VANCOUVER – Felicia McCarthy says she just wanted to pay tribute to the 215 children found buried at Kamloops Residential School, as well as her own father, a residential school survivor.
But the Surrey Memorial Hospital cleaning lady said that when she showed up on Monday with her orange shirt, which read “Every Child Counts,” a supervisor at her employer Aramark told her she couldn’t not wear it to work.
“She took me aside and said ‘you have to change’,” she said. “I explained to her what the shirt was, and she said ‘this is inappropriate, you have to change’.”
McCarthy said the supervisor never offered him more explanation. She ended up quitting work and posted a video online sharing her experience.
“It felt like it was a punch in the stomach,” she said.
McCarthy said she has since received an apology from her employer, but not directly from the supervisor.
In an emailed statement, Chris Collom of Aramark Corporate Communications said “for health and safety reasons our intention was to stay true to our uniform policy and not be disrespectful. in any way “.
“We understand and sympathize with the pain the community is going through and recognize that it could have been handled in a more favorable way,” he said.
McCarthy said she wears full personal protective equipment that covers what she wears when working.
“When I go to clean these covid pieces I’m covered from head to toe. I wear a beanie, I wear a dress. I wear gloves and I wear slippers,” she said. “Everything is protected. So my shirt has nothing to do with being protected in these PPE situations.”
Collom said Aramark has now revised its policy to allow employees to wear “orange shirts over their uniforms and can display buttons of support provided by the hospital.”
Hospital Employees Union Secretary Mike Old’s trade manager said it was “really unfortunate” that this had happened to one of their members, and added that the union had spoken to Aramark.
“We told them that they really needed to take cultural safety training from their managers and supervisors to make sure this kind of incident didn’t happen again,” he said. “Our hospitals are meant to be places of compassion and care, for patients and also for those who work in the system, and it is clear that our member has not been treated with compassion and care at a time when she is. probably needed it most. “
The Fraser Health Authority said it had also told Aramark that its employees “can be encouraged to wear orange shirts as long as all appropriate infection prevention and control measures are followed.”
In a statement, the health authority’s senior public affairs consultant, Dixon Tam, said they are also renewing discussions with all construction sites and contractors “to emphasize the importance of practicing and understanding reconciliation.” He added that other hospital staff and workers can also wear orange “to honor those who have been lost.”
McCarthy said she has meetings with Aramark and his union next week. What she really hopes is that people will take it upon themselves to learn and understand.
“People are still feeling the effects of what happened with residential schools,” she said. “It didn’t just happen then. It continues to this day.”