Racial profiling of Indigenous people at Thompson Walmart a concern, says First Nations organization

Security guards working at Thompson Walmart are alleged to have racially profiled Indigenous people trying to shop there as potentially being intoxicated.

Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO), which represents 26 First Nations in Northern Manitoba, issued a press release July 3 expressing their concerns with incidents that had been brought to their attention.

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“MKO has received several complaints about the ongoing mistreatment of First Nations citizens when they are attempting to shop at the Thompson Walmart,” said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee. “In recent days I have heard from customers that they have been racially profiled. In one instance, a First Nations man, who never uses alcohol, was told he cannot come into the store because he looks like someone who has been drinking. Imagine being told you look as though you are intoxicated when, in fact, you do not use alcohol! It is understandable that one would find this completely inappropriate and offensive.”

Wayne Constant of Thompson, who said he hasn’t had a drink for 30 years, told CBC Manitoba that he was going into Walmart to buy dog food and drinks June 29 when he was stopped by a security guard and told he looked like the type of person who drinks and wasn’t going to be allowed in. He and the security guard argued until a cashier intervened and said he could go get the items he wanted while waiting to speak to the manager. When the manager and the security guard then found him in the dog food aisle, they just wanted him to pay for his items and leave, said Constant, adding that the manager didn’t take his name or contact information.

“I was appalled,” Constant told CBC. “Angry. Really hurt. So many emotions, just trying to process what was unfolding.”

Constant said he reported the incident to the manager of Impact Security, which is contracted to provide security services, who told him that the incident will be investigated. Constant is also planning to file a human rights complaint.

Alister Weenusk Jr. from Oxford House told the Winnipeg Free Press that he and his wife were asked to remove their sunglasses when they went to Walmart July 2 by a security guard who wanted to check if they had been drinking.

“I refused and told him you’re profiling us,” said Weenusk. “He denied it and threatened to call the cops.”

A spokesperson for Walmart Canada told CBC and the Free Press that the company is aware of the incidents and does not condone racism or discrimination.

“Walmart is committed to providing a safe and inclusive environment for our associates and our customers,” said Felicia Fefer, Walmart Canada’s corporate affairs manager. “Celebrating diversity and fostering inclusivity is an integral part of the Walmart culture and we are proud to reflect the diverse communities we serve through our associates.”

MKO said it has sent a letter to Walmart requesting a meeting about how the company can improve the service it provides to First Nations citizens from all across Northern Manitoba who come to the Thompson Walmart to shop.

“Walmart, and Impact Security, should take steps to ensure it is a welcoming space where First Nations citizens from all communities can obtain their supplies in a way that they feel respected,” stated Settee. “Indigenous peoples should not have to worry about being accused of being intoxicated when they are simply at the store to carry out their shopping.”

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