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'Embarrassing and hurtful': Sask. woman denied service because of 'cultural' facial tattoo

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A First Nation woman was denied service at a Prince Albert bar because of her facial tattoo.

Sara Carriere-Burns said she was looking forward to an evening with her cousins at the Prince Albert Brewing Company. She said after she ordered a Diet Coke the manager came to her table and told her she was breaking the dress code. She asked to speak to the owner and told her cousin to record the conversation.

"This is part of my culture," Carriere-Burns said in the video posted to Facebook.

"I don't care. Put makeup on it, cover it up. It’s not allowed in our bar. I don't care what your culture is," another voice replied.

The Prince Albert Brewing Company told CTV News they had no comment.

Its policy posted in the bar says, "Individuals with tattoos from ear to ear, wrapped around the neck, racially offensive and/or gang-related will not be allowed on the premises.”

“Management reserves the right to refuse entry to anyone."

Carriere-Burns said she tried to explain the tattoo, but realized there was no point and left the bar.

"It was very hard to have to get up and walk away and not to speak," she told CTV News in an interview.

She said her tattoo has significant cultural meaning because First Nation women traditionally used it as a form of medicine. It symbolizes her children and almost 10 years of sobriety.

"What got me sober and helps me get through the day-to-day is my children and my culture, and this is my medicine,” she said pointing to her tattoo.

She said she got it a year ago. The outer lines represent the two children she miscarried, the inner lines are for her biological children, and the circles in the middle are for her non-biological children.

She said being turned away for her tattoo was, “embarrassing and hurtful". She is considering filing a human rights complaint.

In a statement to CTV News, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission (SHRC) said, “If a person feels as though they’ve been denied a service regularly offered to the public, and that the denial was due to discriminatory reasons, they can contact the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission to file a complaint.”

The SHRC added, “Businesses and service providers with human rights-related questions are encouraged to call the commission’s business helpline (306) 933-8274. The helpline was created to provide advice for businesses and service providers so they can avoid making mistakes that could result in human rights complaints.” 

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