Morris Home Hardware facing human rights complaint

The owner of Morris Home Hardware in Ottawa is being accused of discrimination following an interaction with a First Nations customer on Thursday.

Discrimination complaint

CBC News: Ottawa at 6:00

7 years ago
A First Nations woman claims she was discriminated against at Morris Home Hardware. 3:16

The owner of Morris Home Hardware on Wellington Street is being accused of discrimination following an interaction with a First Nations customer on Thursday.

Cecile Dumont claims that she was discriminated against at Morris Home Hardware on Thursday. (CBC)
Cecile Dumont, a retired Bell Canada employee, told CBC News the incident happened Thursday morning when she requested a provincial sales tax exemption for a $17 purchase of some replacement window screen for her cottage.

When buying most personal items, status Indians don't have to pay the provincial tax portion of the bill. To get the exemption, they show a government-issued status card to the cashier.

But when she presented the card, Dumont said a cashier told her the store doesn't accept the cards. Dumont said she tried to explain the exemption to the cashier.

"Then she shouted out, 'Hey Mike. There's a lady here that thinks that she should be tax-exempt.' She shouts this out in the store for everybody to hear," Dumont said.

Owner 'told me to get out,' Dumont claims

"Mike" is Mike Morris, the owner of the Wellington Street store. According to Dumont, he brusquely told her everyone pays the tax. She claims he refused to listen to anything she said and then took the window screen from her.

Morris Home Hardware is located on Wellington Street West in Ottawa, near Holland Avenue. (CBC)
"He immediately snatched that out of my hand and told me to get out of the store, that I wasn't welcome there," Dumont said.

"And I said, 'Well, you can't kick me out of your store. I haven't done anything wrong. All I'm trying to do is exercise my rights.'

"And that's when he came out from behind the counter and opened the door and told me to get out. So I told him that I was going to pursue this because I didn't like the way that I was treated there, and that I had never been kicked out of a store in my life. And he just told me to get out."

Morris refused to speak on camera to a CBC reporter, but acknowledged on the phone that he doesn't accept Indian status cards.

Morris claims Dumont was abusive to cashier

He denies being rude or discriminatory, and said he told Dumont to leave and never come back because she was abusive to his cashier. He claims she went "ballistic."

Isabelle Claude, a friend of Dumont, says Morris "wasn't very nice" to Dumont. (CBC)
Dumont said that's not true.

"I didn't use any profane language. And to be thrown out of a store? It's mind-boggling," she said.

Her version of the story is backed up by a longtime friend, Isabelle Claude, who was with Dumont at the time.

Claude said she left the store after Morris first asked Dumont to leave, and waited outside until Dumont was kicked out.

"He wasn't very nice is all I can say. I wouldn't go back in the store, the way he talked," Claude said.

"He wasn't yelling, but the different things he was saying, he should give a person a chance. If he wants people to come back to his store, he shouldn't treat them like that."

After getting kicked out of the store, Dumont headed to a Home Depot where she said she purchased the same kind of window screen using her status card.

Dumont is now in the process of making a written complaint to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. She said she's not after any financial compensation, and she wants to ensure other First Nations people are not treated the same way.

Morris said he's got security camera video footage showing exactly what happened, but he refused to show it to CBC News.