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Edmonton IKEA Discrimination: Retailer Denies French Girl Access To Play Room, Cites Language Barrier

10/31/2013 03:22 EDT | Updated 10/31/2013 03:29 EDT
AP
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2012 file photo, a sign bearing the Ikea logo is seen outside a store in Berlin. The Czech veterinary authority said Monday, Feb. 25, 2013 it detected horse meat in meat balls labeled as beef and pork imported to the country by Sweden's furniture retailer giant Ikea. The State Veterinary Administration says the one-kilogram packs of the frozen meat balls were made in Sweden to be sold in Ikea's furniture stores that also offer typical Swedish food. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber, File)

Reports that a young Edmonton girl was denied access to the IKEA play room over her native tongue have led to a heated online debate.

CBC Edmonton reports Charlize Roy, 4, was refused entrance to the store's Småland because she was not fluent in English.

According to the girl's mother, Renelle Roy, her daughter is learning English, but French is her first language.

While Charlize understands basic English cautionary words like "stop" and "watch out," staff at the store argued they were not able to communicate well enough with the girl for her to "understand instructions from IKEA coworkers in case of emergency."

Her mother thinks her daughter was unfairly discriminated against and wants IKEA to re-visit their policy in a multi-cultural city like Edmonton.

Online, some commenters accused the mother of creating a mountain out of a mole hill, arguing the store was just trying to keep the girl safe.

"Who is at fault here: the store who is offering what basically amounts to a complimentary babysitting service and trying to create a safe environment for children, or the parent who wants to leave their kids with someone who can't communicate with them at all?" Reddit user ultrfil asked.

"... I completely agree with IKEA, that the kids in their care need to be able to communicate with them. If the woman was not allowed entry to Ikea, or staff refused to serve her simply because she spoke French, regardless of her English ability, then that would be an issue. Not speaking English, though, that's a tough one," agreed Higgs_Bosun.

Others pointed out the difference between being able to speak a language, versus understanding it.

"...Receptive vs expressive language. Can they understand? The rules say they have to speak it, but really they only need to understand it...BIG difference," commented seewhatImean on the story.

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8 Things Ikea Wants You To Forget About

IKEA told CBC Edmonton their policy is clearly outlined on the play area sign-in cards, letting parents know children must be able to converse in English with IKEA staff. The card must be agreed to by the parents.

Perhaps it's time for Canada to take it role as a bilingual nation more seriously to prevent these situations from happening, some commenters argued.

"I think it's sad that we don't have enough French speaking citizens to fill those jobs because ideally every native born Canadian would be at least semi-bilingual," said indiecore on Reddit. "Honestly if I had my way you'd be in opposite language immersion for your whole school career depending on the majority in the school district you're in. So Quebec and some of New Brunswick and other Acadian enclaves would have English immersion for all of K-12 while the rest of Canada has school in French."

"As a French Canadian living in Quebec, the only comment I will make is this one: The notion that Canada is a bilingual country is fiction... Studies show that the most bilingual province in Canada is... Wait for it... Quebec!" argued legarsdesvues on Reddit.

"Canada is a bilingual country (so we say...) so why not make the staff working the playroom know both official languages enough to converse in case of emergency," asked CBC commenter JoniMitchell.

IKEA was found not guilty of discrimination earlier this year after IKEA staff in the Swedish city of Helsingborg told a five-year-old girl she wasn't allowed to play in the ball pit because of her rare chromosome disorder.

Again, staff said they were concerned for the girl's safety.