ARAB WOMEN AND RACISM AT SEARS: HUMAN RIGHTS TRIBUNAL’S HEARING BEGINS TOMORROW
Montreal, December 16, 2013 --- Tomorrow, the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal will hear the case of two Arab/ Muslim women who suing Sears in Joliette, Quebec, for racial discrimination, after having been subject to xenophobic remarks by a manager, expulsion by force from the store, and bad faith treatment of their complaint.
The hearing will take place on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 9:30 at the Montreal courthouse, at 1, Notre-Dame Street West, room 13.04 (metro Place-d'Armes). The hearing is open to the media and to the general public, and is expected to last four days.
The case dates back to June 2010, when two women, originally from Algeria, accompanied by their three kids aged 8 months to 6 years, went to the Sears store at Les Galeries Joliette. When the kids mounted one of the tractors on display in the principal aisle of the store, to play, the store manager made scornful remarks to the kids and engaged in an exchange with the two mothers, an exchange which included xenophobic and discriminatory remarks such as “go back to your country if you are not happy”. Other employees and even a customer made equally discriminatory statements.
The two mothers politely contested the way in which the manager spoke to them. The two women were then forced to leave the store. When one of the women returned to obtain the manager’s coordinates for the purposes of filing a complaint, she was physically escorted out of the store by a security guard.
Stunned, the women filed a complaint via telephone with Sears' customer service department, but received no response. The two women sought the assistance of a lawyer, the Quebec Human and Youth Rights Commission (QHYRC), the Algerian consulate in Montreal, and finally CRARR, which represented them in a complaint of race discrimination against Sears and the store manager.
After an investigation, the QHYRC rendered its decision in September of 2012, in which it found sufficient proof of discrimination to refer the case to the Human Rights Tribunal. However, the QHYRC exercised its discretion not to represent the women before the Tribunal, as it believes that such action is not in the “public interest”, letting the women go on their own and at their own cost, which is what they have decided to do with the assistance of Me Aymar Missakila, a lawyer at CRARR.
The two women seek a total of $75, 000 for moral and punitive damages from Sears, for violation of their rights to equality, security of the person, and dignity, in addition to the adoption of a code of conduct relating to civil rights and non-discrimination in customer service and a more transparent and efficient procedure for treating customer complaints.