UPDATE - SHOPPING WHILE BLACK: FALSELY ACCUSED AND EXPELLED, ANGLOPHONE BLACK MOTHER AND DAUGHTER FILE COMPLAINTS AGAINST MAXI
Montréal, August 30, 2016 — The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has accepted two complaints of consumer racial profiling filed by CRARR, on behalf of an English-speaking Black nursing student in her twenties and her mother, an English-speaking Black woman in her forties, against Maxi in Lasalle, a borough of Montreal.
In January 2016, Natasha and her daughter, Samantha, went shopping at the Maxi store in Lasalle, where they had regularly shopped for more than a decade. After they paid for the grocery items at the cashier and began walking outside, a Maxi clerk stopped them and accused Samantha of stealing grocery items and keeping them in her schoolbag she carried on her back.
Natasha asked the clerk to search her daughter’s schoolbag to look for the alleged stolen grocery items. However, the clerk ignored the request. Later, two other Maxi employees intervened and threatened to call the police. Both Natasha and her daughter encouraged them to do so, to prove their innocence.
Both the Maxi staff members and the two police officers, who arrived in response to the call, refused to search Samantha’s schoolbag, although Natasha repeatedly told them to do so. One officer told Natasha that the clerk had said she herself was seen putting something in her daughter’s bag. Neither officer listened to Natasha and her daughter’s version.
Without warning, one officer took Samantha’s schoolbag and carried it outside, and the other physically pushed her mother out of the store. Natasha called 911, being afraid of the two police officers, and the 911 responder indicated that another police officer from the police station would come to speak to her. After a short hostile exchange with the two women, the police officers left. After waiting for approximately fifteen minutes, the Victims left since no other police officers arrived.
This upsetting experience left the Victims deeply humiliated and stressed, because of the presumption of theft without evidence, the obvious complicity between Maxi employees and the police officers, and the police officers’ biased conduct throughout the incident. Both mother and daughter have not set foot back in the store.
In the complaint filed on their behalf, CRARR claimed that both women were subject to consumer racial profiling, in a typical “Shopping While Black” case. It is seeking more than $30,000 in damages against the store, apologies for the two women, and mandatory training for Maxi staff on anti-discrimination. CRARR also helped Natasha file a complaint of police ethics violation against the two police officers due to their biased and rude conduct.
Consumer racial profiling is defined as “any type of differential treatment based on a perception of the consumer’s race or ethnicity that constitutes the denial or degradation of the product or services offered to the consumer.” In recent years, human rights tribunals in Canada have rendered decisions against commercial establishments for practicing consumer racial profiling against Black consumers. There is no official policy in Quebec banning this form of racial profiling.
“We have filed numerous complaints of consumer racial profiling with the human rights commission, and called on the latter to adopt policy guidelines on this issue in order to handle these complaints more correctly,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi. “To date, the Commission has not responded to our request, which obviously raises concerns as to how it recognizes consumer racial profiling and investigates complaints of this nature.”