Hate hits Manitoba restaurateur hard

Thea Morris
By Jasminee Sahoye

Some hate email, social media messages and a recent act of “sabotage” may force a Jamaica-born woman, who opened a restaurant in July this year in a small town outside of Winnipeg, Manitoba to pack up and leave.
Thea Morris, whose restaurant – Thea’s Diner – is located in the town of Morris (pop. 1800), is contemplating closing at the end of this month because of slow business and a recent a hate email she received from someone after she posted an ad on Kijji for a helper.
“Hello! The following is a reply to your ‘kitchen assistance and serving personnel in Morris MB’ ad on Kijiji: From: kkk@morris.ca: You guys still chasing colors out of your towns out there? I believe the KKK has a chapter in South Dakota you should join!”
She stated that she tried to ignore the email, but “…every Friday different groups of well dressed people would enter the restaurant, will order and be seated and while the serving staff is getting their beverages, they would storm out before the staff returns with their drinks, leaving a very negative feeling about the place to staff and remaining …customers. Another bad experience was one of my staff found a dead hawk on their car windshield as we were leaving for the night,” Morris stated on Facebook.
In a telephone interview, Morris told The Camera that when she went to open restaurant this Wednesday (December 4) she discovered that someone entered and turned on the gas as well as the heat.
Manitoba Hydro ordered her not to open the restaurant or enter the premises because of the possibility of an explosion.
The RCMP is investigating the matter.
Morris opened the restaurant in the same location that used to house a restaurant run by two gay men who were forced to shut down their facility because of discrimination in the form of homophobia.
The restaurant owner said following the incident, the positive responses have been overwhelming but she is still receiving a few hate messages.
Her story which was reported in some mainstream media in Manitoba has caught the attention of some big names like Milt Stegall, a professional footballer in Winnipeg, who according to Morris will be visiting her restaurant later this month with his “buddies.” The local Liberal party representative is also expected to pay a visit to the facility.
Morris’s Mayor Gavin van der Linde said he is outraged over what has transpired and is also concerned the town is receiving an unfair reputation. “It doesn’t represent a part of our community that I’m aware of,” he said.
Van der Linde said he’s confident people will support Thea Morris, and says it’s already happening to some extent.
Being the kind person she is, Morris says she is planning to feed the city on Thursday as a goodwill gesture. When The Camera spoke with her, she was busy prepping for the event.
“I am reading the response of hatred and I am so nervous. I am wondering if it is a good idea to go ahead and do such a lovely Christmas thing. I just want us to get along. People who hate don’t have to come to my restaurant if they don’t want to. All I ask it is that they leave me and my restaurant alone. Look at all the love and support I have now, it is quite obvious that hatred is in the very little minority,” she said on her Facebook page.
Morris is not new to discrimination. She lost her job seven years ago because she needed to support her mother who was found unconscious in the snow by a passerby.