A Quebec pharmacy chain has come under fire for blocking off products made for Black and curly-haired customers amid the province’s COVID-19 restrictions.
On Dec. 29, Kelsey Walker, 33, saw a post from a friend showing that the section for Black haircare products at a local Uniprix store was closed, while other shampoos — like Pantene, for example — were still available.
“I decided that the next day I was going to go just to ask some questions because it didn’t make sense to me,” she told BuzzFeed News.
The next day she visited the store, located in Montreal’s LaSalle borough, with two friends and brought her phone to record. She quickly found the shelf which was marked off with green tape and a sign that said “section fermée.”
Quebec is currently under a province-wide lockdown that was just extended into February. Under the lockdown, nonessential businesses must close, and other businesses, like pharmacies and Walmart, must block off products not considered essential.
“The owner explained that she wasn’t the one who oversaw things being blocked off. They had received a list from head office,” said Walker. The manager who actually oversaw what was blocked off wasn’t present that day, they told her.
The owner noted some other things had been miscategorized, such as foot care products.
“I asked her, ‘If you noticed one thing didn’t make sense, why didn’t you take a walk around the store?'”
Walker captured the exchange in a video uploaded to Instagram.
“I’m a Black person. I have natural hair. My hair cannot use these products,” Walker tells the owner in the video, pointing the camera to the shampoo that was not blocked off.
Walker contacted Uniprix, who she said sent back a “generic message.” After her video went viral, the chain also posted a message on social media saying it was an “isolated mistake and has been corrected,” along with an apology.
BuzzFeed News has reached out to Uniprix for comment.
Walker visited other Uniprix locations, as well as other pharmacies like Jean Coutu. She said neither had Black hair products blocked off.
In the end, the Uniprix location decided to remove the sign and tape, but Walker said there’s a larger issue here. Across the province, beauty stores catering to Black customers have been ordered closed under the province’s direction.
She posted another video on Instagram showing closed beauty supply stores.