE BACKS OF NORMAN HARDIE VICTIMS
Updated: Dec 5, 2018
Prince Edward County has now solidified itself as one of Canada’s greatest wine producing areas and has attracted worldwide recognition by its peers in the industry. A lot of that attention came from a few wineries that took the leap about two decades ago.
One winery, who got in on the now exploding industry in P.E.C, was, “Norman Hardie”. They were probably one of the most well-seasoned and educated companies for its time and has added numerous accolades to their jacket. They were the bench market for what the wine industry was and could be in P.E.C. The area dubbed the company’s owner as the “King of the County”. The company was beloved by both the Food and Wine industry and their brand has been carried all over the world and in Canada's top restaurants. With that, P.E.C was put on the map as a wine producing area to watch out for. Bringing with it, all the attention and interest that we are now currently seeing in P.E.C. Mr. Hardie was not only seen as the face of his company, but one of the best and finest ambassadors to P.E.C and marketed the area very much the way he did his wine. For that reason, the residents of P.E.C. loved him and it allowed them to feel joy in knowing that the two were synonymous with beauty, innovation and pride.
Then everything changed, in a way that sent shock waves though the local area and the rest of the country. In June 2018, a very damning piece was written by The Globe and Mail on the man that had his name on one of the best wineries in Canada. The Globe and Mail, at the time, spoke with countless victims of sexual harassment and or assault in both his business and industry alike. The allegations ranged from unwanted sexual comments to unwanted sexual touching.
Shortly after, Mr. Hardie responded with two letters about the allegations. One, first denying any wrong doing. Then another, through his lawyer, admitting to one incident with a former employee involving kissing that, he says, he tried correcting with an apology.
After the letters were released, the industry that once crowned Mr. Hardie as “king”, began to turn their backs on him. People stopped associating themselves with him and stopped buying product from his company. That also included the LCBO, who made a stunning move and stopped all sales of Norman Hardie products for the past 6 months. That is until this Dec. 12th morning, when The Globe and Mail reported that they had received an internal email from LCBO’s Vice President of Retail Operations, Mr. Rafik Louli, requesting LCBO employees not to discuss Norman Hardie in either a positive or negative way, and to remain neutral. The nightmare continues, specifically for the victims. The LCBO has been, in one public quote made by an alleged victim, “given the stamp of approval” by the province to continue sales of Norman Hardie products in stores. Companies with a reputation for sexual misconduct and assault are given an opportunity to sell their product by giving the consumer the choice. By LCBO asking its employees not to speak on the reputation of the Norman Hardie company, selling its products is simply helping a company to profit from its owners’ sins.
Blog BOQ has spoken to a few people in the Food and Beverage industry in P.E.C to ask them about their reaction to this news. All of whom did not want to go on the record, as the Norman Hardie winery is still seen as a powerful entity in P.E.C. Collectively, it seems as though the opinions on how the P.E.C residents and the F&B industry sees Norm Hardie, or the company, are being kept quiet. It should be noted that, during the release of the article by the Globe and Mail in June 2018, residents and business owners did take to social media at the time to voice their opinions in support of the victims.
The county is known as very tight knit community in terms of business and commerce, supporting each other whether they are a direct competitor or not, especially within the F&B industry. What seems to be the issue is that people want to support the victims, but at the same time know that by saying anything about the issue again may open old wounds that also had been associated with P.E.C. When this all came to light, nationally, the area that had been known as so close-knit also had been questioned about how something like this could been happening for so long and no one knew and or said or done anything about it. It seems like a paradox to be in, especially for an area that has been dependent on the beauty and magic that attracts tens of thousands of tourists every year who support the local businesses in P.E.C.
During the time this article was written, it seemed as though no one wanted to come forward and say anything in fear of being outcast as the singular catalyst that perpetuated the image of P.E.C. as the place where so much pain was created. Outspoken or not, we live in a time where a person or business takes any stand within a digital age, whether negative or positive, it can be misconstrued and used to hinder businesses. Those speaking on the situation may be judged on whether that proprietor or business sells product associated with the business in question. Blog BOQ acknowledges the good people that still count on the income of Norm Hardie Winery and that Mr. Hardie’s actions do not reflect their own moral beliefs. We also acknowledge the victims and their families, as they also have not received a public or formal apology at this time. It will be left to consumers to decide to drink a wine that is laced with the metaphorical bitterness and unpalatable sour notes it will leave in our mouths.
Written by: James Anderson