For the Retail & Service Sector

The simple act of shopping can be a bad experience for someone who is a visible minority. 

  • Working Better to Serve All Nova Scotians.

Research shows that clerks and security staff at stores can be extra suspicious of a visible minority shopper: They may follow the person around the store, wrongly accuse him or her of theft, or suggest they cannot afford anything in the store.  Other times, for no reason other than the colour of their skin or their ethnic origin, people are made to wait longer in restaurants or given tables in the back of the dining room.  Customers who are members of a visible minority are sometimes even refused service or told there is no vacancy, while other customers continue to be served.

These things happen in Nova Scotia today.   The term for this is “consumer racial profiling," and it is illegal.  Store owners and managers can do things to ensure they treat their customers fairly: First, train staff to not profile customers based upon colour or ethnic origin; Second, ensure staff practice what they are taught.  Hiring visible minority “mystery shoppers” could provide feedback to staff on this issue.  It is important to take seriously customer complaints about racial profiling.   

Retailers or service providers should know that customers who believe they are being profiled may react in a number of ways.  They may:

  • accept the discrimination
  • take their money and their business elsewhere
  • change who they shop with, what they wear, etc.
  • give negative feedback by complaining to the business, and to their friends and acquaintances
  • seek a legal remedy, such as filing a human rights complaint

All this can be avoided by treating all customers fairly, with dignity and respect.