Quebec-based vegan deli and café Vegan Canteen recently closed after it was repeatedly vandalized, broken into and robbed, and the owner was threatened with transphobic messages. The eatery, which opened in the spring, offered its employees fair wages that were double the province’s hourly minimum wage and enforced a no-tipping policy to avoid issues with fair tip distribution among its workers. But soon after the café opened, people smashed bottles outside the restaurant, left dead animals at its doorstep, and wrote fake reviews online with transphobic messages such as “go home,” “Say no to gender ideology,” “I’m probably too white to be welcome in this establishment,” and “We stand with Quebec and Bill 21.” Vegan Canteen owner Sophia Banks said many appeared to be outraged at her opposition to Bill 21—Quebec’s ban on religious symbols—which drew attention from alt-right and hate groups in Quebec. “Because the vandalism kept happening and the online stuff was just so nonstop, I didn’t feel safe anymore, I didn’t feel like my staff was safe anymore,” Banks told local media outlet Montreal Gazette. “I was losing money, I was going into work and having a panic attack every week. So we decided to close the business.” The cost of closing up shop has left Banks and her partner with $10,000 in debt. Banks created a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign which has thus far raised nearly $5,000. Banks plans to use the funds to pay staff, recover debt, and move her business to Nova Scotia where she will focus on making and selling vegan cheese at farmers’ markets and through a monthly vegan cheese box.
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