Sheldon Bayer was looking for a home to rent in Winnipeg last week when he texted the number from a Kijiji ad. He was floored by the landlord's response.
"How many people u r?" the landlord asked via text.
When Bayer responded that there were three people in his family (himself, his wife and son), the landlord texted back, "Ok. Native or ..?"
"I don't know why somebody would ask that," Bayer told The Huffington Post Canada in a phone interview. "I didn't know how to reply, I was shocked."
Sheldon Bayer posted a screenshot of the landlord's text messages and the original ad, which has since been removed. The address and phone number have been blurred out.
Bayer collected his thoughts and texted back that he wasn't interested in renting the home anymore.
"No thanks. We do not tolerate discrimination. And yes we are Native," he wrote.
Discriminating against a prospective renter based on their ancestry (or perceived ancestry) is illegal under the Manitoba Human Rights Code.
HuffPost Canada has reached out to the landlord for comment but has not received a reply.
Housing discrimination is common for indigenous people in Winnipeg. “Discrimination often begins when the landlord hears your accent, or they see your face, and they know you are Aboriginal," staff at the Eagle Urban Transition Centre reported in a 2014 study released by The Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives.
The study found evidence of discrimination against indigenous tenants in Winnipeg dating back to the 1970s.
“Discrimination often begins when the landlord hears your accent, or they see your face, and they know you are Aboriginal."
Bayer said he doesn't plan on reporting the landlord because he thinks a lesson got across, and that there's no need to ruin the man's rental income over an ignorant comment.
He said this isn't the first time he's faced discrimination in Winnipeg. Even though the majority of reactions to his experience have been positive, some people have also responded with hatred, said Bayer.
Still, he hopes this inspires others to share their stories of discrimination — no matter how small.
"I don't like that it's becoming commonplace in the city that I love. I don't like that it's becoming just another way of life. It's gonna filter down to younger generations, and I think that as an indigenous member of this community ... it's gone far enough."
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