FREDERICTON – A New Brunswick woman says she was shocked when staff at a local spa said she couldn’t bring her five-month-old son to an appointment, and says the province’s Human Rights Act needs an upgrade to address similar cases of discrimination.
Sacha DeWolfe wanted her eyebrows waxed but says she was told by staff at one of the Avalon SalonSpa locations in Fredericton that she couldn’t bring the infant into the spa for safety reasons.
“She said the wax could spill or scissors could go flying, and she also said hair dye fumes or something,” DeWolfe said Tuesday. “If it’s that unsafe, it’s unsafe for everybody.”
“You would probably adjust your practices to be more safe for the public.”
She said the incident occurred on Feb. 5, when she arrived for her appointment carrying her son, Lennon, asleep in a car seat.
Messages seeking comment from Avalon SalonSpa were not immediately returned, but a post on its Facebook page thanked customers for an outpouring of support since the story first appeared in local media.
“We will continue to support women, employ women and empower women in our community,” reads the post. “We will also continue to stand by our policies and protect our guests when they visit any Avalon location.”
New Brunswick is the only province that doesn’t have family status as a grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Act, but a lawyer for the Human Rights Commission says it is being considered for the next update of the Act, as early as next year.
“We are currently undergoing a review of our legislation and part of that is looking at family status as a protected ground,” said Sarina McKinnon.
A review of the legislation is done every five years.
DeWolfe said she was surprised that family status is not specifically protected under the Act, but pleased it may be added. She said she has no plans to file a human rights complaint, but she said she’s surprised by comments on social media saying she is in the wrong for even raising the issue.
“It’s really disturbing and sad that the public is that quick to read something and react with such hate towards a person,” she said.
“People should open their minds up, to not just ‘ooh the poor thing, they did not let her eyebrows waxed.’ It’s not about that,” DeWolfe said.
Although restaurants in Canada and around the world have generated fierce debates with bans on children in recent years, customers posting on the Fredericton spa’s Facebook page uniformly supported the business’s position, saying an infant would disrupt the soothing atmosphere for which they paid.
“I don’t pay for relaxation to listen to other people’s children crying or running around. What about my rights as a paying consumer?” asked one woman.
“I am a mom of 2 wonderful and maddening kids…and I have to say when I go for an eyebrow waxing, mani or a pedicure I leave my kids at home to have a relaxing spa experience,” wrote another.
Still, the director of the Centre for Human Rights Research at the University of Manitoba, says restricting children from going places with their parents has been found to be discrimination on the basis of family status in cases across the country.
“I get my nails done all the time and my eyebrows done all the time and no salon I’ve ever been to have denied kids the ability to come with their parents into a salon,” Karen Busby said.
She said the question for the spa is, “Is there a reasonable and bone fide reason to deny kids to be able to come into the place?”
Jordi Morgan, Atlantic vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, says businesses with specific policies should make sure those policies are clearly posted.
“They could be occupational health and safety related, they could be just personal safety related, they could be for the convenience of other customers. Businesses can put policies in place,” he said.
He said patrons who don’t like the policies of a particular company have the right to simply take their business elsewhere.
DeWolfe said that’s what she did, and got her eyebrows waxed at another spa in the city – one which welcomed her son.