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EDITORIAL: Words are meaningful, impactful

EDITORIAL: The words that were written will not be forgotten, but they can be forgiven, though not without time, actions and understanding.
August 4, 2022
Cartoon by Patrick LaMontagne/

Words can have incredible power.

They can impact people in ways one may not have thought possible until they hear or read them.

Most words and writings will be quickly forgotten, while others last the test of time and are still remembered more than 1,000 years after they were first written and recorded.

Words are able to help people, bring laughter, create a sense of positivity and establish a sense of reflection. However, they can also hurt, generate negativity and be used to put people or groups down in an attempt to humiliate them.

When Canmore Pride and Crush Collective reached out to Valbella Gourmet Foods in hope of securing a donation or sponsorship for an upcoming barbeque event, they were met with hostility and hate.

The email from Valbella’s former president, Jeff von Rotz, was words of spitefulness, false conspiracy theories and hostility.

The LGBTQIA2S+ community is all too familiar with the type of words and narrowmindedness expressed in that email

In response, Canmore Pride was met with overwhelming support from the Bow Valley community, but also those from the region who offered to step up through donations or words of backing the organization.

Businesses through Alberta spoke loud with words in ceasing business with Valbella’s via social media posts. Large organizations such as the Fairmont Hotels and Resorts three Canadian Rocky Mountain locations, Calgary-based retailers Sunterra Market, Blush Lane and Cultivatr also followed suit. Many smaller organizations in the Bow Valley also pulled their business from Valbella’s.

The words of many social media posts of businesses announcing their decision to do so were economic punishment and will bring a significant impact on Valbella’s bottom line. The company will survive, but hopefully use the time to bring about meaningful culture change and show they are undergoing actions to improve.

Valbella’s issued a pair of statements in which it apologized, said it removed von Rotz from the family business and that it was reaching out to organizations and experts to help implement new training, education and policies.

Without providing substance to the statements – and further declining public comment on giving more details and examples of how they plan to improve – the words are largely hollow until further proof is given to the community and organizations.

Without specific actions, those words can be meaningless, albeit good public relations spin when all eyes are paying attention.

As Mark Twain once said, “action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.”

However, words can also be misdirected in a time of pain. Valbella’s staff doing the bulk of the work in the store – who had nothing to do with the email – have reportedly been facing backlash of their own, making jobs more hostile through no fault of their own.

It’s important for those understandably upset to not direct anger and words to unsuspecting part- or full-time staff doing their work under trying times.

Words can have the power to change, heal and help a community.

Specific words can lead to joy and happiness and others elicit fear, confusion or anger.

The way we use them can be telling of our own beliefs and behaviours, but also what we think of others.

They can influence the way people look at the world around them and how they act within it.

Words are sacred and the power they yield has meaning.

It’s important for all people to speak responsibly and listen to the words that are spoken.

The words that were written will not be forgotten, but they can be forgiven, though not without time, actions and understanding.