Police in Halifax are investigating a workplace incident after a former Leon’s furniture employee told a human rights tribunal a statue was symbolically lynched at a store in Dartmouth, N.S.
Elsworth Bottomley first brought his story to the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on Wednesday. He said the statue was just one incident of racial discrimination.
Bottomley, who is black, said he was called the N-word and that a fellow driver made denigrating comments about the intelligence of black people.
Bottomley also said a Leon's manager told him he worried about sending two black delivery drivers to a job because that would intimidate customers.
Finally, Bottomley told the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission that someone hung a black statue in a window at the store three weeks ago, simulating a lynching.
He said the 45-centimetre-high statue, which Leon’s offers for sale, was dangled by the neck with tape.
"It was a display meant for me to see and everyone else to witness. I do feel it was a hate crime," he said.
Bottomley said he gave Halifax police a statement, but he doesn’t feel they are pursuing the matter as vigorously as he'd like.
"You just feel like there's no one there right now to fight for me. I mean where do you turn to? It doesn't feel like there's any hope," he said.
A police spokeswoman said an investigation is underway.
“Absolutely we're taking this seriously. As soon as it came in we had officers assigned, they went and talked to the complainant, and have been carrying it forward ever since,” said Lauren Leal.
“It could be anything, it could be threats, it could be harassment. That sort of thing. But until we are able to look at all of the information in a totality, we can't really make a call at this point.”
Leon's said the statue-hanging incident was offensive, and cannot be tolerated.
It said two employees have been fired and other staff have received diversity and sensitivity training.
Bottomley’s story emerged as a human rights board of inquiry investigates another alleged case of racial discrimination at the same store. Garnetta Cromwell, also black, alleges a Leon’s manager referred to her employee evaluation as a lynching.
On Thursday, the board decided Bottomley's testimony could not be entered as evidence in Cromwell's case.
The decision doesn't stop his own complaint with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission .
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