What should have been a routine grocery purchase for a TRU student and his family turned into a racist confrontation that they're struggling to overcome.
Abdullah Aldossri, an international student, said his wife Shoaa were accosted by a stranger as they stood in the checkout line at Great Canadian Superstore on Tuesday.
Shoaa arrived in Kamloops only a few weeks ago and doesn't speak English. She wears a traditional hijab, a veil commonly worn by Muslim women as a symbol of modesty, privacy and morality. She was carrying their seven-month-old boy, Mohammed, in the lineup.
The woman stood behind Shoaa and addressed her alone.
"She said she should get a better man and she doesn't have to wear this," Abdullah said, recounting the incident.
"I said, 'Excuse me?' "
The woman responded with verbal abuse. The couple was embarrassed by the public outburst.
Abdullah followed her to her vehicle as the woman's sister trailed behind them. He wanted to get the licence plate number and report the incident to police.
At that point, the sister said she was very sorry for the incident, but Abdullah felt that the woman who made the remark should apologize directly to his wife.
He called police and eventually got an apology from both women.
"Both of them said sorry and that they didn't know about the culture."
That was small comfort to his wife. Shoaa was upset and crying from the incident. She was feeling better on Wednesday, though she still doesn't want to leave their home alone.
The racist incident has left the couple wondering whether they should remain in Canada. He has been here three years and hasn't experienced anything like it.
"For me, before I came here, I searched for a place to go. I have a lot of good friends here and they say they loved the place …. You never expect something like this to happen."
His wife chooses to wear the hijab, he said. There are many other international students who also wear the headdress.
"It's everybody and it's their choice. It's part of Muslim culture."
Today is the International Day to End Racial Discrimination - and this is Diversity Week - pointed reminders that ignorance, hatred and stereotypes remain entrenched.
"I think this is not uncommon," said Paul Lagace, executive director of Kamloops Immigrant Services Society. "I think it's happening way too often."
He recalled a similar incident at a bus stop on Lansdowne Avenue 18 months ago. Two adult women confronted a woman wearing a veil and told her she should dress differently. Three or four bystanders were offended by their suggestion.
"They said, 'This isn't your issue; this isn't your right,' " Lagace said.
"On the actual Day to End Racial Discrimination, we find this is happening in our country and our community. What does it take to end it? It takes awareness."
That's what he hopes to see accomplished with a new welcoming program - a program that will engage TRU international students - jointly offered by the Interior Indian Friendship Society.
He also believes that a welcoming-sign program will help extend that awareness into the community. A sign posted at the entrance of a business, for example, would advertise to visitors that the people inside accept them no matter what their differences might be.