Rexall PharmaPlus has apologized after two Indigenous teenagers say they were made to feel like thieves in its Comox Centre Mall store last weekend in British Columbia.
The apology came after the mother of one teen sent an email to the company’s head office about how her 15-year-old daughter and 17-year-old friend say they were treated.
“I’m impressed with Rexall’s response,” Carla Voyageur said of a promise by a senior manager to visit the store, speak to employees, and provide “sensitivity training.”
Voyageur said a “rude” female manager at the Rexall told them they were under surveillance.
Before that, at a different store, a male employee asked to see their hands were empty before they left the store.
Her daughter’s friend vented her frustrations on social media.
“Is this how native women are treated??” the teen wrote. “As if we are thiefs and want to attempt to steal at one store – which we were NOT.”
Voyageur said the girls told her they were followed, stared at and made to feel badly about themselves while browsing makeup at the stores.
The teen added in her post: “I doubt you’d have treated two non-Indigenous people with such disrespect.”
Voyageur said her family moved to Vancouver Island a few months ago from Manitoba. She said they have now received warnings about “racism in the Comox Valley.”
A spokesman for Rexall confirmed receiving the mother’s complaint.
“On behalf of Rexall, we sincerely apologize for this unfortunate situation,” spokesman Derek Tupling said in an email to APTN News.
“We take every complaint very seriously, and following a thorough review of the circumstances, this situation should have been handled differently…The store manager will also be reaching out to both individuals directly and inviting them back to the store to apologize in person.”
Voyageur said the incident generated a family discussion about how the girls behaved in the store and what kind of customer service they should expect. She said they told her this never happens when they are with “non-Aboriginal friends.”
Voyageur noted complaints were made to both stores but only Rexall responded.
“These are responsible, goal-oriented teenagers,” she said. “I’m sorry this happened to them and for them.”