A Saskatoon woman is calling for action from one of Canada’s largest grocery chains after being involved in an alleged racist incident.
Crystal Johnstone is asking Real Canadian Superstore to introduce sensitivity training to employees in an effort to curb racist behaviour.
“Measures like that should be taken because racism has to be controlled and it’s got to be stopped,” Johnstone said more than a week after the incident.
Catherine Thomas, a spokeswoman for Loblaw Companies Limited, Superstore’s parent company, said the matter is being taken seriously.
“Our goal is to ensure no customer ever feels they were treated differently in our stores because of their ethnic background. We sincerely regret this did not happen in this case,” Thomas said in a prepared statement.
“We are committed to diversity and to being inclusive, equitable and accessible in all our interactions with each other and with our customers. To that end, the company has taken recent steps to provide additional training and education to our entire network of stores about racial profiling, unconscious bias, and the need to interact with all customers equally and with respect.”
Johnstone has been shopping at the Confederation-area Superstore for over 20 years. After the treatment she received, returning for another grocery trip isn’t part of her plans.
Last Thursday, Johnstone and her sister, Odera Wapass, were shopping at the supermarket and approached a cashier to pay for their items.
They put all of the smaller items on the conveyor to be scanned but left a few heavy items in their cart.
“She asked me if I had enough money to pay for the purchase I had. I was kind of caught off guard and a little shocked too. I realized that she was serious,” Johnstone said.
“The look in her face and the rudeness in her voice sent a very clear message to us, and it was because we were indigenous, First Nation women.”
Johnstone confronted the cashier about the unusual question. She said the cashier told her that question is asked to everyone, especially people that don’t put all items on the conveyor to be scanned.
“She just ultimately refused to give us service at all. We were very humiliated because she was speaking to us loud enough and very clear for other people to hear because heads were turning and listening to all of this going on,” Johnstone said.
In a prepared statement, FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron condemned the actions of the Superstore employee.
“(We) believe that any employee who treats First Nations customers and behaves in a racist manner should be terminated immediately with cause for their actions,” he said. ” Is this the way they treat all of their First Nations customers?”
“These two First Nations women were paying customers and for them to be treated so rudely based on the colour of their skin by an employee of this store is absolutely outrageous.”
Jonhstone had yet to meet with representatives of Superstore by publication time but is expecting educational training to be implemented in the near future.
“Racism is not acceptable and should not be tolerated anywhere by anybody,” she said.
“It was the worst experience ever possible.”
— With files from 650 CKOM’s Chirs Vandenbreekel