Larry House of Chisasibi has filed with the Quebec Human Rights Commission in Rouyn Noranda.
His claim is against the Journey’s End Motel in Val d’Or. He claims discrimination was a factor when he was refused a room at the motel.
House recounted that in December of ’94 after arriving into town the motel was his first stop. He thought it strange when Isabelle, the receptionist, said there were no rooms. He walked out and drove around the motel and saw there were “no more than 10 cars in the lot.”
He drove to L’Escale, a nearby motel, and got a room. He phoned the Journey’s End 800 number for reservations and asked about rooms. He was told there were “lots of rooms.” He then went back to Journey’s to ask why he was refused. Visibly distressed the receptionist said, “It was full.”
“I just called the 800,” he replied. House said she then blurted, “Because you’re Indian, I don’t know what you’re going to do.” He told her he was going to make a complaint. The next day he called the Human Rights Commission. He was sent five pages to fill out.
In his claim he asked for: an apology from Journey’s End Motels, stop the racist policy, $100 “exemplary” damages and expenses at L’Escale. Since then he’s received a written apology, a $100 cheque plus a free weekend. House didn’t cash the cheque and wants to see the outcome from the Commission. He wants to see this through because after the apologies and everything he wondered whether it would be business as usual. Due to policy the Commission would neither confirm nor deny that it was handling such a case.
Mary-Anne Hoelscher, regional director for Journey’s End, said she was very sorry about what happened and stressed it was an isolated incident.
“We spend a lot of money to make sure every customer is treated with dignity and respect,” said Hoelscher,
“and unfortunately we missed out on this one.”
Not inn’s philosophy Hoelscher said the offending employee’s actions in no way represent the philosophy of Journey’s End and that other employees were shocked at the desk clerk’s attitude. “Needless to say, she is no longer with us,” she added.
As soon as management learned about the incident the woman was suspended and she has since been fired altogether.
“All the other employees agreed with the decision that she should not be part of their team,” Hoelscher said. “We have no room for someone like that.”
While stressing the treatment of Larry House was an isolated incident at Journey’s End, Hoelscher admitted she has heard about mistreatment of Native people by other businesses in Val d’Or. She said it is a real shame, because Native people bring millions of dollars to the town and if people aren’t treated well, one day the town might lose that business.
Asked why he filed with the Commission House said, “I knew nothing would be done” if he didn’t file. He added, “I felt I was wronged. After all my money’s green.”