HRTO Ruling: Shoppers employee "influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the stereotype that Black people are thieves"

TORONTO, Oct. 7, 2015 /CNW/ - The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) has found that a woman was racially profiled by staff at her local Shoppers Drug Mart store when accused of shoplifting and searched. 

Mary McCarthy simply wanted to buy some mouth rinse. After searching for the product, she was confronted by an employee who searched her knapsack, found no products in it and walked away without apologizing. The case was heard on three separate dates in September and November of 2013 and September 2014.

Credibility was a major issue in the case.  The store claimed McCarthy left after midnight when the store was closed.  When ordered to, McCarthy produced the receipt showing her departure at 10:29 p.m. The Vice Chair of the Tribunal found "significant inconsistencies" in the company's version of the case and that employees "had discussions shortly before the hearing to tailor and align their testimony."

"I'm relieved," said Mary McCarthy "but frustrated and saddened at the same time. Is this going to keep happening? To me? To other people just trying to go about their daily lives?"

"These kinds of cases are very difficult to prove," said Beth Walden, McCarthy's lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre.  "Mary's decision to see this through was difficult and courageous. A small measure of justice has been achieved and we hope retail managers and their security personnel take note," continued Walden.

The Vice-Chair agreed with the company that it may have been reasonable to be suspicious, however, since the employee "did not see the applicant put a product in her bag, her strong belief that she had done so is completely illogical" and the employee "was unable to provide a single example where she directly confronted and searched the bag of a non-Black individual inside the store.

The Vice Chair found that McCarthy "will feel the negative effects of it for the rest of her life."

SOURCE Human Rights Legal Support Centre

Image with caption: "Mary McCarthy fought against racial profiling and won. (CNW Group/Human Rights Legal Support Centre)". Image available at:

For further information: or to arrange interviews: Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958, Mobile: 416-522-5931


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