Saskatchewan woman, shopping for elders, questions if race played a part in Walmart confrontation

A Saskatchewan woman buying groceries for her community's elders was kicked out of Estevan's Walmart following a confrontation with the store manager. Files / Global News

A Saskatchewan woman is questioning whether her race played a part when her shopping carts were flagged by customer service before she could pay for her groceries at a Walmart in Estevan.

“I don’t want to play that race card, but I honestly think that may have had something to do with it,” Ramona Knebush said.

Knebush, a member of Pheasant Rump Nakota First Nation, buys what she considers “essential” groceries for the 17 elders in her community.

READ MORE: Grocery stores in Saskatchewan launch ‘senior shopping hour’ amid coronavirus pandemic

It’s something she’s done since February, but the list got longer since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With this going on, we increased our budget so we could get more of the essentials for them,” Knebush said.

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“If I wasn’t doing this, they might not be getting fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, they might not have soups in their kitchen.”

But her shopping trip was cut short Monday.

After filling up two carts with enough produce butter, coffee, sugar, milk and bread for 14 Pheasant Rump households, she was told there was a limit on how much one person could buy.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Walmart Canada to hire 10,000 workers to keep up with demand

Knebush asked to speak to the manager, trying to explain who the groceries were for.

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She said the manager wouldn’t listen to her. He reiterated that there is a limit on products.

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“This was the first time that this has ever happened to me and there was nothing in my cart that was over quantity or was on the restricted list,” Knebush said.

“He said, ‘I have to worry about my community,’” Knebush said.

Knebush confronted him, swearing and saying she is a part of that community.

The manager kicked her out of the store.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Here’s how to apply for EI and the new COVID-19 emergency benefit

In a statement to Global News, Walmart Canada said, “everyone is welcome at Walmart and we are proud to reflect the diverse communities we serve through our associates.”

“Due to the high demand on products, our Estevan store has instituted product limits in order to allow all customers the opportunity to purchase the supplies they need.”

Walmart said this policy is company-wide during the pandemic. There are signs posted in the stores listing which products are limited.

“We are working hard with our suppliers to get products to our shelves as quickly as possible and we hope to be in a place to start to reduce the number of limits we have in our stores soon,” Walmart said.

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“We would encourage everyone to only buy what they need to ensure that everyone can access the essentials.”

Knebush said her items weren’t on Walmart’s restricted list.

Walmart’s Estevan location limits quantities of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, rubbing alcohol and eggs. There is no limit on fresh produce.

After the incident, Knebush said she drove to Walmart in Weyburn, picking up her list of groceries there without a problem.

She said she’s trying to contact Walmart Canada to submit a formal complaint.

Knebush said she wishes the Estevan manager had listened to her explanation and handled the situation better. She also regrets how she reacted.

“I wish that when this was going on with him that I didn’t cuss twice. I’m upset with myself that I let him get me to that point,” Knebush said.

Knebush said she hopes others who are trying to help loved ones during this pandemic don’t experience the same thing she did.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

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Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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