New Brunswick

Fredericton woman wins racial profiling case, Shoppers Drug Mart must pay $8K

Shoppers Drug Mart has been ordered to pay a Fredericton woman $8,000 after the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled she was targeted as a shoplifter because she is black. Fredericton woman wins racial profiling case, Shoppers Drug Mart must pay $8K

Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rules employee targeted Fredericton woman because she was black

RAW: Racial profiling case

NB

6 years ago
1:01
Mary McCarthy explains how she was racially profiled by a Shoppes Drug Mart employee in Toronto 1:01

Shoppers Drug Mart has been ordered to pay a Fredericton woman $8,000 after the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario ruled she was targeted as a shoplifter because she is black.

The incident began when Mary McCarthy walked into a Shoppers Drug Mart store in downtown Toronto on May 22, 2011, to buy mouthwash.

When McCarthy put her knapsack on the floor to retrieve a label a co-worker had given her from a product she had recommended, a store employee, Ujjaijini Balachandra, spotted her and demanded she open her bag.

I was furious, I was hurt.- Mary McCarthy

McCarthy refused to open the bag, but put it in front of Balachandra.

The worker rifled through the bag in front of other customers, finding nothing. McCarthy said she didn't get an apology from the employee.

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled this week that McCarthy had been singled out by the employee because she is black. 

This week's ruling said McCarthy's "race and colour were a significant factor in how the employee and the store, treated her."

Mary McCarthy was awarded $8,000 from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in a racial profiling case involving a Shoppers Drug Mart employee. (Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario)
The tribunal also said the employee went against the drug store's policy for dealing with suspected shoplifters, that she didn't see her put anything into her knapsack, was rude to her and didn't apologize when she found nothing after searching the bag.

The employee was also unable to provide a single example of confronting and searching the bag of a non-black person, though the store experiences a large number of thefts.

The tribunal also ruled that Balachandra had lied when she testified McCarthy had been in the store after closing time and had "concocted this allegation at the last minute in an attempt to protect herself." 

She will feel the negative effects of it for the rest of her life.-  Ken Bhattacharjee, vice-chair, Ontario Human Rights Tribunal

'Serious violation'

The incident involving McCarthy happened at a downtown Toronto Shoppers Drug Mart store in 2011. (Google)
"I find that, objectively, the racial profiling and discrimination that the applicant experienced, which included being rudely approached because she is black, being falsely accused of trying to shoplift and having her backpack searched because she is black and not being apologized to because she is black, was an extremely serious violation of the [human rights] code," wrote Ken Bhattacharjee, the council's vice-chair.

The vice-chair added that he has "no doubt that she will feel the negative effects of it for the rest of her life."

McCarthy says she calmed herself and stayed in the store long enough to buy the product, getting a receipt with the time stamped on it — and she kept it.

McCarthy testified she was "dumbfounded," "numb" and "shocked" by the incident when it happened.

"I was going to leave the store, I was furious, I was hurt. And then there was a voice inside me that said, 'Mary, you've done nothing wrong, you don't have to leave the store, finish what you came for."

'She said she thought about it for a year before filing the complaint. It then took another three years for a ruling from the human rights tribunal.

McCarthy says it was a difficult process. "I guess what surprised me how very degrading, and emotional, and exhausting the process was."

McCarthy is an employment counsellor in Fredericton, who was in Toronto at the time of the incident studying for her PhD.

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