Updated: Feb 26
Dear, Sir's or Ma'am's My name is Ron Scott and I am an Independent Journalist in Kingston, Ontario. I write to you today in regards to an incident that transpired in the morning of Sunday February 7, 2021 at the Costco Wholesale Store located here in Kingston, Ontario. This incident was brought to my attention by very concerned members of the public and led to me filing a report with your Ontario Complaints Department, please refer to Complaint Ref#210208-003868. (AUDIO FILE 2) I am going to share in this letter the incident that transpired at Costco in Kingston, Ontario and as well my involvement with your staff in regards to these matters. I have also included taped phone conversations that took place between myself and your staff. Which I believe, if your company calls are recorded, you should be able to follow up on your own end to confirm these conversations as well. I have also included questions that not just the family involved in this incident would appreciate your attention and care in answering, but the concerned community that surrounds your Kingston Costco Store as well. I will share with you, some background on the family that was involved in this horrible situation at the Kingston Costco Store and as well my involvement with assisting them through the unnecessary stress put on them from this incident. You will also find information as to the Kingston Frontenac Lennox & Addington Health Departments mandatory mask guidelines and the exemptions associated with these guidelines. The link provided here will bring you to the KFL&A Mandatory Mask Guidelines page: https://www.kflaph.ca/en/healthy-living/face-covering-frequently-asked-questions-faq.aspx I'd especially like to bring your attention to the first FAQ drop menu titled: "Who is not required to wear a face covering under the amended Reopening Ontario Act regulations?" specifically speaking of the following exemptions: Individuals that have medical conditions that inhibit their ability to wear a mask or face covering. (This boy has autism, which prevents him wearing a mask.) Individuals that are unable to put on or remove their mask or face covering without the assistance of another person. (this boy only has one arm, so this exemption would apply to him as well.) Individuals being accommodated in accordance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005. (This boy clearly has a disability, so therefore this exemption also applies) Individuals being accommodated in accordance with the Human Rights Code. (Discriminating against anybody, especially for a physical disability, is a direct violation of their human rights) It's also pretty common knowledge in society, that a person with autism has a very high sensory sensitivity, especially with objects on their face and this is especially a larger struggle for autistic children. Sir's & Maam's, Firstly I would like to thank you all for your time and for your anticipated attention to the following information I am sharing with you. On Sunday afternoon February 7, 2021 an incident that had occurred, on the morning of said date, at the Costco Wholesale Store in Kingston Ontario was brought my attention Via a Facebook post; link attached here: https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=3736817923022420&id=100000827462596 On that morning Micheal Trautrimas and his 11 year old autistic son Ayden attended the Costco Wholesales Store located in Kingston, Ontario to purchase goods. Upon trying to enter the store they were confronted by Costco staff in regards to Ayden not wearing a mask. Michael was told it's Costco's policy that everyone must wear a face covering or face shield. It was explained to the staff by Michael that his son Ayden, under the KFL&A guideline exemptions, was exempted from wearing face coverings. Reason being Ayden has Non-Verbal Autism and will not tolerate anything on his face due to sensory complications associated with being severely autistic. Your staff stood in front of Michaels shopping cart preventing him from moving and refused to accept Ayden's medical exemption. They then proceeded to berate Michael & Ayden infront of other customers, demanding to Michael that either Ayden wears a mask or they leave the store immediately. This was very embarrassing for Michael & Ayden, leaving them feeling discriminated against with no other accommodations suggested by your staff. Costco’s policy does not allow for medical exemptions. This kind of approach is discriminatory to anyone with exemptions requiring accommodation, who have few avenues of recourse during the pandemic. Mr. Trautrimas doesn't have many choices, but to bring his son wherever he goes. He is a single father on a limited budget and this pandemic limits his choices as well. However none of this should be an issue. Michael, like any good Father, just wants his son to be with him and to have the ability of attending a store to purchase needed supplies for his family, without being made to feel embarrassment and discrimination. I'd like to point out that Mr. Trautrimas is not a single Father by choice. In 2016 a horrific car accident claimed the life of his Wife and his other son, this same accident also cost Ayden his left arm. I really feel it's important to share this family's story with you. So that you may remember it when you're making corporate policies for Costco's staff to narrate onto the paying memberships that walk through the doors of your stores. Please keep in mind as well Canada is a very diverse country, which was built on the foundation of keeping "our land glorious and free". To which this country and all of those within its borders, are protected by our Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The Government, Police, business and even the individual citizens neither are above or below each other, but rather they are all equal under The Charter. I can't express enough the importance of your corporation to keep this on the forefront prior to making any decisions on corporate policies. In my last conversation with Mr. Trautrimas he had informed me that Costco had contacted him to apologize for what he had endured at the Kingston Costco Store and that he was assured corporate policies would be changed. However it wasn't too clear as to what changes would be made in this regard. So therefore I'm requesting for clarification as to what Costco's new policy will be to mask exemptions being honored at Costco Stores. The public at large would expect these changes to be rather simple and quick to implement. Considering it should just be a matter of directing staff to honor mask exemptions and there's to be no harassment of customers who don't have a face covering. I know the Kingston store had reached out to Mr.Trautrimas the day after the incident. However, I know from conversation with Mr. Trautrimas, that the Manager Beverly did not seem too sincere and frankly from the rudeness I experienced from her when I called the Kingston Costco Store (AUDIO FILE 1), I would have to agree with him. This store appears to be of the impression that members pay a fee for the luxury to shop at Costco. Where in reality if the Kingston Costco had no paying members, then the staff at this store would have no jobs. On February 12, 2021 (#5 Audio file attached below), Kingston Ontario Assistant Store Manager Tom called me in regards to the complaint I filed. However, to date no one from Costco Senior Management has contacted me. The Kingston Store Manager explained to me that Costco's policy regarding masks has been changed to reflect an exception for children with Autism and other disabilities. I asked the Manager if he is aware by not honoring all people's medical exemptions, Costco is in fact violating customers rights under the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms; furthermore Costco is opening themselves up for Human Rights violation complaints and possible lawsuits. To which the manager replied, yes Costco was aware and that they didn't care, because he imagines their legal team has done the necessary research in regards to this. The Manager provided me with a phone number for Costco's head office to escalate my concerns. As I still found it quite troubling that Costco would include such a specific mask exemption, rather than just simply changing their policies to honor all customers' medical exemptions in general. Also furthermore it's very troubling that a Manager can confirm the knowledge of Human Rights Violations taking place at Costco Stores. On the morning of February 16, 2021 I spoke with the Assistant (Mark) To the VP (Randy) in regards to this matter and Mark confirmed that he would forward this matter to Randy, when he is back from holidays. I have recommended to the Kingston store and to the Assistant VP a simple solution to the complex matter of dealing with customers Mask Exemptions. This is to provide a Mask Exemption card to customers, while they are in the store. This will help avoid the conflict between Costco staff and other customers. As well at the same time Costco will be respecting the exempted customers constitutional rights, while fully remaining in compliance with the Mandatory Mask Guidelines, in regards to the Exemptions these Guidelines provide within them. It is my hope, and that of the public at large, that Costco being such a large corporation in Canada, will understand the importance of Canadian citizens being able to obtain goods for their families in a safe and discriminatory free environment. Possibly Costco could be the example in such troubling times as we are in today, of not only excellent customer service, but as well in upholding the Charter guaranteed Rights of their customers. If Costco chooses to support, rather than reject customers Mask Exemptions (as outlined in Mandatory Mask Guidelines), I feel they will see a large increase in their membership purchases; as word will spread that everyone is welcome at Costco to shop harrassment free. This is a very important factor to Canadian's today, when they choose where to go to spend their money. It's important because people who can't wear a mask are constantly belittled and discriminated against in public for this. So those people and their families attend stores like Food Basics (who actually make an announcement over the store intercom system, reminding people to respect that not everyone can wear a mask), because these stores respect Mask Exemptions. Covid-19 has caused a drastic divide in our communities and Costco is a part of these Communities. I just hope that rather than continuing to contribute to the division of society, Costco will choose to contribute to rebuilding society instead. You will find below this letter all of my questions, comments and concerns; as well my notes and time stamps for my audio recordings. All of my audio recordings are also attached to this email. I've included all of this, because I sincerely believe in transparency. Not just transparency in Journalism, but in life as a general rule. My hope moving forward is that I may have your company's transparency in return, by way of casting light on the questions asked here of you and offering some hope to your customers moving forward. Thank you for your time and anticipated communication, Ron Scott Independent Journalist At freedomreport.ca QUESTIONS, NOTES, TIME STAMPS AND AUDIO RECORDINGS BELOW: QUESTIONS: 1) I'm wondering why this incident took place? Are your staff just not informed of the exemptions or is there a major problem with your store or Costco's policy? 2) Are you aware of the KFL&A mask exceptions I've mentioned here? And if so, why is your store not honoring them? 3) Are you aware that under the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms: Section 15 paragraph(1) states "that every individual is equal before & under the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, sex or mental or physical disability? 4) Are you aware your store is violating the Charter, with your actions or does Costco just not care? 5) Are you aware how difficult it is for an individual with autism, especially a young child, to make sense of the world around them without bullies like Costco treating them the way that this boy was treated at your store?
6) I'm sure your business, like all businesses, are concerned with receiving a fine for not upholding these ridiculous mask By-Laws. However, by not honoring the exemptions all you've done is violate the By-Law anyways. This is very concerning to me considering Costco, unlike other small businesses in our Kingston, hasn't had to close their doors for one day during this pandemic. So people are limited to have to come to your location or other Big box stores to provide for their family. So, one would think that such a large corporation, that tripled their revenue in 2020, wouldn't be afraid of a fine from the Government or even question their own ability to defeat a fine in our court system, all to honour the Government's own mask exemptions. As a licensed business you can't choose to follow one part of the by-law and not follow the other part in regards to exemptions. So with this in mind, are you aware you could now be having a human rights complaint filed against you? As well as lawsuits? 7) Are you prepared to right this matter when these people (Michael and Ayden) attend your stores in the future? What are your plans moving forward in regards to mask exceptions (as provided in Mandatory Mask Guidelines) at Costco Stores in Canada? I sincerely hope that you're going to change your policies and practices, especially with now being made aware of the direct violation you're making on people's Human Rights.