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An Indigenous Holt Renfrew Montreal Customer Is Speaking Out After A 'Demeaning' Incident

The customer says their experience is not unique.

Senior Editor
A Holt Renfrew storefront sign in Calgary.

A Holt Renfrew storefront sign in Calgary.

In an Instagram post, an Indigenous person describes what they call a traumatic experience at the Holt Renfrew department store in Montreal when employees denied their status card.

Holt Renfrew has issued a public apology for its employees' actions and made commitments to, in the company's words, "ensure this never happens again." But the individual (who asked not to be named in this story) told MTL Blog they're still personally waiting to hear back from Holt Renfrew.

They also say that such experiences aren't unique in Indigenous communities.

What happened?

The incident occurred on Saturday, March 26. The customer said they faced intimidation and ignorant statements from Holt Renfrew employees after trying to purchase two items with their status card.

Indian status holders are entitled to tax exemptions on purchases in certain circumstances.

"WE WERE TREATED WITH THE UTMOST INDIGNITY AND COMPLETELY DISMISSED BC MY STATUS CARD WAS 'EXPIRED,'" the Instagram post reads.

The status does not expire and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) has extended card validity through May 1, 2022, due to the pandemic even if the cards are past their expiration date.

The Holt Renfrew customer said they tried to "educate" a sales clerk but were eventually escorted out of the store.

"IT WAS DEGRADING, EMBARRASSING AND TRULY TRAUMATIC FOR ME," the individual said on Instagram.

"What was supposed to be a fun weekend of eating and shopping quickly turned into a nightmare," they wrote in the caption.

"As an intergenerational survivor of the residential school system, I need more than words to remedy the harm this has caused."

A common experience

"One of the biggest sources of fear and anxiety for indigenous consumers is utilizing tax exempt. Ask any of us," they continued. "There is no dignity in the process."

"This happens to so many of us, in so many spaces where we aren’t understood or accepted."

Holt Renfrew issued an apology on Instagram, saying employee actions, "while not intended to come from a place of discrimination, were not acceptable."

The company committed to accepting all status cards regardless of the expiration date. It also said it would implement new "employee training on escalation processes."

In a message to MTL Blog, the customer said they "appreciate Holt taking some accountability" but called the apology the "bare minimum."

They said they want to see more details about the steps Holt Renfrew is taking to address the situation and are still waiting to hear from the company about personal restitution.

The experience also speaks to a wider issue.

"This is not a unique experience," they said. "It is simply the illumination of an issue that has existed for a long time and negatively affected many people in my community."

This article’s cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

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