Saskatchewan

Family says Indigenous elder humiliated by search at Sask. Canadian Tire store

The family of a 78-year-old First Nations elder says he was humiliated when an employee searched him at a Canadian Tire store in Saskatchewan earlier this week.

Gordon Albert, 78, of Sweetgrass First Nation searched at North Battleford store

Gordon Albert, an elder from the Sweetgrass First Nation in Saskatchewan, is shown in a family handout photo. Albert's family says he was humiliated after being searched by an employee at the North Battleford Canadian Tire. (The Canadian Press/Handout from Albert family)

The family of a First Nations elder says he was humiliated when an employee searched him at a Canadian Tire store in Saskatchewan earlier this week.

Gordon Albert, 78, of the Sweetgrass First Nation was in North Battleford shopping for a gift with his wife Marlene and son Deryk on Monday, but they didn't find what they were looking for.

The anti-theft sensor by the door beeped as they left and an employee stopped them and asked him to take off his coat, Marlene Albert said Thursday.

"That lady took his cigarettes out, took his phone out. She was just going through his pockets," she said. "He said, 'What else do you want me to take off? My clothes?"'

Albert said the employee never explicitly accused her husband of stealing, but the encounter upset and embarrassed him.

Encounter embarrassing, says wife

"I wanted him to come with me to Walmart the other day and he wouldn't even go. He wouldn't even go into the store."

She said she and her husband have been driving buses on the Sweetgrass reserve and in town for decades, and are well known for their work with the local minor hockey team. They go to Canadian Tire often to shop for gardening supplies or things for their vehicle and have never had an experience like this, she said.

"I guess they won't see us anymore."

I've always taught my kids to work for what they wanted.- Marlene Albert

Albert said the implication that her husband would steal makes no sense, as they make enough money to support their family.

"Why would I want to come and steal something when I can buy it right out?" she recalls him asking after the run-in at the store.

"I've always taught my kids to work for what they wanted."

Store considered matter resolved

Canadian Tire said in a statement that staff inspected shopping bags for any tags that have not been removed, as they normally do when an alarm goes off. They determined that the sensor was triggered by something the Alberts bought elsewhere.

"Recent conversations between the store and Mr. Albert and his family have been positive and productive, and the store considered the matter to have been resolved," the company said.

Marlene Albert said the store manager called her husband to apologize the next day. Her son said he got a call, too.

"He said, 'It wasn't a race thing' and I said, 'It was a race thing,"' he said.

The family is still considering their options, but at the very least, I am recommending that they file a human rights complaint.- FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron

It was embarrassing to have everyone in the store looking at them, he said.

"It just offended me ... I was pretty upset all that day."

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, said the retail industry needs a wake-up call.

"The family is still considering their options, but at the very least, I am recommending that they file a human rights complaint," said Chief Bobby Cameron.

now