It’s been four weeks since actress Eleanor Matsuura had a racist encounter with a Canada Post employee and the lack of satisfactory response from the Crown Corporation has been especially “disappointing,” she says.
What was supposed to be a quick pick-me-up from her daughter’s kindergarten ended in a racist encounter that left the British actress, best known for her role as Yumiko Okumura on the hit series ‘The Walking Dead’, left feeling vulnerable, shocked and scared. .
Heavily pregnant at 39 weeks, while also holding her four-year-old daughter, Matsuura told the star she was stepping around a stationary vehicle to cross a busy street to get back to her car.
At that point, she claims, the driver of a flagged Canada Post bus leaned out the window and started yelling things like, “you people bringing disease” and “go back to your own country.”
At first, Matsuura was taken by surprise. Having just moved from the UK, she wondered how the Canada Post employee could have known she had only recently moved to Toronto.
Then it hit her. He was referring to her Asian identity.
“It’s not like he listened to me and listened to my reaction, he just yelled. So I was pretty sure he didn’t notice I had a British accent,” said Matsuura, who shared the experience on social media and tagged Canada Post.
“It was like an endless monologue that gradually became more and more specifically racist.”
Later that afternoon, Canada Post contacted her before transferring her to the chief of security.
“It has been (a) very, very slow response. I’m not quite sure what’s going on,” Matsuura said, adding that she had heard from Canada Post on May 3 and was told the employee had been identified, but that Canada Post would not “disclose any personal matter” about his disciplinary action. She was advised to contact the police for more information.
In early May, Toronto police told the Star that no charges had been filed and that the investigation was ongoing. No further updates were provided to the Star on Thursday.
“With her help, we were able to identify the employee,” Canada Post spokesperson Valérie Chartrand said in a statement to the Star on May 4. “While we do not share employee information publicly, we have a process in place to respond promptly to serious incidents such as this, which are considered gross misconduct. … Canada Post does not tolerate racism or discrimination in any form and the behavior described by Ms. Matsuura is inconsistent with the values our associates follow in serving Canadians on a daily basis.”
On May 27, Canada Post told the Star that “when serious misconduct occurs, we have a process that includes disciplinary action up to and including possible termination.” Canada Post confirmed that the lawsuit has been concluded with this incident and “the matter has been taken seriously”.
On Thursday, Matsuura told the Star that Canada Post had suggested her “quite cryptically” about the employee’s suspension, but nothing has been confirmed. “A Canada Post manager has requested a phone call with me to follow up on this, which they have yet to plan,” Matsuura said.
“I have to say it feels like (Canada Post) is not willing to communicate further with me on this matter,” Matsuura told the Star in an email. “I am surprised and deeply disappointed that they are unwilling to discuss the outcome of this situation… It feels very inadequate, abrupt and not handled well.”
Matsuura said it comes down to responsibility for her.
“You know, it’s something I’m trying to teach my daughter, like the consequences of your actions. I understand that this can be a complex matter in these times. But you know, if I was at work and I unleashed a racist rant on someone, I expect to be fired completely,” she said.
Matsuura said the incident was a shocking turn of events for the welcoming and diverse city she had heard so much about.
“You know, I didn’t know anything about this man. I don’t know where he comes from, what his history is, what his experience in life has been, and he doesn’t know mine either. Still, something made him feel he had a right to profile me in such a way,” she said.
“It reminds us how misinformation and hatred can spread so quickly. How when we fan the flames of those things, it manifests into something very real.”
Her experience is just one of several reports of anti-Asian hatred that have emerged over the past two tumultuous years of the pandemic in Canada.
“We have seen time and again in the news that Asian people have been attacked or killed in the street,” Matsuura said. “It’s just really scary and it’s really heartbreaking.”
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