On the eve of National Indigenous Peoples Day, an act of reconciliation took place between a Thompson business and an Indigenous customer who felt racially profiled during a February incident.
Just over five months after the incident, which took place Feb. 19, Keith Sanburn, owner of The Brick in Thompson, apologized to Edwin Beardy from Tataskweyak Cree Nation for the way he was treated at that time, when staff called police on him because they suspected he was intoxicated.
Beardy suffer from Kennedy’s disease, which causes muscular degeneration in the face and legs and affects speech.
“We just want to apologize to Mr. Beardy,” said Sanburn to a group of about 20 people, many from Tataskweyak Cree Nation, who either walked or drove from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak’s offices in Thompson to the furniture store. “We meant no harm or embarrassment and it never should have happened. It was a mistake.”
Natasha Sanburn said she and her husband were away at the time of the incident and were “mortified” to hear of it.
“We’re terribly sorry this happened,” she said, stressing that it was an experience that people need to learn from. “Let’s work together. There’s nothing more we can do but try to become unified together.”
Edwin Beardy accepted the apology from the owners of The Brick, who also had their staff undergo cultural sensitivity training in an effort to prevent similar incidents in the future.
“If you did something wrong or one of your employees made a wrong decision concerning any of our people, step up and acknowledge the fact that what happened was wrong,” he said, noting that this isn’t the only business in Thompson where such incident have happened. Following the Sanburns’ apologies, Beardy shook hands with and hugged not only the owners but each of the store’s sales-floor employees. “I think it’s the first positive step that we can expect and should expect from business leaders of the community.”
Getting past discrimination and stereotypes will not happen overnight or without effort or by ignoring the problem, said Anglican Bishop Isaiah Beardy.
“Racism has to be addressed,” he said. “It’s a long process. It’s not easy.”