Nova Scotia

N.S. couple whose car stereo was stolen say dealership called police on them

A Digby, N.S., couple say they were racially profiled by staff at a New Minas Hyundai dealership who called police on them after they complained that $4,000 worth of stereo equipment was missing from their vehicle.

Couple accuses staff at Bruce Hyundai of racial profiling

Kristin Nickerson and Brendan Clarke picked up their vehicle from a New Minas car dealership on Sept. 29 but the stereo and speakers were gone. (Kristin Nickerson )

A Nova Scotia couple say they were racially profiled by a New Minas car dealership after complaining that $4,000 worth of stereo equipment was missing from their vehicle.

Kristin Nickerson and Brendan Clarke say they picked up their Tucson on Sept. 29 from Bruce Hyundai where it had been for about two weeks getting a new engine. As they were about to drive away, they noticed their stereo and speaker were gone.

The couple went back into the dealership to ask where their stereo was and to speak with a manager. But instead of calling police to report a theft, they said a staff member called the local RCMP detachment to report the couple was being threatening.

"I'm not the threat. I'm the victim," Clarke, who is Black, told CBC's Information Morning. He admitted he was angry about the stolen equipment and swore, but said he never crossed the line.

"The fact that they would call me in as a threat, that bothers me more than having my equipment stolen," he added. 

"To feel threatened to the point that you would call [the] police, not about a theft but a threat that I am there, that breaks my heart. I can't even explain the words."

The couple said there was no damage to the vehicle and nothing else was missing, but the wires to the stereo and speakers had been cut.

Nickerson said they told dealership staff the manager needed to report the incident to the police.

"This is a theft. They're telling us to call police ... but that's not what it is. It happened on their property," said Nickerson, who is from Digby.

RCMP investigating report of threats, theft

The RCMP said they received a complaint of threats and stolen equipment from a Hyundai salesperson on Sept. 29 and that the investigation is ongoing.

Nickerson said the police officer who responded handled the situation well.

"He was extremely, extremely just open to hearing what our side is. He didn't go into the building to speak to them first. He spoke to us first," she said.

Nickerson and Clarke believe whoever stole the stereo had keys to their vehicle. They said they repeatedly asked staff to check security footage and see if anyone was caught on camera. 

But they said staff were unwilling to help them and told them to contact their insurance company.

Nickerson and Clarke dropped their vehicle off at a dealership in New Minas on Sept. 10. (Robert Short/CBC )

"There's no way anybody would even know that the stereo was in there. It's not like we were parked in a vacant Walmart parking lot for two weeks. It was actually on their grounds, on their property," said Clarke, adding the vehicle was locked when they picked it up.

The general manager of the dealership told CBC News that at least one other car on the lot was missing equipment.

Company says it's taken 'steps towards compensation'

Bruce Auto Group told CBC News it has been in contact with the couple and has "taken the initial steps towards compensation for the theft."

"We are pleased to have found a resolution that works for our clients," Jean-Philippe Martel, a vice-president with Bruce Auto Group, said in a statement.

Martel also said what happened last week at the dealership is not "reflective of our values of diversity and inclusion." 

"As a privately owned business, we've been listening closely to the BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] community as instances of social injustice and unconscious bias have been brought to the forefront. We will continue to do what we can to support those voices and live our company values every day," he said.

The vice-president of Bruce Hyundai said the company is listening to members of the BIPOC community. (David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Nickerson said while she's pleased that Bruce Hyundai eventually agreed to compensate them for the stolen stereo, she pointed out that no one has apologized for the way the couple was treated.

"They were sympathetic but they did not touch on the fact that we were disrespected for doing nothing wrong except questioning where our belongings went," she said.

Nickerson does not consider the situation resolved, as Martel has indicated, and said she's still waiting to hear how much compensation they will receive.

Clarke said this is not his first experience being racially profiled in Nova Scotia. 

When he was 19, he was attacked by police officers in Digby for trying to pay with a $100 bill at a corner store.

The bill was real but the store owner thought it was fake. Surveillance video from the store showed police approaching Clarke from behind and punching him in the head while restraining him. 

A court eventually sided with Clarke and he was awarded $248,000 and issued an apology.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

With files from CBC's Information Morning

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