Sask.  The Sheikh of the First Nation calls for an apology and participation in the episode after treatment at Regina Walmart |  CBC News

Sask. The Sheikh of the First Nation calls for an apology and participation in the episode after treatment at Regina Walmart | CBC News

A senior from Muscowpetung First Nation, located about 50 kilometers northeast of Regina, is calling for more work after an experience she had at Walmart last fall.

Joyce Keepness says she went to the Prince of Wales Drive location in East Regina on October 21, 2021, to purchase 10 gift cards for $100 each, before the grandmothers’ gathering her community was hosting.

However, the 69-year-old Saulteaux woman says that when she went to buy it, she was confronted by a salesperson who accused her of buying it for fraudulent purposes.

“I couldn’t even answer because I was in shock,” Keepness said during a rally outside the store on Friday.

Keepness said she left without buying the gift cards, but Emmalyn Olsen – an apparently white colleague she works with at a Muscowpetung health center – came back later that day to buy them on Keepness’s behalf.

“They didn’t ask me about my intentions with them, they just gave it to me,” Olsen said.

Olsen and Keepness say that when the couple brought their concerns to the customer service desk right after, they were denied a sit-down conversation with the manager.

Emmalyn Olsen said she bought the same amount of gift cards at Walmart as she tried Joyce Keepness on October 21, 2021, but had no problems. She believes that the difference in the treatment is due to the colors of their skin. (Corey Herberger/Radio Canada)

After reflecting on the situation for a few days, Keepness decided to reach out to the Saskatchewan Alliance Against Racism to help report the incident.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve experienced such horrible racism—I’ve lived with it my whole life. But it’s time for me to resist it,” she recalled.

Keepness said the alliance followed up with the local store manager, who sent the order to Walmart companywide.

Discrimination ‘Not Proven’: Walmart

Following written statements from Keepness and Olsen, and an internal investigation by Walmart Canada, an employee in the company’s human resources department arrived months later in an email.

It said that based on “carefully considered” evidence, Keepness’ claims “have not been substantiated” and that the employees involved did nothing against Walmart’s policy of harassment and discrimination.

“This is the value of gift cards [at or over $1,000] It could raise concern that the buyer may be a victim of fraud,” Janet Warner-Duncan, Walmart Canada Customer Experience Case Manager, wrote in a March 16 letter.

“In such circumstances, the Partner may contact a Manager to take appropriate steps to help protect the Customer. In that case, the Partner has inquired directly with you because they incorrectly understood that this was the process for specifically third party gift card transactions.”

Warner-Duncan wrote that management has since asked employees to report to a manager due to “all concerns that the customer may be a victim of fraud” and that “there will be no further action in connection with this concern.”

Walmart Canada, in a statement to CBC News on Friday, said it takes “concerns of this nature seriously and is investigating the matter.”[s] accurately. “

A spokesperson for the incident described the incident as a “misunderstanding” about the company’s operations related to ordering large quantities of gift cards.

Calls for education and understanding

Keepness said she was frustrated by Walmart’s response, noting that she would have preferred to see an apology and an invitation to meet with the workers involved for an engagement circuit.

She offered, “Some of the elders of our first nations can come to work with their staff and inform them of our treaties – educate them about the experience of our people on a daily basis.” “We are not all thieves. We do business and we have money to spend.”

Melissa Tavita, president of Muscowpetung, says she hopes the Joyce Keepness story will prompt more retailers to do cultural sensitivity training with their employees. (Corey Herberger/Radio Canada)

Standing behind the elder, Melissa Tavita, Muscowpetung’s president, said she hopes the Keepness story will educate other retail workers about paying attention to their treatment of Indigenous customers.

“If more people talk about this type of procedure and treatment, I think more awareness will be passed on to people,” Tavita said. “It saddens me that not only my children but the children in our society – all First Nations children – must grow up in this lifestyle, if we do not change it today.”

2022-05-06 23:53:08

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