Chilliwack, British Columbia Canada November 12 2018
Mike Wilson said he’s been turning it over in his head since Friday and can’t shake the feeling that what he faced at the hands of security guards at the Chilliwack Library was racial discrimination.
A Hope resident for nearly his whole life, 66-year-old Wilson often takes the bus to Chilliwack to do some shopping downtown. After being asked to leave and followed out of the Chilliwack Library by three security guards Friday, Nov. 2, Wilson is quite sure what he faced that day was discrimination for being Indigenous.
That afternoon Wilson had with him a backpack and a wheeled shopping bag, the kind people use to lug their groceries home. In his shopping bag, he had a big coat with him that he had just gotten dry cleaned.
With his items in tow, he stopped into the Chilliwack Library at 45860 First Ave to kill some time before the bus back home to Hope was scheduled to leave. He had been sitting at a round table on his tablet for about half an hour, using the public WiFi, when a security guard approached him and told him he had to leave.
“I said ‘well, why?’ and she’s looking at my backpack and she goes ‘there’s too much’,” he said.
Wilson told the security guard he was a library member and he was waiting for the bus. The guard replied that doesn’t matter, repeating he had too many things with him.
The security guard then got another guard and a few minutes later a third approached.
“I felt like they were belittling me. Discrimination, prejudice. And I said that when I left, I talked to the librarian there…I said ‘this is prejudice’,” Wilson said, adding he is quite sure the behaviour of the guards was because he is First Nations.
“I’m pretty sure, that’s what it felt like to me because I’ve been there before but they were applying pressure…They were just waiting for me to do something because there were three of them.”
As he gathered his things and prepared to leave, the guards followed him out. “I know where the door is, leave me alone,” was what Wilson said he told the guards. The guards didn’t say anything else to Wilson.
Having spent his childhood visiting the Hope Library, Wilson said he has never faced this kind of treatment at the local branch.
“They should do something different, if somebody has got bags, just ask people to put your cart behind the desk and they will look after it. That’s what a lot of the thrift stores down there do,” he said.
“You don’t expect that from a library because I’ve been in (the Hope) library forever, it seems like.”
In a phone call and email statement to the Hope Standard, Nicole Glentworth, manager of the library branch in downtown Chilliwack said the library is open to all and library staff do all they can to ensure the library is a ‘welcoming and safe place for all customers.’
Without knowing the details of the situation, Glentworth said Wilson was most likely asked to leave because his items were a security hazard.
“Sometimes we do have issues with people bring in a lot of their belongings and if it causes an issue of safety, I guess blocking between the shelves or if it’s a tripping hazard we ask them either to remove their bags or ask them to leave depending on what the situation is,” she said.
Glentworth stated the library is reviewing the incident to understand what happened. “We regret that one of our customers had a negative experience, and we want to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” she stated.
Griffin Investigation and Security Services, the company which provides security to the library, stated they could not comment on the incident.