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This Indigenous Couple Says A Denny’s Employee Asked Them To Pay For Their Meals Upfront

"No one else deserves to be treated the way I was treated that day."

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Helaina Moses was just trying to get some late-night grub in Vancouver when she says she was discriminated against for being Indigenous.

Helaina Moses

Moses, who's from the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation in Yukon, was visiting Vancouver with her boyfriend last weekend. They went to a Denny's for breakfast around 4:30 a.m., which is when a fun night out ended in tears.

It started just after the couple ordered their food and drinks, including a round of water. Before anything was on the table, the server came back with the bill, asking they pay upfront.

Alan Diaz / The Associated Press

"It made me feel we weren’t decent enough of human beings to even get water," said Moses.

"I stood up and I asked other customers sitting around me if they had to do this and they all said that they hadn’t had to pay yet."

Although there were other diners at the Denny's, Moses said she and her boyfriend were the only Indigenous people there. And she thinks that's why they were targeted.

"It was just so unfair. Why would they treat us like that?" said Moses. "I'm going to assume it's racism because I don’t know what else to call it."

"Obviously she was looking at us with a different perspective, that we didn’t have any money."

Helaina Moses

Another diner, a black man, stuck up for the couple.

"He was crying and everything for us, he said it was just plain racism," she said.

Eventually, said Moses, both their tables were kicked out. But it wasn't over. Once outside, Moses said 8 to 10 cops showed up, saying they had reports of someone who was armed and dangerous. Her voice cracked remembering the moment.

The Vancouver Police Department told BuzzFeed Canada they were called to the Denny's shortly after 5 a.m. by a caller who reported "one of the people involved may have had pointed object in their pocket." They said the customers were cooperative and no weapons were found.

"I just can’t explain my feelings, it was so embarrassing," said Moses.

The cops eventually left, and Moses and her boyfriend found somewhere else to eat, but the incident left her shaken.

Denny's has not yet responded to BuzzFeed Canada's request for comment but told CBC News they're conducting a "full investigation."

She posted about the incident on Facebook, which has now been shared more than 1,600 times.

Facebook: helaina.moses

"I can say that for the first time in my life I have experienced racism," she wrote.

Moses said Denny's has reached out to her, but she's chosen not to respond until she's spoken to a lawyer. In the mean time, she said she filed a complaint with the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

"We just wanted to have a meal and go back to the hotel and I got treated like a criminal for going to have breakfast," she said.

"I'm a professional, independent young woman and I work full time and I'm a student on the side. I just felt so degraded and embarrassed and no one else deserves to be treated the way I was treated that day."

Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.

Contact Lauren Strapagiel at

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