A Manitoba chief is speaking out after she says she was racially profiled in a Winnipeg store.
Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) grand chief Sheila North Wilson said she's experienced racism while shopping before. But on a recent trip to a St. James pharmacy, North Wilson said she was treated like a potential thief.
"I heard a lady on the intercom say, 'Security aisle five, security aisle five,' so I looked up and sure enough it says 'aisle five' and I'm the only one standing there," North Wilson said, adding she then approached management.
"I asked her, 'Why are you targeting me? Because I'm dressed like this? Because I have this face? Why did you decide that I needed to be checked on — to see if I was stealing anything?"
North Wilson's trip to the pharmacy happened on Jan. 2. She said while she is still upset, she doesn't plan to disclose the store's location.
"I wanted to focus on the issue more than the stores, because if we target one store then it lets others off the hook," she said.
North Wilson said she thinks attitudes that lead to everyday-racism stem from deeply entrenched ignorance about indigenous people.
"People in Canadian society, in Winnipeg, in Manitoba grow up learning negative stereotypes about indigenous people and they don't bother to correct these stereotypes on their own as they become adults," she said.
"We see them in everyday situations carrying these stereotypes about indigenous people, and sometimes it comes boldly into your face and we all individually have to handle it."
North Wilson said she hopes her story encourages others to speak out and file formal complaints.
"It was important to me that they knew that they can't paint us all with the same brush," she said, adding she sees sharing her experience as a chance to fight racism.
"Anyone who's faced this sort of racial profiling needs to speak up if they can, when they can. If they can't do it verbally, they should write formal complaints, because the more we don't say anything, the more time it's going to take to educate the rest of the public."