By Lindsay Smith, Niagara This Week
The non-profit is Toronto-based but sees potential in Niagara for partnerships and advocacy for migrant workers
Nupur Gogia is one of the founding members of Vinequity, an organization seeking to improve representation in the wine industry. - Lindsay Smith/Torstar
A Toronto-based team of wine professionals has created an organization committed to increasing representation in the industry that could impact Niagara.
Seven industry professionals, all women representing Black, Indigenous or other people of colour (BIPOC) communities, have founded Vinequity, a new organization that has three main goals: to create an industry directory of BIPOC people working in the industry, provide scholarships and mentorship opportunities and advocate for fair treatment within the industry and greater representation from the BIPOC, LGBTQ and disability communities.
“There is a real dearth of Black, Indigenous and people of colour in the industry,” said Nupur Gogia, a founding member of Vinequity. “The world of wine is and remains, sadly, very white. There should be more opportunities for other communities to be able to work in this really exciting field.”
Gogia said the inspiration for Vinequity also stemmed from the recent Black Lives Matter protests in response to the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis in July 2020.
“All of those things have really highlighted the need to address racism in all its … aspects of our lives, from of course police brutality to workplace discrimination and how some industries are leaving others out,” Gogia said.
And while Vinequity is based in Toronto at the moment, Gogia said it is a federally incorporated non-profit and its goals could have wide-reaching impacts across the province and country, including in Niagara.
“There are a number of different connections I would envision with Niagara. It is, of course, a wine hub with so many wineries,” said Gogia, who sells wine for Beamsville winery Meldville Wines.
She said she could see Vinequity potentially partnering with Brock University or Niagara College to offer scholarships to prospective BIPOC students in relevant programs, but also said a key aspect to Vinequity’s mission is advocacy work and that has significance for the harvest workers in Niagara.
“We do realize that a lot of the real work that’s done to make wine, from pruning to maintaining vines to harvesting vines is often done by Black and Mexican workers who are coming here on seasonal work visas,” Gogia said.
She said it’s part of a long-term goal for the organization, but Vinequity is advocating for fair wages and fair working conditions for harvest workers.
“There is a fair labour component that I think is a really important piece to addressing some of the issues with regards to equity and fairness in our industry,” said Gogia. “We should never forget the people who make the fundamental ingredients that go into wine.”