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Island grocery store apologizes for incident family calls racial profiling

Family says company statement not enough to repair harm from woman’s wrongful removal
Rich Barron and Brenda Urquiaga say an apology from Loblaw does not do enough to repair the harm caused by Urquiaga’s wrongful ejection from the Langford Real Canadian Superstore in August, which they say was a case of racial profiling. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

A Langford grocery store is apologizing after a woman was wrongly removed from the store, but her family says that isn’t enough to make right what they say was a case of racial profiling.

Rich Barron said his partner Brenda Urquiaga, who is Filipino, was shopping at the Langford Real Canadian Superstore on Aug. 12 when she was approached by staff members who took her shopping cart from her and said she needed to leave immediately – without providing any reason why.

Barron said the incident brought Urquiaga to tears and left him disgusted.

“She was told by staff they don’t need to tell her anything, she knows what she did, and they have thousands of hours of her on video ‘doing what she is doing,’ which is absolutely impossible,” said Barron. “What they did to her hurt her, and it’s kind of devastating. She’s never been profiled like this before.”

For Urquiaga, the incident has left a “scar on my mind,” and taken away the joy she used to feel when shopping.

“It feels different anytime I go into any store now. I feel like somebody is always watching me,” said Urquiaga. “Now I only go shopping when we really need something … or if I have my family with me because I feel more OK when they are there with me.”

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In a statement to Black Press Media, Loblaw public relations said a “thorough investigation” was launched into the incident, which determined her removal from the store was “done in error due to mistaken identity.”

“Our customer support team has reached out to the customer to express our sincere apology for both the error and for how the situation was handled,” continued the statement. “We are working with the customer to try and reach a satisfactory resolution in this matter and have committed to providing additional training to our staff to ensure this does not happen again.”

While the corporate statement reaffirms the response Barron eventually received from the Superstore customer service team and the Langford store manager after several attempts by both he and his daughters to get a response, he maintains the company is not going far enough and is attempting to hide what he feels was a case of racial profiling.

Barron said a few days after the incident he eventually got to speak to the Langford store manager by phone, who immediately apologized for the incident and said he was “sick to my stomach all weekend.”

The manager said the removal was a result of a case of mistaken identity because someone dressed like Urquiaga had been shoplifting from the store.

“It’s 100-per-cent profiling, and they were after a dark-skinned person who they thought was shoplifting. It wasn’t because of what she was wearing,” he said.

The manager offered Barron a $250 gift card, which he did not accept, and customer service later offered a $500 gift card, which he has also not accepted.

“I want to put it in the public’s view what they are doing,” said Barron. “You can’t do certain things because of colour without facts to back it up … it’s the grossest thing I have ever seen with no accountability. There has to be accountability.”

Urquiaga said she hopes coming forward with her story will help give a voice to others who have experienced incidents like this, but did not feel comfortable making it public.

“Superstore needs training for their staff on being humane to people, whatever colour they are,” she said.

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Justin Samanski-Langille

About the Author: Justin Samanski-Langille

I moved coast-to-coast to discover and share the stories of the West Shore, joining Black Press in 2021 after four years as a reporter in New Brunswick.
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