First Nations group calls for security guard to be fired following violent arrest at Saskatoon store
Video shows guard pinning, attempting to handcuff woman in parking lot
The head of one of the largest First Nations groups in Saskatchewan says he is angered after seeing the violent arrest of an Indigenous woman by a security guard in Saskatoon and is now calling for the security guard to be fired.
Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN), which represents First Nations across the province, says the incident, which was captured on video, is just one instance of violence Indigenous women face. He said it's a symptom of a larger issue in the province.
"Had that been a non-First Nation woman, shoplifting or not … do you think he would have done that to that extent and assaulted her? Never," Cameron said in an interview with CBC News.
The altercation took place at the FreshCo on 33rd Street West in the city's Mayfair neighbourhood on Wednesday and has spurred a strong reaction online, with many saying the security guard in the video used excessive force. What led to the incident is not entirely clear.
The nine-minute video, recorded by a witness, shows a man who identifies himself as the grocery store security guard trying to force handcuffs on the woman. The guard can be heard accusing the woman of stealing. Bystanders plead with him to let her go and let police handle it.
The altercation escalates and the woman punches him. He continues to try to detain her and throws himself on top of her and says he is the one who is hurt as she climbs into the driver's seat of her parked van. Witnesses can be heard saying they can see both individuals are bleeding.
Cameron said if the security guard had concerns about the woman's actions, he should have taken a photo of her and recorded her licence plate number.
"He took the law into his own hands, and that's wrong," he said.
Cameron said he was disturbed watching the video because he feels the woman was being assaulted and was in distress. Cameron said if he had been there, he would have kicked the man "right in the face."
"He had no right to do that to her," he said.
"Let the city police handle that. That's what he should have done. Instead, he took it upon himself to almost break her arm, throw her to the ground with her bare knees on hard pavement."
GRAPHIC WARNING | FSIN calls for guard to be fired:
In a post on the store's Facebook page, management indicated they have ended the contract with the third-party security firm in question. While Cameron said that's a good first step, he says the security guard should be fired.
"He has no right and he doesn't deserve the privilege or honour to work in that type of environment," he said.
Cameron says the FSIN will not identify the woman until she is ready.
They say it should be the security guard who is charged, and the FSIN says it will assist the woman if she plans to pursue civil action.
"We're going to do everything we can to advocate for her," he said.
After speaking with her Thursday, Cameron said the woman is traumatized and in pain as a result of the incident.
"She is battling PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]. She was crying … She's obviously distraught and now she's going to the hospital, or a health centre, to get treatment," he said. "She's in pain. She has stomach pains and obviously her arm and her knees. She's in pain."
Security guard suffered 'minor injuries'
CBC News spoke to an official with Emergency Security Management, the security company that employed the guard, but they said they were unable to comment on the situation because it is still under investigation.
In a statement on Thursday, Saskatoon Police Service confirmed the woman was charged, saying officers were called to the area at around 4 p.m. CST for a report of shoplifting.
"Upon arrival, Police located a 30-year-old female being detained by a loss prevention officer. A previous altercation between the two individuals had taken place, resulting in minor injuries to the LPO," the statement said.
"He was treated on scene by paramedics. The female refused medical treatment and was taken into Police custody. She was charged with Theft Under $5000 and Assault."
Police say the incident is still under investigation. They said they are aware of calls for the security guard to be charged, and "all details of the incident will be taken into account as the investigation continues."
GRAPHIC WARNING | Violent arrest captured on video:
Store owner 'horrified'
A statement on FreshCo's Facebook page detailed the dismissal of the security company.
"At FreshCo, the safety and well-being of our customers and teammates is our top priority. We have decided to end our relationship with our third party security vendor as the behaviour shown on April 14th outside our store is not tolerated or a representation of our values," the statement said.
"We continue to cooperate with officials as this incident is currently under investigation. We are also working closely with our teammates and supporting them as they work through this investigation."
Another statement from the store's owner, Chris Fowler, indicated the incident itself was disturbing to him as an Indigenous store owner and a member of the community.
"I wanted to address the situation yesterday. First of all I'm beyond shocked and horrified. As Métis owner and a father of two daughters this should of not happened ever," he said in the post.
When reached by phone, he referred interview requests to the media relations department of Sobeys, the parent company of FreshCo.
In a statement to CBC, Sobeys said the company has ended its relationship with Emergency Security Management, as the behaviour captured in the video is "not tolerated or a representation of our values."
"Creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for our customers and our teammates is very important to us. Our Franchisee partners share in these values," the statement said.
Sobeys is co-operating with police and working to support staff, it said.
"Our Franchisee has taken the time to reinforce our protocols in situations with his store team. As you can imagine, many are very upset by this situation — including our Franchisee and his store team."