The man said that wearing a mask is "scientifically" proven to make you sick
Police are investigating a video that shows a man going on a racist tirade against staff at an Asian supermarket in Mississauga, Ont., after he was asked to wear a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The video posted to YouTube on July 7 was recorded in a T&T grocery store. It shows a white man yelling racist and anti-mask conspiracy theories at Asian employees after refusing to comply with the store’s policy. While masks are not currently mandatory at grocery stores in Mississauga, unlike neighbouring Toronto, the chain of Asian supermarkets, which is owned by Loblaw, has required masks since May 11.
“The customer was arguing with another customer and store colleagues for several minutes prior to the video footage. When politely asked to wear a mask, which is store policy, the man initially refused because he said it was ineffective. He then became irate and aggressive, claiming to have allergies and then proceeded to claim he and his friend both had asthma,” T&T CEO Tina Lee said in a statement.
“Due to the customer’s behaviour, we stand by the store manager’s decision to ask the customer to leave.”
In the video, the man claims to suffer from asthma before adding that wearing a mask is scientifically proven to make you sick.
“I am going to have the media here and you can all wear your masks and die. You can all get sick,” he says. “When you wear the mask, you get sick, it’s science.”
After the staff ask him to leave the store, the man hurls racist comments at the shopkeepers.
“This is a socialist, communist lie and we got the virus from Wuhan, China. From you guys,” he says.
He also demands one of the employees tell him “where he is from.”
“We’re Canadian. I’m Canadian,” an employee says repeatedly throughout the four-minute video.
“His accusations are unacceptable in our workplace. We are a proud Canadian company employing over 5200 Canadians across the country,” Lee said. “These types of incidents are rare, and we believe most Canadians do not share the same view.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 100,000 times and many commenters had weighed in. Some questioned whether the man was using asthma as an excuse.
“Where’s your inhaler? What’s your trigger? Why aren’t you wearing a mask because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease! Isn’t it amazing how many people suddenly have asthma?” one YouTube user wrote.
Lee said that T&T asks customers with medical conditions to order line or to visit the customer service desk so that staff can complete their shopping for them.
Another commenter, claiming to be a former employee of IRCC (Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), wrote about feeling disappointed after watching the clip.
“As a former IRCC employee, my goal was to alleviate racial discrimination. Unfortunately, based on my experience, I can tell you that racism still exists in many places inside of Canada, even though this country has been embracing multiculturalism and immigrants for decades.”
The video was posted by YouTube user Firenze Yeung, who wrote in the description that he was outraged to see grocery store “heroes” treated in this manner.
“My heart was broken and tears shed… Obviously, Canada is his home! Where is our multiculturalism? Where are our national values?”
I can tell you that racism still exists in many places inside of Canada
The incident is just the latest Canadian example of racism against Asian communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent Angus Reid poll surveyed more than 500 Canadians of Chinese ethnicity about racial discrimination since the beginning of COVID-19. Fifty per cent of respondents said they had been called names or insulted as a direct result of the COVID-19 outbreak, while more than 43 per cent have been threatened or intimidated.
The survey also found that 29 per cent of people had been made to feel as though they pose a health hazard to others just because of their ethnicity.
Peel Regional Police Const. Akhil Mooken said that police are aware of the video and are investigating the incident, which was first reported on July 5.
“The incident was reported to us, however, no details about the man or what was said were given to us. Soon after, the store called back to cancel their report and no action was taken until today when we saw the video and found out what was said,” the police spokesperson told the National Post.
Const. Mooken said that police are gathering information from the supermarket management, and have not yet decided whether any charges will be laid.
Mississauga city council met on July 8 to discuss the possibility of making masks mandatory in indoor public spaces. Mayor Bonnie Crombie told CP24 that she expects a new bylaw will go into effect by Friday, with a week’s grace period to give people a chance to adapt.