It wasn’t just a kerfuffle over creamers, according to a prominent First Nations artist from Fort Langley.
Brandon Gabriel’s dining experience at a Nanaimo Ricky’s All-Day Grill location was all over Facebook this week after he alleged racial profiling at the restaurant.
Gabriel, who now lives in Nanaimo, went out for brunch on Tuesday morning (Feb. 4) with his three-year-old daughter and brother-in-law.
After the child drank all the coffee creamers that had been set out on the table, Gabriel said he asked for more creamers and a coffee refill.
He said he was denied the creamers, told they were for coffee, not for children to drink. A couple at the adjacent table then asked for more creamers and their request was granted.
“I felt that there was a discriminatory-motivated excuse for [staff’s] actions,” said Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation, who e-mailed a statement to Black Press.
He asked to speak to a manager and he said the incident escalated into a “very confrontational situation” that made him emotional and upset. His Facebook post from that day, in which he alleged racial profiling, has been shared nearly 2,000 times as of Sunday afternoon (Feb. 9).
In the posting, Gabriel said he “indicated I am willing to pay for the extra creamers and they could just add it to my bill” but the manager refused.
“[She said] that creamers are not an item they can charge for, but I had abused their policy about it, and therefore was no longer able to have it served at my table.”
Ricky’s provided an e-mailed statement, saying “we take matters such as the incident reported … extremely seriously” and that it has been investigated.
“We would like to take this opportunity to state that while this incident was unfortunate, causing concern among guests at the restaurants and our loyal Ricky’s patrons across Canada, that no racial-oriented language or actions occurred by our staff. We apologize for any miscommunication or misinterpretation of the events,” the statement concludes.
Gabriel said he respectfully disagrees with the restaurant’s response.
“The debacle was hurtful for all involved, and nobody involved in the matter will come out of this feeling absolved by the event in a meaningful or conciliatory way by the looks of it at this juncture,” Gabriel said. “But I do wish that it ends on a much more respectful note.”
He told another media organization earlier this week that he wished for a public apology and a refund on his meal, but told Black Press that for reasons of privacy and a love for the Nanaimo community, he doesn’t want more negative attention on the matter.
“We wish to bring forth an end to this incident that occurred at Ricky’s Restaurant in north Nanaimo in a good way,” Gabriel said.
On Monday, Gabriel said “online social commentary sections of media sites across the country are littered with statements that are false and misleading about my experience with my family at a restaurant in Nanaimo.”
He complained coverage of the case by Black Press and other media outlets was “designed to entice readers into galvanizing opinions, and nothing more.”
“The narrative created sets readers up for an alarmist aura around a situation that is being handled respectfully, tactfully, and amicably by both parties in the situation,” Gabriel went on to say.
Gabriel, a member of the Kwantlen First Nation in Langley, recently went to court to sue Langley Township Councillor Eric Woodward for defamation.
Gabriel, who is the nephew of Kwantlen Chief Marilyn Gabriel, is also one of the people who presented a petition last year that called for an end to hereditary rule and for the Langley-area band to work together on a change in governance.
The Kwantlen First Nation has just under 300 members, many of them related.