Montreal pharmacy apologizes after 'mistakenly' identifying Black hair care products as non-essential
3 women confronted store's owner about why the products were blocked off
When Tisha Samuels walked into her local pharmacy — a Uniprix in LaSalle — she was shocked to discover that the section containing hair care products for Black women was closed off.
From Dec. 25 to Jan. 11 all non-essential stores must be closed and stores that are allowed to stay open can sell only essential products.
Samuels said she was upset to see that hair care products like shampoo and conditioner that aren't designed specifically for Black hair were available for purchase. Only products aimed at Black consumers were restricted.
The next day, on Dec. 30, she returned to the store with her two friends, Crystal Brooks and Kelsey Walker, to confront the store owner about why the section was blocked off.
Walker took to social media to complain that the store was excluding the needs of Black customers and filmed the interaction with the owner on Instagram live.
"It wasn't all shampoo and all conditioner and that's really the issue," said Walker.
"It gave us the feeling that we weren't essential, we as a people weren't essential. That's the message that it gave because right across from that section that was blocked off, was all the other shampoos and conditioners."
The video has since garnered more than 360,000 views.
In the video, Walker convinces the owner to take down the sign restricting the section of products.
The trio of friends also visited several other Uniprix stores, none of which had these products blocked off.
When he introduced the measures earlier this month, Premier François Legault said limiting the sale of non-essential items would ensure big box stores would not benefit from smaller businesses being closed for two weeks.
But without a detailed list of what is considered an essential good, what is available for sale varies from one business to another.
In a statement to CBC News, Uniprix spokesperson Darius Kuras said that this incident was the product of an "isolated mistake."
"Uniprix is committed to offering a safe and inclusive environment to all of its customers. The incident at the Uniprix Dollard Ave location in LaSalle, Quebec was an isolated mistake and has been corrected. We want to sincerely apologize to all of our customers who may have been adversely impacted by this," he said.
Walker said she feels it's important to call attention to this incident, which she's not satisfied writing off as a mistake.
"It comes down to who made that decision. And everyone seems to be deflecting," said Walker. "Putting up green tape, printing a sign to attach, that's not a mistake."
Most of all, with salons closed, Walker said these products are essential, just like any other hygiene product.
"If we don't use this product our hair won't thrive the way that it should, it won't be healthy and it will literally just start to break."
With files from CBC's Jennifer Yoon