The manager of Portage Place is apologizing to Joe Meconse, a Dene elder and military veteran who was kicked out of the downtown Winnipeg shopping mall's food court for loitering.

Joseph Meconse, 74, said a security guard asked him to leave the food court on Friday, after he had just sat down with a plate of food.

The mall's policy is to ask patrons to move on if they've been sitting for longer than 30 minutes, he said.

The incident prompted about 200 people to hold a flash mob inside Portage Place on Wednesday to protest what they called a lack of respect.

In a statement issued Thursday afternoon, Portage Place general manager David Stone expressed "our most sincere apologies to Mr. Joe Meconse, a respected Aboriginal Elder and a decorated veteran who has proudly served our country."

The statement also described Meconse as "a frequent visitor to our mall, and our food court where we understand he meets with friends."

Stone said Portage Place has had a policy to ask people to leave the food court if they have not purchased anything from food or beverage vendors in 30 minutes.

However, he said mall officials are now eliminating that rule.

"Given that our many members of our community use our food court as a place to meet friends, this is a policy we are now removing," he said.

Portage Place flash mob protests elder's removal from mall1:59


Portage Place statement

On behalf of Portage Place, we wanted to extend our most sincere apologies to Mr. Joe Meconse, a respected Aboriginal Elder and a decorated veteran who has proudly served our country.

Mr. Meconse is also a frequent visitor to our mall, and our food court where we understand he meets with friends.

The scenario, in which our security personal requested Mr. Meconse, to leave is solely due to a current policy which requires individuals who have not purchased from any of the food or beverage vendors in 30 minutes, to exit the food court.

While it is important for our vendors to see high volume business and benefit from continuous patrons, especially during peak meal periods, we need to be flexible.

Given that our many members of our community use our food court as a place to meet friends, this is a policy we are now removing.

Our security team makes every effort to treat all patrons with respect, but on rare occasions there are misunderstandings.

We will be reaching out to Mr. Meconse, and hope that he will continue to frequent our mall.

We have also reached out to leaders within the Aboriginal community to ensure we are acting in the most responsible and respectful manner.

David Stone, General Manager, Portage Place Shopping Mall