COCHRANE— The owner of a Cochrane restaurant has issued an apology to a local woman after refusing to make an LGBTQ2S+ themed birthday cake.
Summer Gibbons visited the Cochrane Dairy Queen on Sunday (Jan. 17) with her sister and her sister's boyfriend.
The day marked Gibbon's 22nd birthday and the trio was looking to pick up a cake in celebration with the saying "Happy Birthday Lesbians."
A supervisor intervened and allegedly told Gibbons Dairy Queen would not be able to write the message on the cake.
Gibbon's later called Dairy Queen asking about the reasoning for the denial of the birthday cake. She alleges she was told by the supervisor Dairy Queen is a family establishment and the shop cannot have anything “sexual on a cake” as a company policy.
“It didn’t feel good,” Gibbons said. “I came out just about two years ago now. I’m now 22 years old it took my whole life.”
The event came to light after Gibbons's sister posted about the incident on Facebook.
It was an unfortunate event to mark her birthday, she said, but she is grateful that steps are being taken in Cochrane to create an LGBTQ2S+ inclusive community. Gibbons cited the first Pride Week that took place in August as a recent example.
The birthday cake denial is still under investigation by Dairy Queen headquarters.
A statement was issued by the franchise owner Tim Morrison through Dairy Queen international.
"As the franchise owner of the DQ restaurant in Cochrane, Alta. I can assure you that there is no place for discrimination in my restaurant. Our intent is to create custom cakes that are inclusive and nondiscriminatory, which is why we have a policy that custom cake orders only can include inclusive and non-discriminatory language," Morrison said. "After talking with fans and employees, I acknowledge we did not properly follow our policy and could have sought to understand the intent of the fan’s desired message on the cake. I am truly sorry for the harm we caused. I will be retraining the team on custom cake orders to ensure we learn from the incident and provide an inclusive environment for all who visit DQ."
When the incident was reported to Kindred Cochrane Pride Society, president Renita Bartlett reached out to Dairy Queen International.
“It’s hard on my heart to hear that individuals in our community are still being targeted because of who they are and who they love,” Bartlett said. “We have come a long way here in Cochrane for sure … But we still have a long way to go in educating the community and talking about how we’re ensuring spaces in our community are safe for everyone.”
Bartlett said Dairy Queen was supportive when she spoke with them and told her the chain takes pride in promoting inclusion and diversity.
The silver lining from difficult situations like this is the amazing learning opportunities that can occur, she said. Bartlett explained it can serve as an opportunity for businesses and individuals in the community to grow and learn about gender and sexual diversity and inclusion and equity.
“This is a really good segue to doing that important piece of education in our community,” Bartlett said. “It’s not enough to say they you’ll do better next time. You need to know how to do better next time and that comes with training and knowledge around diversity, inclusion and equity."
Bartlett said she welcomes anyone in the community to reach out to Kindred Cochrane Pride Society if they have questions, are seeking education or need support.
“If we don’t know the answers to the questions people have, then we definitely know the people that have those answers,” Bartlett said. “It’s about educating yourselves, educating the community and just really ensuring that the community is a safe space for everybody.”