The Human Rights Commission is going to work with retailers to help reduce consumer racial profiling and help create better services for Nova Scotians.
This is the conclusion in a report the commission released, today, May 29. A Report on Consumer Racial Profiling in Nova Scotia is the first in Canada to look at when staff treat customers poorly because of their race. The commission found consumer racial profiling is based on stereotypes, and retailers and service providers may not even be aware they are racist.
More often than other ethnic groups in Nova Scotia, Aboriginal people and African Nova Scotians say they are treated poorly when they shop for goods and services. People from all racialized groups, including Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern people, reported being treated poorly by staff far more than white people. Racialized groups include people who are treated unequally because of their race, particularly in ways that matter to economic, political and social life.
“This report is not only valuable for what it tells us, but for the information it provides so we can begin to support business owners and service providers to address these issues,” said commission CEO and director David Shannon. “I want to thank the participants in the study for their honesty and insight that will benefit all of us.”
For the study, the commission talked to 1,219 people from Halifax Regional Municipality, Millbrook, Digby and Sydney between March 28 and Aug. 21, 2012. Most people took part in a survey while others took part in focus groups.
In the focus groups, several participants commented on being made to feel like lower-class or second-class citizens when shopping. Aboriginal people, African Nova Scotians, and Muslims had three things in common. They were targets of offensive language, were treated as if they were physically threatening, and seen as potential thieves.
One participant said, “I was profiled as a black man who was potentially violent, although I was doing everything to make sure I was not.”
Aboriginal people said their rights were not recognized. They said they often had to go to the back of a store to have their tax-free purchases looked after.
Muslims said they were often complimented on their English and asked about their first language. This bothered them because most of these participants were born in Canada and grew up speaking English.
One person described such activities as mentally and emotionally exhausting. Others said they no longer enjoy shopping, but just buy what they need, and then leave. Many said they avoid retailers and service providers who have profiled them in the past.
The commission plans to use the findings of the report and meet with retailers and service providers to improve services to racialized groups. The aim is to teach retailers how to recognize consumer racial profiling and to help them understand the harm it causes, increase awareness of consumer racial profiling, develop training materials and support best practices.
“The report has been a real eye-opener on what many people experience in retail stores,” said commission CEO and director David Shannon. “In light of this report, we encourage businesses to work with us to improve employee training, policies and practices to make the province a welcoming and respectful place for shoppers from all ethnic groups.”
To see the report and executive summaries go to, http://humanrights.gov.ns.ca/ . The summaries are also available in French and Mi’kmaq.