By Dave Baxter
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Indigenous leaders in northern Manitoba say employees at a Thompson furniture store are now receiving cultural sensitivity training and taking other steps, after an incident earlier this year saw workers accuse an Indigenous man with a degenerative disorder of being intoxicated, and ask him to leave the store.
In a media release on Tuesday, Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc. (MKO) an organization that represents dozens of northern Manitoba First Nations communities in the province, gave an update on what they said have been steps taken at The Brick in the northern Manitoba city of Thompson since an incident that occurred on Feb. 19.
MKO claims that on that day, Edwin Beardy, a 70-year-old Indigenous elder from the Tataskweyak Cree Nation (TCN) was “racially profiled” by employees at the store.
MKO said that Beardy, who suffers from Kennedy’s disease which causes muscular degeneration in the face and legs, and affects speech, was in the store on Feb. 19 when two different employees accused him of being intoxicated and asked that he leave.
Employees also called the police on Beardy, and not long after RCMP arrived and found him sitting in his car. RCMP asked Beardy to take a breathalyzer, which showed that he had no alcohol in his system that day.
After the incident was reported to MKO, they said they have been working closely with management at The Brick and taking steps to try and prevent similar incidents, and they updated the steps that have been taken in their media release this week.
According to MKO, they shared available cultural sensitivity training with the store, and requested that confirmation be provided to them upon successful completion of the training, and they said this week that the store has since purchased a cultural training awareness package, and all employees are now taking the training.
MKO is also asking that any new hires and employees at the store now take the training as well.
“Our expectation is that all new and future staff of The Brick store in Thompson also receive this training to ensure cultural awareness, and a better understanding of Indigenous people,” MKO said in their press release.
MKO said they also asked that staff members who subjected Beardy to the accusations provide a formal apology in writing as well as in person, and said the store has since complied and are now “awaiting a date to provide the letter and the personal apology to Mr. Beardy in person.”
MKO said at their request the store will also reimburse Beardy for the mileage expenses he incurred to travel to the store which is about a two-hour drive from TCN “in recognition of the inconvenience he experienced.”
MKO said they now want their citizens to know that if they experience incidents where they think they are racially profiled that they should reach out to them for assistance.
“If you are an MKO citizen who needs assistance in responding to a racist incident, you can send us an email with details about your experience,” MKO said.
– Dave Baxter is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Winnipeg Sun. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.