A First Nations group welcomes the public apology of a Vancouver hotel following allegations of anti-Indigenous racism, but will not return for its major events.
BC Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres said last week that a “deeply respected cultural and spiritual advisor” suffered trauma and humiliation after a Vancouver Hyatt Regency employee denied him access to a washroom “despite repeated pleas to use the toilet.”
“After a fourth and urgent request to enter the restroom, the Hyatt Regency again barred access until the cultural advisor could no longer control their need to use the toilet, resulting in a public and humiliating incident,” BCAAFC said in a statement.
According to the man, the employee went on to mock him and “smirked after noticing wet clothes.”
The alleged incident happened on Feb. 24 as the association was hosting a two-day membership meeting.
The advisor, said to be in his early 40s and facing a medical condition, received a brief apology and a voucher for breakfast, according to the association.
The next day, association executive director Leslie Varley was denied the opportunity to speak with higher level management. In turn, the group concluded their planned meeting and left the hotel.
Varley then called for a public apology.
General Manager Patrick Gosselin issued that apology Wednesday (March 15).
“We have empathy for the pain this has caused him,” Gosselin said. “We deeply regret that the BCAAFC Cultural Advisor felt discriminated against at our hotel as this is not aligned with our purpose to care for people so they can be their best.”
Gosselin also said the hotel would, among other steps, immediately retain “a cultural advisor on Indigenous culture and issues affecting Indigenous people to train all our staff to understand the larger issue of systemic racism affecting Indigenous people.”
Varley had called for additional training.
The hotel also promised to work with BCAAFC and other Indigenous organizations to learn how it “can help hire – and find meaningful ways to support, develop and retain – Indigenous people at all levels.”
BCAAFC issued a statement Thursday (March 16) welcoming the apology.
“While the Hyatt Regency’s immediate response was disappointing and deeply troubling, we are grateful that the hotel is now taking steps to address this incident as seriously as it should,” it reads. “We honour the humility that the Hyatt Regency Vancouver has shown in its conclusion and look forward to the engagement that will follow its proposed actions.”
But BCAAFC also confirmed it will no longer hold its 1,000-person annual youth leadership training event at the hotel, with which it has had a long history.
“Gathering Our Voices will now be held at other venues, including the Fairmont Vancouver, Fairmont Waterfront, and Templeton Secondary,” it reads. “We deeply appreciate the many organizations that reached out offering their space.”