Manitoba

Tim Hortons apologizes for 'speak English' signs at Winnipeg location

Signs posted behind the counter at a Winnipeg Tim Hortons instructing workers to speak English are being called out as insensitive, and have since been removed, the company says.

Filipino community member says signs insensitive, 1st language easy to blurt if people are busy at work

A sign at a Winnipeg Tim Hortons tells employees to 'speak English' at all times. (Twitter/@d0nkz)

Signs posted behind the counter at a Winnipeg Tim Hortons instructing workers to speak English are being called out as insensitive, and have since been removed, the company says.

The notices posted in at least two places behind the counter at a location on Henderson Highway said "We are an English-speaking place of work. Please speak English at all times," according to photos taken by a customer and posted to social media.

Perla Javate, the president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba and co-chair of Ethnocultural Council of Manitoba, says she's heard these words many times and they're insensitive to the multicultural workers at Tim Hortons — including the many Filipinos.

"If you're not a second language speaker, you will never understand why people blurt out speaking their first language," she said.

"I think there has to be that understanding that for one thing, if one is excited, one is in a hurry and one wants to just convey as clearly as you can to get things done, sometimes it's easier when you use your first language, especially if you're dealing with a co-worker or a friend."

Tim Hortons says the signs posted in a Winnipeg location run counter to the company's values and have been taken down. (Twitter/@d0nkz)

CBC News has reached out to the Henderson Highway Tim Hortons location but did not hear back from the owner.

A spokesperson from Tim Hortons said in an emailed statement that the signs were removed on Sunday and that the owner offers a "sincere apology."

The statement said the incident is unacceptable, runs counter to the company's values won't happen again.

Javate says people who speak more than one language know that the expectation is for them to speak English, but it's not always in their control.

"When you're not conscious about things, when somebody asks you something, your tendency is to use your first language," she said.

Just because someone is speaking in another language, it doesn't mean they're talking about another person, she adds.

It's not known who posted the signs in the Henderson Highway Tim Hortons, but Javate says the onus is on the owner and manager to be respectful of diverse employees.

"I just hope that employers, especially if they were the ones who put it up, that they have to be more sensitive and more aware of the do's and don'ts when it comes to working with people from other countries, from other cultures."

Clarifications

  • A previous version of the story stated Perla Javate is president of the Filipino Heritage Council of Manitoba. In fact, she's president of the Philippine Heritage Council of Manitoba.
    Apr 26, 2021 6:50 PM CT

With files from Austin Grabish

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