Downtown Chibougamau’s only hotel has a new policy that has Cree patrons complaining of discrimination.

Many Crees staying at the Hotel Chibougamau, also known as the Chibougamau Inn, report being asked for a $250 insurance deposit per room or a credit card number in case of damages.

Willie Mitchell of Mistissini said he was asked for a deposit for the first time in December, even though he’s stayed at the hotel many times in the past and never caused any damage.

Mitchell said a hotel receptionist told him: “That’s what happens. You people break our rules. I just work here.”

Abel Wapachee and Josie Jimiken of Nemaska reported similar stories.

Hotel manager Roseanne Poirier said all guests are now being asked for a deposit or credit card, regardless of race.

“It’s a guarantee we need,” she said. “I’ve had a lot of damages. We have to protect ourselves.”

To see if non-Natives are also being asked, Roger Orr of Nemaska made a reservation at the Chibougamau Inn on January 24.

He phoned claiming to be “Brian Murphy,” coming to town from Timmins, Ont.

Orr said he didn’t have a credit card and asked if a deposit was needed. “No, no, no, there’s no problem,” he says he was told.

Another Cree called the hotel a few minutes later, saying he was coming into town from Nemaska. The receptionist said she needed a credit card number.

“It’s impossible,” said Poirier. “It’s something we ask from everyone. I never generalize. A client is a client.”

She claimed both Crees were asked for a credit card.

But Orr stands by his version. “I would call that discrimination,” he said. “What they don’t realize is that 80 to 90 per cent don’t do any damage.”

Poirier maintains that her hotel’s deposit policy is no different than at other hotels.

“I go to Montreal, Quebec City. It’s the same everywhere.”

The day before she spoke with The Nation, she said a non-Native guest at her hotel left without paying his bill.

Fortunately, she said, hotel staff had taken his credit card number so he is still being charged.