Indigenous group calls for apology, Vancouver hotel says employee followed protocol

VANCOUVER — The B.C. Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres has called for a public apology after an employee at a Vancouver hotel denied an Indigenous man access to a washroom, which they say resulted him losing control of his bladder in front of onlookers.

The General Manager of the Hyatt Regency Hotel says it conducted an internal investigation after the association reported an incident last month.

Patrick Gosselin says it determined the employee was following protocol to close restrooms in unused areas of the hotel and initially directed the person to an open restroom.

He says "within approximately 20 seconds of first encountering the man," the employee learned he was a guest of the hotel and allowed him to use the washroom.

Association Executive Director Leslie Varley issued a news release saying the incident happened last month during a three-day meeting for its members at the hotel.

She says the group concluded the meeting early and left the hotel after she was denied a chance to speak with upper management about what happened.

"We have significant concerns for the safety of Indigenous peoples at Hyatt Regency that must be addressed," Varley said in the release.

She called on the hotel to "take action to amend policy, procedures and practices to address Indigenous-specific racism, including providing mandatory anti-racism training for staff as outlined by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act."

She added that the group is not seeking any financial compensation.

"We seek to ensure all staff are trained to understand their biases against Indigenous peoples and enact measures to ensure systemic racism is addressed throughout the Hyatt organization," Varley said.

But Gosselin said the hotel has been working with Indigenous groups for many years and "are proud to have built a strong relationship."

"As an organization, we have taken the reconciliation with Indigenous people very seriously with a focus on educating our colleagues," he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 11, 2023.

The Canadian Press