EDMONTON - A company that sells party supplies says it is investigating after an employee at one of its Edmonton stores posted a photo of a Valentine for him that was defaced with a homophobic slur.
Degas Sikorski, 20, posted the photo to Facebook late Saturday night, but it was his mother's sharing of the post along with an explanation that caused a furor online.
Shelley Bramhoff Sikorski stated on Facebook that a supervisor at the Party City store made Valentines for all the staff, but when her son picked his up, it had a hate message on it.
The photo shows a homemade Valentine that has been marked with a homophobic name and as well as the statement, "You are not getting any shifts for a reason."
Degas Sikorski said the message actually made him fear for his safety.
"I know it's only one person, and everyone else I work with I love, and I love Party City, but the hate that I felt in that message did not make me feel safe," he said in an interview Sunday.
The company says in an emailed statement that it "is committed to creating a fair and inclusive working environment" and is looking into the matter.
A supervisor at the store who identified herself as Karlina says staff at the store were awaiting guidance from head office about how to proceed with the investigation and any other steps.
"As a company and a store, this kind of behaviour isn't tolerated," the supervisor said.
Sikorski said this was the first time he'd ever experienced anything like this while working at the store.
"This kind of came out of nowhere and that's kind of why it hit me so hard, because I just had no idea where this was coming from, and where this level of hate originated from."
Shelley Bramhoff Sikorski said her son, who told her he was gay at 14, has been a loyal employee at the store while putting himself through university.
She said she and her son tried contacting the store manager Saturday night and even emailed him the photo, but didn't get a reply until Sunday.
"He's always felt safe there. Yes, people knew he was gay. He's not flamboyant, he doesn't throw it in people's faces," Bramhoff Sikorski said in an interview Sunday.
The company said in its statement that it would provide more information when it becomes available.
Degas Sikorski said that as he ponders whether to return to work at the store, he's been overwhelmed by all the support his story has generated — support that has included job offers posted on Facebook.
"I have received offers from many people who run businesses who reached out there hands and said 'we'll take you, we want you here, you'll feel safe here, and we want you to feel welcome here'."
Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson reacted strongly to the picture of the defaced Valentine, tweeting that it was offside with the city's Pride spirit.
"Discrimination based on sexual orientation is unacceptable," Iveson said in the tweet.