Nova Scotia

Sobeys to appeal Andrella David discrimination ruling despite outcry

Sobeys says it will continue its appeal of a discrimination ruling against the company in wake of a large protest outside its Tantallon store on Monday.

Andrella David won racism complaint against the Tantallon store last year

Dozens of people sang songs and spoke to customers about racism outside the Sobeys store. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Sobeys says it will continue with its appeal of a ruling that found the store racially discriminated against a customer, despite a protest outside its Tantallon store on Monday. 

Nearly 100 people showed up carrying signs calling on Sobeys to stop racial profiling. 

Last year, a human rights board of inquiry found that the Halifax-area Sobeys discriminated against Andrella David in 2009. David was waiting in line at the store when an employee came up to her and accused her of being a "known shoplifter in the store." In front of other customers, the Sobeys employee said the store had video footage of David stealing on previous occasions. 

David asked the Sobeys employee to show her the footage so she could prove it was different person. 

"If you think that's me, you must think all black people look alike," David told the employee upon screening the poor-quality footage. 

The board of inquiry agreed that the video was of too poor quality to identify anyone, only that the thief was a black woman with dark hair. The accusations were unfounded and made on the basis of David's skin colour, ruled the human rights board. The employee later admitted she was wrong. 

Sobeys is appealing the board's ruling. 

Rev. Lennett Anderson wants to start open conversations in the community about racism and how to stop it. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

On Monday, dozens of members of the community came out, asking the company to drop the appeal. David did not attend the event. 

"Why drag an innocent woman through this process all over again?" asked Rev. Lennett Anderson, who organized the protest. "Victimizing the victim."

Appeal to continue

The company allowed the demonstration to happen on the doorstep of the grocery store as long as shoppers were allowed to pass freely. Many with grocery carts stopped to listen to the concerns of the crowd. 

"We appreciate everyone's right to express their opinion," said Sobeys spokesperson Shawna Selig.

She said managers have offered to sit down with Anderson to discuss the situation, but have no plans to call off the appeal.

"We don't believe that Ms. David was racially profiled, so we will be going ahead with the appeal."

"We have agreed and acknowledged that the situation wasn't handled properly in store," said Selig. "The way the employee approached her in store did not follow our guidelines."

She says there has been some changes to how Sobeys staff and third-party security firms are trained since the 2009 incident. 

"There's definitely more of an emphasis placed on managing sensitive situations in-store," Selig said. 

Bigger picture

Many said David's case was representative of a much bigger issue in the community. 

"Racism at this day and age should be dead and gone," said Dave Currie. "It's just enough."

Dave Currie says it's ridiculous that racism is still an issue in 2016. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Currie said he was encouraged by the large turnout, describing it as a community standing together. 

"You can't judge a whole community because of one or two people. Any community as far as that goes."

Beatrice Douglas-Simmons asked to hold one of the largest signs at the protest — one that called Sobeys' actions "shameful." She says she was once followed by a security guard in one of their stores. 

"I know they have to do their job, but I'm a person that's in there a lot," she said. "I don't need to be followed around."

She, too, said the company was being unfair to David by filing the appeal. 

"We're giving them them our business. I don't feel like giving someone my business if that's what they're going to do, if they're going to be accusing people of stealing. It's not right."

Anderson said the group will continue to speak out. 

"We totally understand that they have every judicial right to appeal as an institution and as a business. We are very disheartened that Sobeys is continuing to appeal."


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