Fabricland issues apology to Elder after treatment in North Battleford store

Family says it wants to sit down with Fabricland staff to talk about cultural sensitivity.

When Simon Sapp, 89, went into the Fabricland store in North Battleford, Sask., like he has done many times before, he never imagined that he would be treated rudely.

But his granddaughter Cheyenna Sapp, says that’s exactly what happened when he went into the store Jan. 26.

“He asked her for seven meters of four different colours and these are specific instructions that were given to her,” said Cheyenna Sapp about her grandfather’s shopping experience.

“But she suggested something different to him, ‘why don’t you get this one instead or this one’ not realizing it was for ceremonial purposes.”

Cheyenna Sapp said her grandfather holds a Sun Dance ceremony in Little Pine First Nation and he went to Fabricland to get the materials he needed.

“She began to get rude after he turned down her suggestion and started speaking to him in a condescending tone,” said Cheyenna. “And after every cut, say seven metres, (she) held it up ‘are you sure?’ And every time he responded with yes.”

She says her grandfather was getting uncomfortable with the treatment.

“He walked away from her to go sit down on a bench near the entrance of the store, still inside the store but he was he was over the six foot social distancing,” she says. “She followed him and continued to berate him telling him ‘if you’re going to take your mask off you’re going to have to leave the store.’”

Cheyenna said he didn’t remove his mask and he wasn’t engaging with the store worker.

“Finally after he was tired of being yelled at and spoken to with disrespect he did get up and he left the store,” Cheyenna said.

The owner of the Fabricland store apologized to the Sapp family in a letter, not written on company letterhead, dated Feb. 3.

“I would like to express my sincere apology to each of you, for your experience in the Fabricland store,” wrote Cheryl Klippenstein. “As the store owner and manager, I take full responsibility for my staff’s behavior that caused you to feel humiliated, hurt by the way of my employee’s remarks, and the tone of voice when dealing with you. No one should experience what you did.”

According to Klippenstein, the employee was asked to “remain away from work for 3 days,”  and that the store is hoping to hire more staff “and if possible, I plan to hire a First Nations individual,” Klippenstein says in the letter.

APTN News requested an interview to discuss the incident but was turned down.

The family wants more than an apology.

Cheyenna said she’d like to sit down with the staff at Fabricland and discuss why the treatment was racist so this doesn’t happen to other Indigenous customers.

“After we requested some type of cultural training or cultural sensitivity training or even a sit down with some local indigenous people to have a conversation, she had not agreed to that,” said Cheyenna.

The store worker is also expected to write a letter of apology but the family said it hasn’t arrived yet.

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