Young black Montrealer claims she’s losing work over her hair

MONTREAL — A hostess at Madison’s Grill in downtown Montreal said she believes she’s been a victim of discrimination.

The 19-year-old told Global News she was recently forced to go home when she showed up for work with braids in her hair.

Lettia McNickle feels she’s been discriminated against by her Montreal employer. Anne Leclair/Global News

“I braid my hair a lot, I’m African-American, we do that you know!” said Lettia McNickle.

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After investigating the incident, the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR) has filed a complaint with Quebec’s Human Rights Commission on behalf of McNickle.

McNickle started working at Madisons New York Bar and Grill in October and had several shifts a week until her boss allegedly confronted her about her hair.

“I came in and she had a fit. She didn’t hold it in any more. She said it’s ridiculous,” said McNickle, who then called her mother in tears.

“The funny part is all the staff all the customers, they loved my hair, they were complimenting me on my hair!”

Watch: Global Montreal’s original story with Lettia McNickle

Her mother, who happens to be a hairdresser, was heartbroken when she heard what happened.

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“She was so frantic on the phone, I felt her pain right away,” said Huelette McNickle.

“I knew it was some racist comment and I’m like, ‘Not in this day and age, not in Quebec, not in Canada!'”

It’s not the first time the mother-daughter duo have heard about black women feeling the heat over their hairstyle.

“It’s an undercurrent and I often say, “There is racism here and it’s sad that our children have to go through this, even though we have passed through it,” said McNickle’s mother, who owns the Hands of Blessings hair salon in Cote-des-Neiges.

Lettia McNickle with her mother, Huelette McNickle, at the Hands of Blessings hair salon in Cote-des-Neiges. Anne Leclair/Global News

The owners of Madison’s Grill weren’t willing to speak on camera, but told Global News Lettia is still on the payroll. They said she hasn’t had many shifts lately because she isn’t always available.

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“They cut my hours for three weeks now,” said Lettia.

Her mother said she would like an apology.

“You can’t do that. It’s wrong.”

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