N.S. woman alleges racial profiling after being accused of shoplifting
Published Thursday, January 28, 2016 7:07PM AST
A Nova Scotia woman is alleging racial profiling after she was accused of shoplifting at a Halifax grocery store.
She says she was followed and no one can tell her why.
Now she’s filing a human rights complaint, and wants people to know it’s important to speak up.
The experience was a week ago, but Jeneen Williams says she’s not letting it go.
“I was just doing my regular grocery shopping,” she explains, “when I noticed that a man was following me through the store.”
It happened at the Sobeys in the Clayton Park area of Halifax.
The man she alleges was involved wasn’t a Sobeys employee, rather a security officer from an outside company.
Williams says he was relentless, and followed her right to the checkout.
“And even after I had presented him with the receipt,” she explains, “he still insisted that I had taken something from the store and he checked my bags.”
Williams says she asked several times why she had been stopped, but no answer was provided.
“I felt that I was being stereotyped simply because I was a black person,” she adds.
Williams says from start to finish the experience lasted two and a half hours, and even when it was determined she hadn’t stolen anything, she called the police herself.
“They did speak with all the parties involved,” explains Constable Carol McIsaac of Halifax Regional Police, “confirmed that the shoplifting hadn’t taken place, and they spoke to the woman who was the complainant, and she requested that the report be submitted.”
“I felt like I was being harassed,” says Williams. “Which I was being harassed, and it was discrimination at the same time.”
The general manager of the security company says his officer stopped Williams because of suspicious activity.
He wouldn’t say exactly what that means, but maintains it was not racially motivated, pointing out the security officer is himself a visible minority.
He says no one has been reprimanded, and that it’s the company’s job to ensure everyone leaving the store has paid for everything they’re leaving with.
A Sobeys representative says a manager has apologized to Williams.
She’s appreciative of the store’s support, but says she plans to launch a human rights complaint against the security company.
“This happens to people of colour every day in different ways to different capacities,” says Williams. “A lot of the times it’s probably not reported.”
Both Sobeys and the security company say they are investigating.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kayla Hounsell.