Fil-Canadian in Winnipeg calls out “racism” by staff in hockey game
RED DEER, Alberta – Jomay Marie Amora-Dueck, 40, was excited to bring her 10-year-old nephew to his first major league hockey game on Saturday, Nov. 27.
But what was supposed to be an exciting first hockey game turned into a clash with staff for allegedly discriminating against women of color.
For what she called “an invisible bag of racism” toted by staff, Dueck firmly believes she and her sister, both Filipina Canadians were treated unfairly by employees of True North Sports and Entertainment (TNSE) during the Manitoba Moose game.
TNSE, owner and operator of Canada Life Centre in Winnipeg where the game was held however, denied the alleged racist behavior by its staff following an internal investigation.
When Dueck and her sister arrived at the South Gate 2 of the Canada Life Centre, both were not aware of the no bag policy to enter the facility to watch the game.
A white male staff immediately approached the two, instructing them to put their crossbody bags away for being “too big” and that bags are not allowed into the building “due to Covid-19.”
Dueck’s husband took the bags back to store in their vehicle, leaving behind essentials such as his wife’s menstrual pads and pain medicine for abdominal cramps.
Meanwhile, Dueck, her sister and nephew, stood on the side and waited. Looking on, the two noticed about four Caucasian women pass through the security without hassle. Three of them had cross body bags similar to what they carried.
“One white mother with an obviously huge black tote bag was brought over to what appears to be a screening area, but she was eventually let go. Suddenly, their bags became magically invisible to all the white True North staff there!” she said, in an open letter addressed to TNSE.
Moments later, another Filipina lined up to watch the game with her young kids, also carrying a big blue, handbag.
“Immediately, I saw the old man, same staff that approached us, approaching her, like a lion seeing his new prey. My first reaction was, Oh no. The old man found his new target. What are the odds that the only ones being apprehended are brown women like us?”
At this point, Dueck approached the screening staff and voiced her frustration. A female staff member reasoned bags are permitted for patrons with children, or those with needed medical items.
“But we were with a mother and child, too! Literally everyone who went to the game brought their kids with them. And I brought medicine and menstrual pads, which are essential to a woman who’s got a period,” she said.
In a response to INQUIRER.net, TNSE said its no bag policy including its exemptions apply to all guests equally.
Company spokesman Krista Sinaisky said they are looking into Dueck’s experience and will follow up with her directly.
However, in a letter addressed to Dueck shared with INQUIRER.net, TNSE denied that its employees discriminated against women of color entering the facility to watch the game.
After reviewing the footage during the 30-minute period that Dueck pointed in her letter, “approximately a dozen individuals” were approached by their staff regarding the size of their bags and contents, it said.
“More than half of the guests carrying bags were turned away as the bags did not meet the requirements outlined in our venue’s Health and Wellness Principles and No Bag Policy,” company director for guest experiences Kyle Philipps said.
“The policy focuses on the dimensions of the bag versus the type of bag. Guests with oversized bags for parental or medical purposes are permitted upon successful X-ray search at designated gates,” he said, adding this would explain why some larger bags were permitted.
An indoor bag check option is also available, or the site offers a complimentary privacy bag for guests who wish to bring personal items after their oversized bag is checked.
TNSE maintained it promotes and supports “an environment of inclusivity” and that all employees working inside Canada Life Centre train on venue policies and to provide “a consistent level of service to all guests”.
Dueck, a regional organizer for Climate Reality Project in Manitoba, knew nothing about hockey until meeting her husband, Steve, in 2016who is an avid hockey fan.
Steve took her to another major league team, the Winnipeg Jets in the same year, which got her hooked. “Now I own three Jets jerseys and I proudly wear them on game days and Whiteout Street parties,” she said in interview with INQUIRER.net.
Jomay, who was born and raised in Quezon City, Philippines was a researcher in the Philippine southern island of Mindanao for a major broadcasting company, and wrote for think-tank IBON Foundation.
She first came to Edmonton City in Alberta in 2007 through the temporary foreign worker program. She believes that being an immigrant woman and a former overseas Filipino worker (OFW) was “both a blessing and a curse”.
“I am grateful for all the opportunities that many Filipinos back home could only wish for. I am thankful for the life I have created here and the ability to help my family and our community back home,” she said.
However, it’s not all rosy, she opined. “We are often stereotyped and discriminated against mainly because we looked different. Migrant women like myself are more prepared to take on low paid, low skilled jobs, and do not necessarily enjoy some privileges that our white female counterparts do,” she observed.
Immigrants also typically are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation, getting into “trouble”, and losing their jobs, she said. “That explains why most of us tend to turn a blind eye on injustices at work and in the community,” she added.
Dueck, who acquired her Canadian citizenship in 2014, took the time to explain to her 10-year-old nephew about acting on injustices.
“We couldn’t let an injustice slide like that especially when our child is looking,” she said.
“I understand if you ban bags from the arena. But if you implement a rule, make sure you implement it fair and square. If you let four white women with bags go, you should also let three brown women with bags go, too.”
“We made it to the game without our bags. Meanwhile, the True North staff at the southeast gate – including those who chose not to step up against the racial discrimination unfolding before their eyes – seemed to be carrying with them an invisible bag of racism.”
Dueck said although TNSE denied her claim and hence, did not issue a public apology, she believes that her voice has reverberated among concerned citizens in her community as her open letter to TNSE has been widely shared.
“My family and I are disappointed with TNSE’s condescending attitude and response towards our experience,” she said, arguing that TNSE’s version did not match what they had seen and experienced.
“We appreciate their efforts to conduct a “full investigation”. [But] I want to know how many women were stopped, how many had their bags refused and how many were not white?” she said.
“This is what visible minorities, who lack power, influence and resources, have to face on a daily basis, and it is both infuriating and heartbreaking. Justice is such an expensive commodity that people like us could never afford,” she added.