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
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."
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
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.