Imagine if you will, a man dedicated to helping those in need. A community worker. An activist. A cultural advisor. Someone who is true to his roots, and true to his personal and spiritual beliefs. A man respected by politicians, business leaders, and the everyday man and woman. A man whose work is recognized across Canada. A man who is known by the media, the police, and many communities for the good work he does. A man who has helped many turn their lives around so they, too, could help others in need.
In other words, a man we would be proud to count among our persona and professional friends and acquaintances.
What would you say if I told you that such a man was approached by security guards in a shopping mall and accused of looking like a suspicious person?
What would you say if I told you that such a man was approached by security guards in the food court of a shopping mall and accused of portraying suspicious activity as he ate noodles that were purchased from one of the food court vendors?
What would you say if I told you that such a man was approach by security guards who then called their supervisor who then issued a six-month ban from the shopping mall and all properties owned by the corporation that owned that shopping mall?
What would you say if I told you that such a man was escorted off the premises by no fewer than twelve security guards even though he kept his composure while asking questions about the allegations being made against him?
You would be offended.
You would be shocked.
You would be alarmed that this could happen to such a good man.
Now what if I told you that this is exactly what happened to Gary Moostoos, cultural advisor for the Boyle Street Community Services, while he was eating a meal in the food court at Oxford Properties’ City Centre mall?
What if I told you that Gary Moostoos told the security guards that they see him at City Centre Mall every day because he shops there, he has meals in the food court, and he walks through the mall on his way to work?
What if I told you that the security guard supervisor took his picture and said he was banned because he associated with known criminals and people that have been banned from the mall?
NOTE: One of the many things Gary Moostoos does as part of his job as an outreach worker is to meet with the homeless people who gather at the mall?
What if I told you that this appears to have been racial profiling as Gary Moostoos is a well-respected Elder?
What if I told you that racial profiling of Indigenous peoples isn’t a rare occurence?
What if I told you there was video of what happened to Gary Moostoos?
What if I told you that after this happened, it was determined by City Centre Mall management that mistakes had been made?
And what if I told you that in keeping with our ways, a peaceful demonstration was held on Friday to make it known that this kind of behavior is morally, ethically, and legally wrong?
Now ask yourself this: If this story hadn’t been reported by the media, would the outcome have been the same?
Then ask yourself this: If the outreach worker had been from another culture or race, would this have happened?
Then ask yourself this: If it you believe it would have happened regardless of race, why do you believe this? Conversely, if you believe it would have happened to some but not to others, why do you believe this?
What happened to Gary Moostoos is unacceptable, especially in this day and age. So why did it even happen at all?