Residential school survivor says she was racially profiled by police officer at Winnipeg store

A residential school survivor says she can’t continue to be a voice encouraging other Indigenous people in her life to trust police, after she says she was racially profiled by a Winnipeg officer this week while shopping.

Vivian Ketchum, 58, said she encountered three officers when she approached the till at the Shoppers Drug Mart at the corner of Notre Dame Avenue and Sherbrook Street on Monday night.

In a video posted to social media, her voice trembles and she takes long pauses while describing the feeling of humiliation when an officer told her to empty her pockets in view of other customers.

“If your face is brown and you walk into a store, you’re going to get treated like a thief,” says Ketchum, an Anishinaabe community activist who has walked with Bear Clan Patrol, in the video. “Why do I feel dirty? I didn’t do anything wrong.”

In an interview with CBC News, she said two police officers she has as Facebook friends reached out after she posted the video, saying they were sorry for what she experienced. 

Despite that, Ketchum said her faith in police is shaken. 

WATCH | Viv Ketchum recounts her experience at Shoppers Drug Mart:

Winnipeg-based residential school survivor alleges racial profiling

16 minutes ago

Duration 5:41

Residential school survivor Viv Ketchum says she didn’t do anything to prompt being searched by police while shopping in Winnipeg on Monday, and is calling it a case of racial profiling.

Ketchum said while shopping Monday, she took her gloves off and put them in her pockets, and then took her phone out and put it back into her pocket while she walked the aisles. 

One of the officers at the till said he saw her placing something in her pocket. She explained the items were her gloves and phone, she said, but he told her to empty her pockets.

“I could see guns on him…. He’s a weaponized police officer,” Ketchum said.

She emptied her pockets, placing her keys, gloves, phone and jacket on the ground. Seeing no proof of a theft, the officer told her she was free to go but offered no apology, she said.

“I have anxiety issues and I’m like dizzy and that; I’m having a hard time picking up the stuff.”

Ketchum suggested even if police or the store suspected her of shoplifting, they could’ve handled things in a less “invasive” way, including taking her out of sight of customers and into an office space.

She also questioned why there was a police presence inside the Shoppers. 

Police aware of video: spokesperson

A spokesperson for Loblaws, Shoppers’ parent company, said the corporation uses a range of security measures across its stores, such as employing off-duty, paid police officers in some areas, including Winnipeg.

“Paid duty security is not new, and this is something we’ve done in other markets for many years,” the spokesperson said.

The company also said it is aware of the incident but suggested CBC News contact police.

In a statement, a spokesperson said the Winnipeg Police Service is aware of Ketchum’s social media video.

Though the incident has not been reported to the service, it is “actively looking into the situation and reaching out to all involved parties,” Const. Dani McKinnon said in a statement.

McKinnon said complaints related to police interactions can be filed with the professional standards unit and Law Enforcement Review Agency.

Ketchum said while this is the first time she’s experienced racial profiling from a police officer, she has felt discriminated against before. Last year, she told CBC News that a security guard asked her to leave a Bank of Montreal location in Winnipeg.

“Probably a lot more incidents like this happen that don’t get seen on Facebook,” she said.

Profiling complaints rise: Human Rights Commission

Ketchum questions whether Indigenous cultural competency training she believes is being offered to police is sinking in.

That training is just a start, said Karen Sharma, executive director of the Manitoba Human Rights Commission.

“It can’t just end with cultural competency,” but must “go into the to areas involving equity, anti-racism and how to ensure that we’re acting in ways that are anti-racist,” she said.

There has been a rise over the past decade in racial discrimination complaints, said Sharma. Within the consumer context, there have been 60 profiling complaints filed in the past five years, she said.

She said Ketchum’s latest experience is something the commission has heard “time and time again.”

“I think it underscores the importance of service providers, people who operate and work at retail businesses, taking the necessary steps to ensure that they know how to identify racial discrimination and racial profiling and that they’re training their staff,” Sharma said.

Ketchum said she has police acquaintances whom she’s met at community events. That’s one reason she has been a voice in the Indigenous community urging faith in police, she said.

“I tell the youth in my community … you can trust the police. After how I was treated tonight, I can’t say that,” she says in the video. “I am going to have to say no, you can’t trust the police anymore.”

Ketchum said she wants action, not an apology, from police.

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