B.C. experts weigh in on ‘speak English’ racist rant in Burnaby drugstore

posted on November 2, 2019

By Vancouver Sun |

The rant was unacceptable, most say. If it was about bad customer service, complaining to management is the proper approach

The video lasted just under two minutes, but its content has sparked a conversation that has lasted for days. Some online commentators have labelled the unidentified woman’s angry tirade towards the Burnaby drugstore employee as racist and a symptom of deeper, simmering problems in our community. Others described it as poor customer service. Others chalked it up to bad behaviour and even worse parenting. Postmedia reached out to some local leaders for their take on video and the lessons it can teach us. 


Convener, Canadian Friends of Hong Kong

The incident is a full display of how disrespectful, insensitive and aggressive one could be, if angry, and how damaging these traits could be in a multicultural setting. The customer is extremely rude and disrespectful. Her rants are hurtful, demeaning and unacceptable. Worse, she did it in front of a child, apparently her child.

If she has found any staff behaviour unacceptable or offensive, she could have chosen to communicate her message across in a respectful manner, to the staff and/or to management or to corporate headquarters. The management surely will examine the validity of her complaint. However, by telling the staff to go elsewhere, her remark, racist in nature, is meant to hurt and to make people feel alienated and excluded.

We don’t have the video of the earlier incident that triggered the ranting. According to The Vancouver Sun, two staff communicated in a language that the customer did not understand while she was being served. If so, then what worries me more is the business practice or retail culture that allows staff to communicate with one another in a way/language that others don’t understand. This is very disrespectful to those who are present, making them feel insecure and excluded. We should bear in mind that this is a retail setting, a public environment that should make everyone present feel safe, comfortable and welcome. Even in a social or casual setting in private, we all know it is disrespectful to speak in a language unknown to other participants involved. We were taught this in kindergarten.

Both sides have demonstrated how ugly things can become when people are made to feel “otherness” or as “an alien.” It is high time for all of us to stop, ponder and learn to be a good neighbour to others.


B.C. parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism

Burnaby is my home, and I’m filled with sadness that someone chose to treat a person simply trying to do their job with such hostility and disrespect. The racist, hate-filled language directed at the employees working at the store was truly shocking and disturbing, and my heart goes out to them. I’d like them to know that their community, and their government, stands beside them.

As a society, we are at a critical moment. Too many people are facing racism and discrimination, and it’s time for all of us as British Columbians to say enough.

In my new role as parliamentary secretary for multiculturalism, I think every day about how I can use my position to help bring about change. I believe that one of our most powerful weapons in fighting against hatred is building connections with each other as people.

I’m optimistic that we can create a better future, and a world where people treat each other with dignity and kindness, because we all have the same basic desires. We all want to live freely. We want to be able to express ourselves. And we want to live in a world where our families, friends, colleagues and neighbours feel safe.

And so I encourage everyone in B.C. to think about how you, too, can be a part of this change through the small choices we each have everyday. We can choose to lend a hand to someone who may be having a hard time. We can choose to learn about a custom or history we hadn’t known about previously. And we can simply offer a smile to someone in our community, who we may not have connected with before.

For our part, the B.C. government is having these conversations every day. We’re asking ourselves how we can better support communities in bringing about positive change. We are working to put supports in place that will help create safer spaces for everyone to live in. One way we’ve done this is by re-establishing the Human Rights Commission to promote and protect human rights for all people in B.C. But we know that there is much more we can do as a government to create a better future, and will continue to focus on celebrating diversity, building connections, and fighting against racism and hate.


Diversity and inclusion strategist and facilitator

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