Songs and signs alleging racism greeted shoppers at the Tantallon Sobeys outside of Halifax on Monday afternoon.
In May 2009, African Nova Scotian Andrella David was accused of being a known shoplifter by an employee while at the store.
READ MORE: Sobeys appeals human rights decision made in Nova Scotia
She filed a complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and last September, the board found there was no evidence David had attempted to steal from the store. It also found that consumer racial profiling was a factor in the decision to confront her.
Sobeys has now decided to appeal that decision, which David’s supporters say will only further victimize her.
About 100 people gathered for Monday’s brief demonstration, which was was organized by Rev. Dr. Lennett J. Anderson of the nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church.
Demonstrators outside Tantallon Sobeys protesting the grocery store’s appeal of NS Human Rights Commission decision pic.twitter老域名购买/Q6Sbnjpyq0
— Rebecca Lau (@RebeccaLau) March 28, 2016
Organizers had alerted local RCMP in advance and the store’s managers came out to speak with the demonstrators and shook their hands.
“I’m really disheartened that Sobeys have not even offered an apology. This matter that started between two people did not have to escalate to this,” said Anderson.
“We just wanted it addressed, we want it to be rectified and an apology to be offered. But they insisted on their right to appeal.”
Anderson says while he understands Sobeys has the right to appeal the decision, he doesn’t feel it’s fair for David to have to go through the legal process again.
“We’re just saying, if your issue is with the commission, then deal with the process that the commission handled,” he said. “Don’t drag a woman who has already been discriminated against and victimized again through this process yet again.”
David was on vacation with her family and was not at the demonstration.
Former Nova Scotia Lieutenant Governor Mayann Francis stopped by and offered her support. She says she felt compelled to attend the demonstration because she too has felt consumer racial profiling.
“It doesn’t matter that I was Lieutenant Governor, it doesn’t matter that I’m a distinguished public service fellow at Dalhousie University and I could go on and on and on,” Francis said.
“But when I walk into the stores, it’s a black person coming into the store so therefore, we have to follow her and make sure she’s not here to steal. So that assumption is there.”
Former Lt. Gov Mayann Francis is here to support protesters-says she has been racially profiled while shopping too. pic.twitter老域名购买/rAdjStbEee
— Rebecca Lau (@RebeccaLau) March 28, 2016
Both Francis and Anderson say it’s important for the public to be aware that racial profiling exists and understand that it’s unacceptable in this day and age.
“We just want to be able to shop, purchase groceries without being followed and harassed. We have money, we’ll buy your product, just treat us as an equal consumer,” Anderson said.
Sobeys moving forward with appeal
A spokesperson from Sobeys says the grocery chain is planning to go ahead with the appeal because they don’t believe the incident with David in 2009 was a case of racial profiling.
“We’ve acknowledged that the way that the situation was handled wasn’t appropriate by our employee but again we just don’t feel it was racially motivated,” said Shauna Selig, the director of communications with Sobeys.
“It was just more a matter of proper training, knowing how to handle sensitive situations and taking the proper approach.”
Selig goes on to say their stores hire outside firms for their security, however, training has been modified in recent years.
“We often hire out to third-party security firms and we expect them to treat our customers the same way we expect our employees to treat customers: fairly, with respect,” Selig said
“Certainly in terms of training, there’s been a greater emphasis placed on managing those sensitive situations and ensuring employees are aware of how to really approach customers.”
Sobeys plans to help facilitate conversations with consumer groups and retailers in the province about consumer racial profiling.
However, Anderson has not ruled out further protests because he alleges what happened to David was not an isolated incident.