Edmonton mall removes ban, apologizes to aboriginal outreach worker
EDMONTON – On Thursday, City Centre Mall rescinded the six-month ban issued to Gary Moostoos, an aboriginal outreach worker and spiritual elder with Boyle Street Community Services.
“On behalf of Edmonton City Centre, I want to apologize to Gary Moostoos for the unacceptable treatment he received at our mall on Monday, October 27,” said Olympia Trencevski, the mall’s general manager.
“I spoke with Mr. Moostoos by telephone today and apologized to him and let him know we have rescinded the ban that we issued to him. We are respecting his request for privacy as he reflects on the unacceptable treatment he received from our security contractor. It is my hope that in the future he affords me the privilege of apologizing to him in person,” the statement read.
However, Moostoos said he received a phone call and was told the ban was lifted, but he stressed no apology was given. Moostoos said the person on the phone wanted to apologize in person, but he felt hounded by them, and hung up. He said Thursday evening that he does not accept an apology at this time. He plans to call mall officials on Monday “on his own terms.”
Moostoos he was eating in the food court on Monday night when he was approached by mall security.
He said the security guards told him they needed to run his name because he looked like someone who was banned from the mall.
He was asked for identification, which he handed over. Moostoos said when the guards ran his name, it came up clear.
He asked the guards: “Why are you doing this? It’s not right.”
Moostoos said he was told by a mall security manager that he has a history of being confrontational and associates with people who have been banned from the mall and have criminal backgrounds.
After a 10-minute discussion – which he captured on video – he was banned from the mall and asked to leave.
Moostoos shared his story on Facebook and it quickly spread across social media.
The executive director of Boyle Street said there was a larger issue at play.
Julian Daly said, while this was the first time a colleague had experienced such treatment, several clients have been asked to leave the mall or banned.
“A number of our clients – and it seems to be particularly aboriginal clients – are asked to leave the mall or barred for reasons that are either unclear or seem to be almost non-existent.”
Mayor Don Iveson responded Wednesday, saying he was concerned.
“Reconciliation is a long journey, and we still have many steps to take,” he wrote on Facebook.
“We won’t end prejudice overnight, however I do hope that mall management uses this opportunity to consider its role in the larger journey of reconciliation and its role as a gathering place in the heart of our city.”
The mall initially said it was reviewing the incident, watching the video, and speaking with those involved.
On Thursday, it said the six-month ban had been lifted and action taken.
“When made aware of the incident, we reviewed our security video, plus the video that Mr. Moostoos shared with media,” said Trencevski.
“We have interviewed staff involved and as a result, we are making changes immediately.
“All of our front line staff have been briefed on the incident and we have made it clear that what happened on Monday is completely unacceptable. We will immediately require all staff, including mall management, to undergo cultural sensitivity training in order to ensure any forms of discrimination are eliminated.
“We have been in contact with the office of Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson, who offered to share the City’s reconciliation workplace learning program materials through its Aboriginal Relations Office. We will accept this offer, and will work with them to implement this immediately,” added Trencevski.
“It is our goal that Edmonton City Centre be a safe and welcoming place. Clearly we failed to deliver on this goal on Monday with the unacceptable treatment of Mr. Moostoos and for that we are truly sorry.”