Mall cops targeting First Nations: elder

A local First Nation elder says the security guards at the Qwanlin Mall are treating him and his people unfairly.

A local First Nation elder says the security guards at the Qwanlin Mall are treating him and his people unfairly.

Sweeney Scurvey, a member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, said he was minding his own business scratching a lottery ticket outside the mall earlier this month when an employee of Sirius Security approached him and told him to leave.

“What this guard didn’t expect was for me to stand up to him. I told him that I was here on business. I mentioned that I knew people in Extra Foods and Shoppers Drug Mart, and reminded him that I was an elder,” Scurvey said.

“He said, ‘I don’t care. They can’t do anything to me anyway,’” he said.

Scurvey’s apartment in the McIntyre Village was under construction at the time, so he couldn’t go home. He had planned to spend his afternoon downtown as he often does, but said the guard continued to harass him until he left the property.

It would be one thing if the guard was simply rude, but the guards at the mall don’t hassle everyone equally, Scurvy said.

“He’s targeting First Nations. There were cars parking illegally in handicapped spaces all day and he didn’t do anything about it… ,” Scurvey said.

A self-described mission school survivor and “sober alcoholic,” Scurvey said he was not drinking on the day in question, though he recognizes that many from his community do struggle with substance abuse issues. But that shouldn’t make them targets for discrimination, he said.

“He (the guard) is living in the wrong century,” Scurvey said.

It’s not the first time people have raised concerns about the guards at the mall. A Kwanlin Dun staff member, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they have heard many similar complains from other elders, and Scurvey said the issue was brought to KDFN chief and council.

No one from the First Nation’s government responded to numerous calls for comment.

But Sirius Security owner Sonny Gray said that people critical of his employees work are ignoring a hard truth: most of the people who loiter near the mall and the liquor store are First Nations.

“This job that my security guards are doing, it’s not a fun job. There’s nothing about this job that’s enjoyable. Having to act like a watchdog in that particular neighbourhood is extremely difficult,” Gray said.

“The lottery ticket incident – he (Scurvy) was intoxicated at the time. My guard remembers it. That’s not going to come out at the time. There are two sides to every story. At the end of the day, we have a mandate. The store ownership has given us a mandate, and that’s what we’re doing,” he said.

Gray is one of a number of advocates pushing for the territory to create trespassing legislation, but there has been a lot of blowback from local housing advocacy groups and support services who help people on the street.

Many critics say that trespassing laws would only further criminalize homelessness.

Gray’s employees also patrol Yukon Housing buildings at night, and do private security for events around town. A trespassing act would give Gray’s guards more powers to enforce anti-loitering rules, but he said there is more to the issue than just kicking people off the curb outside Extra Foods.

The thing that his critics seem to be forgetting, Gray said, is that while its true his guards are moving people away from high traffic areas and further out of sight, just leaving them where they are to get drunk on the street isn’t a solution either.

“The person who is smoking crack, or drinking, and isn’t welcome in their home community anymore? Where are they going to go?

“I understand where (the critics) are coming from. Those people are marginalized, for sure, but it’s not my job as a security provider to solve those problems. That’s the social responsibility of the governments, both federal and territorial, to do a better job,” he said.

For every critic who opposes the work his guards do, Gray said he hears thanks from store owners and patrons who feel safer when his guards are on watch.

Gray said his employees have worked with Yukon College’s Northern Institute for Social Justice to help gain cultural sensitivity for their work, and he plans for that to continue.

Contact Jesse Winter at

jessew@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read