Saskatchewan·Q&A

What are a customer's rights in a store?

Regina lawyer Jeff Deagle explains the rights a customer has when entering a store.

'Once your invitation is revoked from being there, you have no right to be there,' Regina lawyer says

A Regina lawyer says a store employee or manager can ask a customer to leave whenever they want, but if there's any issue over the reason, the customer would have to make a human rights complaint. (Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

A widely circulated video that shows a former Canadian Tire employee trying to kick a customer out of a Regina store — at times using force — has sparked debate about the issue of discrimination and customer rights.

Kamao Cappo said he was shopping for a chainsaw when an employee accused him of stealing. Cappo refused to leave and the interaction with the employee grew heated. 

CBC-Radio's The Morning Edition recently spoke with Jeff Deagle, a partner at Hunter Deagle LLP in Regina, about what a customer's rights are and what someone can do if they feel unfairly booted from a store or followed around by employees. 

This interview has been edited for length, clarity and context. 

When can an employee or a store manager ask a customer to leave the premises?

JD: Technically, anytime. When you enter a public, but private, establishment you're there at their permission. There's sort of a social contract and at any time they can ask you to leave and really, your rights are to leave.

For what reason can they ask you to leave?

JD: Really for any reason. The issue always becomes though, are there repercussions for the reasons they ask you to leave.

What if the store says to me, 'We think you were going to steal.' Well, if I've not left the store with anything is that OK, a suspicion that I might?

JD: No. Police have the power with a reasonable suspicion to detain people and investigate. Security officers are no different than an average citizen — they don't have any extra rights than you or I do. In fact, the only time the citizen's arrest provisions sort of kick is in if you've actually committed the crime.

They could only really detain...anybody if the crime has actually been committed — they can't do anything in advance of a crime that hasn't been committed.

Do I have to leave even if that's not proper, and then complain?

JD: Yes, that's usually the typical way to do it 'cause once your invitation is revoked from being there, you have no right to be there. Because even though the commercial location is open to the public, it's still private and they can revoke that invitation at any time.

What would I do after leaving the store if I thought they asked me to leave for an improper reason, like a crime I hadn't committed, but they thought I looked likely to?

JD: Depends on the circumstances, but one of the most common ways would be likely be to file a complaint with the human rights commission.

In this case, the customer also pulled out his phone. What right does he have to film in the store?

JD: Unless it's prohibited specifically by the store, he has any right to record any conversation or any involvement he's part of. So I mean commonly, if you were to record a conversation that you're part of, you're absolutely allowed to do that. You can do it in secret, you don't have to have the permission of that other party. 

Is there any time when a store employee is allowed to touch me if I say 'I'm not leaving the store?'

JD: It's the same rules that would apply for everybody, not just a store employee or security — everybody. You can't initiate physical contact with somebody unless there's a justifiable reason to do so.

 What would be one?

JD: If you're defending yourself from another assault, that's when you would defend it. If defending destruction of property.

What if someone's following me around the store?

JD: I think at that point if that's the case you could sort of confront the person, 'Why are you following me,' but otherwise if they're just following you, I don't think there's much you could do.

How does one prove discrimination?

JD: It comes down to the legal standard: balance of probabilities, more likely than not. And it's just going to be based upon all the circumstances and people who would testify about what they saw.

With files from CBC-Radio's Morning Edition