Retailers offered free online course to prevent racial profiling

New education program is for front-line security and service staff

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has launched an online course aimed at preventing racial profiling at retail outlets.

The free, 20-minute education program -- described as the first of its kind in Canada -- has already attracted attention from businesses in other provinces and the United States.

The commission says racial profiling is a serious issue in Nova Scotia, where visible minorities are significantly more likely to be followed, searched and ignored than other customers.

Called "Serving All Customers Better," the course is for front-line security and service staff, and was developed with the help of the Retail Council of Canada. The course is meant to complement existing training.

Christine Hanson, CEO of the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission, says the goal is to promote inclusive and welcoming environments for consumers.

The course cites some examples, at one point quoting a worker who said: "I worked for a retailer who said, 'The eagle has landed,' when a black person walked into the store. I quit my job over it."

Examples of consumer racial profiling continue to make headlines across the country.

In October 2015, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario agreed with a woman who said she faced discrimination as a black person when she was confronted by a Shoppers Drug Mart employee who demanded to search her backpack on suspicion of shoplifting. The tribunal ordered the store to pay Mary McCarthy $8,000.

In August 2016, one of Canada's largest grocery chains withdrew its appeal of a human rights decision that found an employee of Sobeys had discriminated against a black customer in May 2009 after falsely accusing her of being a repeat shoplifter.

Sobeys said it reached a settlement with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and would apologize to Andrella David, pay her $21,000 in compensation, and develop a staff training program on racial profiling.

The company faced a boycott by a group of 19 churches in the province. As well, Nova Scotia's first black lieutenant-governor, Mayann Francis, came forward to reveal that she, too, had been the victim of repeated racial profiling while shopping.

At the time, Francis said Nova Scotia was in a state of denial when it came to racial profiling, saying she had often been the victim of "shopping while black" since she left her viceregal post in 2012.

"It does not matter how successful you are, it still can happen to you," said Francis, who had previously served as CEO of the province's human rights commission.


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