UPDATE: TWO MUSLIM MOTHERS' CASE AGAINST SEARS FOR CUSTOMER SERVICE RACISM TO BE HEARD IN DECEMBER 2013
Montreal, October 1, 2013 --- The case of two Muslim Arab women in Joliette who are suing Sears for racism and seeking $75,000 in damages after being subjected to a manager’s xenophobic comments, violent expulsion and dismissed handling of their customer complaints, will be heard by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal from December 17 to 20, 2013, in Montreal.
The hearings are open to the public and the media.
The incident dates from June 2010 when the two women were in the Sears store in the Galeries Joliette shopping mall with their two children aged eight months and six years. When the children sat to play on one of the tractors that were on display in the store’s main aisle, a manager made several crude remarks about them and expressed xenophobic and discriminatory views when addressing the two women. His comments included: “Go back to your own country if you are not happy.” Other employees and even a female client also joined in with discriminatory comments, such as “It’s really sad that these people come here to take over our country.”
The two mothers politely responded to the way the manager spoke to them and one asked to call 911. The two women were then evicted from the store. When one of them returned to ask for the manager’s information in order to lodge a complaint, she was physically and violently escorted out of the store by a security guard.
Shocked, the women complained via the Sears customer service line, but did not receive a response. They then retained a lawyer to exercise their rights and demand an apology and damages from Sears. The lawyer’s efforts to reach the store’s management were in vain.
The two women then contacted the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission (QHRYRC), the Algerian Consulate in Montreal and, finally, CRARR, which filed on their behalf a civil rights complaint against Sears and the manager.
After an investigation, the QHRYRC concluded in September 2012 that there was sufficient evidence of discriminatory action to refer the case to the Human Rights Tribunal. However, the QHRYRC also exercised its discretion not to represent the women before the Tribunal as it judged that the case was not “in the public interest.” This left the young mothers to do so alone – and at their own expense – which they are doing, with the help of CRARR’s lawyer Aymar Missakila.
In their case against Sears, the two women are seeking $75,000 in moral and punitive damages for violation of their rights to equality, security of person and dignity. Furthermore, they are asking the Tribunal to instruct Sears to:
“The Human Rights Tribunal will have the opportunity to assess Sears’ institutional or systemic practices regarding my clients’ complaints of discrimination that were made to the management and customer service department”, said Mr. Missakila.
According to CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi, “Given the present debates in Quebec on securalism, immigration and diversity, which have an adverse impact on Muslim women, this case comes at the right moment to allow a Quebec court to examine how public and private institutions treat two Muslim mothers who, for three years, sought to right a wrong and effective protection of their civil rights.”