'I felt like I was racially profiled': Indigenous woman accused of shoplifting

A Calgary woman says she felt racially profiled while shopping at a southeast optometry store on Mother's Day, and much of the incident was caught on video by her daughter. The company says it's investigating before determining what to do.

Pearle Vision says it's investigating incident involving Linda Nothing and sales associate

A Calgary woman's teen daughter captured this video of a sales associate at Pearle Vision suggesting her mother stole two pairs of glasses. 2:25

A Calgary woman says she felt racially profiled after being accused of shoplifting while shopping at a southeast optometry store on Mother's Day.

Much of the incident was caught on video by the woman's teenage daughter. The video shows the sales associate at Southcentre's Pearle Vision store suggesting Linda Nothing, who is Indigenous, stole two pairs of glasses. 

In the video, security is called to the store and, at the request of the sales associate, Nothing is asked to empty her bags and remove a shawl.

"I said you were looking at them and I wondered if you knew where they were," the sales associate says in the video.

"I told you I didn't know and you chose not to believe me," Nothing replies while repacking her purse and putting her shawl back on. 

"You called security and implied that she stole," says Nothing's daughter.

"I know what I filled up. I don't know if she's hiding it somewhere," responds the associate.

'I felt like I was racially profiled'

Nothing was shopping with her daughter for grad shoes when they decided to stop in at Pearle Vision to see if glasses they had ordered weeks earlier had arrived. 

Nothing said she left her daughter to deal with the associate, as the glasses they were there to pick up were hers. 

"While I was waiting for her, I went to try on glasses," she said. "I noticed the sales rep looking at me and not really engaging with my daughter, so I went to see what was happening."

Nothing said that's when the sales associate implied she had shoplifted two pairs of glasses.

"I felt like I was racially profiled because when my daughter was talking to her, she explained to her that Pearle Vision was waiting for confirmation from Indian Affairs on how much they would cover her glasses, and we are both visibly native," she said. 

Pearle Vision investigating

In a statement from Pearle Vision, the company said it is investigating the incident directly with Nothing and the sales associate, and "compiling all available information related to the interaction" in hopes of understanding what happened and determining an appropriate course of action.

Nothing had yet to hear from Pearle Vision directly, but hopes this is a learning experience.

"I know that there is a bias against us just from experience in other places and stories we've seen — there's some major, high-profile cases we've seen in the past while. So I feel like she didn't believe me based on perceptions against native people."

Nothing said she would like an apology, but more importantly, she would like more diversity training for Pearle Vision staff members.

About the Author

Lucie Edwardson

Journalist

Lucie Edwardson is a reporter with CBC Calgary. Lucie most recently headed a pop-up bureau in Lethbridge, Alberta. Her experience includes newspaper, online, TV and radio. Follow her on Twitter @LucieEdwardson