Disabled people mistreated at Portage Place, says group
Independent Living Resource Centre says it tried offering training to mall staff
Managers and security guards at Portage Place Shopping Centre regularly discriminate against disabled people, according to a support group for Winnipeggers with disabilities.
The Independent Living Resource Centre, which has had offices at the downtown shopping mall for years, says management and security staff have repeatedly turned down its offers of free disability awareness training.
"We've always been in the position of wondering if the mall security is there to actually provide customer care and support and security, or to protect the planters and intimidate certain groups that frequent the mall," Marie-Lynn Hamilton, who works with the centre's self-advocacy program, told CBC News.
In the past year, the centre has helped a client file a complaint against Portage Place with the Manitoba Human Rights complaint. The man claims that security threatened to ban him for walking his wheelchair on an escalator.
The shopping mall is already facing criticism by supporters of Annie Henry, a 79-year-old woman from the Roseau River First Nation who says she and her family members were treated poorly by a security guard.
"It's unfortunate that there's so much repetition — not just within our community, but the wider community at large — of the same issues and the same instances of lack of care and consideration by mall security, by mall management," Hamilton said.
Protesters decry guard's treatment of elder
Henry has said she and her family were shopping at Portage Place on Saturday when they were yelled at because she and her adult daughter had sat down on a marble planter.
Even though there are signs on the planters asking patrons not to sit on them, Henry's daughter, Karen Henry-Jimmy, argued that her mother was tired and not well enough to move.
The confrontation between Henry-Jimmy and the security guard resulted in the family being asked to leave the mall.
"We grabbed our mother and we started walking out the building," Henry-Jimmy told CBC News earlier this week.
"Then he says, 'I don't care if she has a heart attack,' and then my little sister turned around and said, 'Are you serious?'"
On Wednesday, protesters took part in a round dance inside Portage Place as Henry demanded the resignation of the security guard in question.
Some who took part in the protest called on mall management to give its staff sensitivity training.
"To see an elder getting mistreated like that is, in our culture … really, really disrespectful," said Lisa Tssessaze, who came to Wednesday's event with her husband.
One man who said he witnessed the original incident told CBC News that Henry's family was polite with security staff, but the confrontation escalated after one guard made rude comments.
Portage Place officials have refused requests for an interview.
With regards to Henry's case, the mall's general manager would only say, "We do not have any comments on this concern."