No frills jane finch

No Frills accused of discrimination with new bag policy at Jane and Finch store

Members of Toronto's Jane and Finch community are speaking out this week against a local No Frills grocery store, decrying its newly-implemented 'no backpack, no trolley, no stroller, no resuable bags' policy.

Described by anti-poverty advocates as "discriminatory, racist, ableist, ageist and sexist," the bag ban went into effect at Durante's No Frills in Yorkgate Mall last Thursday.

"Attention: No backpacks allowed," reads one of several signs posted on the supermarket's door last week. "Effective March 28, 2019... No personal trolleys allowed."

"No storing of groceries under strollers or in reusable bags," reads another illustrated sign. "Baskets and buggies are provided for you."

In an open letter published Wednesday, the grassroots organization Jane Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP) and the Black Creek Food Justice Network ask that the policy be revoked no later than April 5.

"This policy is a direct attack on residents of the Jane Finch community, especially low income individuals and families," reads the letter to Durante's No Frills.

"It is discriminatory, racist, ableist, ageist and sexist. It also does not adhere to accessibility policies that are mindful of the environment."

Request for comment from Loblaw Companies Ltd., which owns No Frills, have yet to be answered and the company will not provide contact information for any of its individual store managers.

It remains unclear at this point as to whether this is a new policy at all No Frills stores, some No Frills stores, or only this store specifically.

Regardless, the JFAAP and Black Creek Food Justice Network argue that it will needlessly hurt people living in the Jane and Finch neighbourhood, which studies have shown to be a "food desert."

"The Jane Finch area is comprised of a large immigrant, newcomer and racialized population, with almost 20% of seniors, many of whom rely on public transportation and use trolleys to transport their groceries," reads the group's letter.

"Not everyone drives, or has access to a car, or can afford to pay for a taxi to take their groceries home. No Frills does not offer complimentary car rides for seniors, single parents and others who do not drive."

The letter also points out that No Frills is already "highly policed and securitized with undercover police officers patrolling the store," suggesting that security concerns can be addressed without banning the use of reusable bags in store.

"You have also failed to align yourself with environmental sustainability concerns, as many of our residents prefer to use trolleys, backpacks and reusable bags to avoid plastic pollution and extra charges," reads the letter.

Supporters are expressing the same sentiment on Twitter as news of the bag ban spreads.

"This is such a terrible move," wrote one local in response to a JFAAP tweet. "No Frills was one of the first chains that provided an incentive for people not to use endless plastic bags. And banning strollers and trolleys says to all of the non-car people that we aren't welcome."

"This is ridiculous on so many levels. Aside from the obvious exclusion of 60 to 70 per cent of the shopping populace; I thought the point of No Frills was you bring your own bags or use their boxes," wrote another. "Secondary, doesn't this conflict with your PC points policy of 'bring your own bags?'"

Some are pointing out that the policy, as stated in a photo of the Yorkgate Mall store's door, does not say that bags can't be used to carry anything home—only that items can't be stored within them (or strollers, or trolleys) while a person is shopping.

JFAAP (and a growing number of Torontonians on Twitter) maintain that the policy is inherently "racist and shameful" given the context and location.

The group says it's hosting a community meeting tonight at 6 p.m. to explore next steps and options.

Update: Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Black Creek Food Justice Network issued the following statement on Wednesday night:

Following our joint statement in which we denounced the Durante’s No Frills’ policy to ban trolleys, strollers, backpacks and reusable bags, and demanded the withdrawal of this policy, the store removed all related signs and apparently cancelled their policy.  This is a small victory for our communities but has opened up many wounds as well. The statement received considerable support within our community and across various social media outlets.  We wholeheartedly thank all of our friends, allies and concerned residents across the City for their solidarity and support.

Due to our response and pressure No Frills decided to remove these signs. However, we have also been getting numerous mixed messages today about the policy and its scopes and whether it still exists or not; for instance, we have heard that Loblaws has a formal policy banning trolleys, backpacks, etc. We have checked a few stores and did not see such signs at their entrances. Nevertheless, we think that such policies anywhere are systemically problematic, sexist, racist, ableist and discriminatory in nature. We also believe that they might be trying to justify this outrageous policy by claiming that they were not targeting Jane Finch or other low income/racialized neighborhoods.

The free market approach that all levels of government have been promoting and perpetuating has given corporations an extraordinary power to not only exploit people and profit immensely from the most basic necessity of our lives, i.e. “Food”, but also to control and keep our communities hostage.

Our immediate demand to remove the racist and discriminatory policy has been achieved, at least for now; again thanks to all neighbors, families and friends across the City and the country. However, as we emphasized in our first statement, we will have to address a number of other serious issues that members of our community continue to face, such as over-policing of the store, the high costs and low quality of healthy food in our community, empty shelves, poor customer service, delayed engagement and responsiveness by management, etc. We stand in solidarity with our friends and siblings working for No Frills and call on them to work with us on all these issues.

We also need a clear commitment from No Frills and Loblaws that such policies would not get adopted and/or implemented in any way, shape, or form in Jane-Finch or any other community.    

The struggle continues! Many thanks again, and in solidarity!

Lead photo by

JFAAP


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