'This is disgusting': Sask. Indigenous prof says deep-rooted stereotypes continue to drive racial profiling
A Saskatchewan university business lecturer says companies need to do a better job of educating employees on consumer racial profiling.
Jason Bird teaches Indigenous business at the First Nations University of Canada. He said Indigenous people have fallen victim to racial profiling for decades.
“It seems to me that it doesn’t go away because the stereotype in this society is that Indigenous people lend themselves more to the dark side of the society,” Bird said.
Consumer racial profiling occurs when Indigenous customers, or other people of colour, walk into a store and are flagged as potential shoplifters by employees.
Bird said the premise behind racial profiling is not backed up by facts, but rather stereotypes that paint Indigenous people as violent and more likely to steal.
Statistics from a 2021 National Retail Security Survey show employee theft costs retailers three times as much as shoplifting.
“Companies have to start working on policies and procedures that address racism, address stereotypes and some of these things that are occurring,” he said.
“They need to also educate themselves on customer service, because if this is the direction that they’re going to go with customer service then I don’t know why Indigenous people are frequenting their business in the first place.”
The Retail Council of Canada has helped develop a training course to address and prevent consumer racial profiling. The free online program is available for all retailers looking to train staff.
On top of training, Bird believes companies need to take greater responsibility in investigating customers’ claims of racial profiling. There needs to be discipline and correction for store employees, and apologies need to be given to customers, Bird said.
“This is disgusting to think that people in 2023 are still being profiled in a province that has a history of residential schools and a long history of abuse of Indigenous people,” he said.
“To say we’re going to continue some of that abuse I think that’s just ridiculous.”
'MAKE NOISE' WHEN IT HAPPENS
Del Crowe says he typically receives “special treatment” when he walks into any Regina store.
That special treatment usually means he’s followed or confronted about why he is in the store and what he wants to buy. Sometimes the conversations turn hostile.
“I’ve been grabbed and searched many times, especially when I was a teenager.”
“This is Regina. It is a different city to me than to white people because I have a different experience.”
Crowe is now in his 60s, but when he was growing up, he said many stores refused to serve Indigenous people. While that has changed, racial profiling has stayed consistent.
Del Crowe said he’s been grabbed and searched many times by store employees, especially when he was a teenager. (AllisonBamford/CTVNews)
A recent racial profiling incident led to an Indigenous customer being assaulted by a security guard at Canadian Tire in Regina.
In 2017 Kamao Cappo garnered national attention after he was accused of stealing in another Canadian Tire in the city.
Both incidents were caught on video and posted online. Crowe believes everyone should draw attention to racial profiling in order to help eliminate it.
“If we don’t make noise about it nothing will get done,” he said.
“Always talk about what happened. Don’t let them get away with it. If it happened, well tell people. Talk to the store manager. Write them a letter.”
Bird agrees awareness plays an important role in addressing the issue and validating people’s experiences.
“We don’t want to walk in a store and have this happen to us because it disrupts something inside of us, it disrupts our trust towards a business and towards people,” Bird said.
OPTIONS FOR VICTIMS OF RACIAL PROFILING
Racial profiling is a violation of the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code.
The code protects people’s rights to equality without discrimination based on a number of characteristics including race, nationality and colour. The code is violated if someone discriminates against a person for any of those characteristics in areas including education, employment, housing and public services.
According to Saskatchewan Human Rights Commissioner Barry Wilcox, consumer racial profiling is an infringement that falls under public services.
“You have to have a situation where the action was the cause of the discrimination,” Wilcox said.
People who’ve been racially profiled can file a complaint with the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
The commission doesn’t receive as many complaints related to racial profiling as it does for employment or other issues, according to Wilcox, but it has seen a number of successful outcomes with the ones it has received.
If the complaint meets the initial criteria, the commission accepts the case and gives the respondent an opportunity to offer an explanation.
“If there isn’t a satisfactory explanation, we will proceed with the process,” Wilcox said.
The complaint process often enters mediation. If the parties do not come to a resolution it could be settled at the Court of King’s Bench, however, that happens in an “incredibly small” portion of cases due to the commission’s three-stage mediation process.
“Our real purpose at the commission is to level the playing field, to have everybody equal. Sometimes people can end up in a situation where they’re discriminated against and all we’re trying to do is make those people whole,” Wilcox said.
“We don’t act for the complainant. We don’t act for the respondent. We act for the commission in our own right to fulfill our mandate.”
A successful outcome could be monetary, an apology, or internal action within a company such as increased cultural sensitivity training, Wilcox said.
The commission resolves 85 per cent of its cases within one year and 90 per cent of its cases within two years.
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