Foodfare employee suspended after ‘violent confrontation’ with customer

An employee at a St. Matthews-area grocery store has been suspended and police are investigating after a confrontation with a customer over the weekend.

Angela Antoine was shopping at the Portage Avenue Foodfare on Sunday afternoon when she witnessed the altercation.

She was at the checkout when an employee accused a woman in front of her of shoplifting. He demanded to look in her bag, Antoine said, before forcibly grabbing the woman’s purse from her shoulder.

The woman told him not to touch her, and the incident escalated with the man punching the woman in the face, Antoine said.

“He got this woman on the ground and I think he struck her a few more times, but I remember when he hit her in the mouth and split her lip open, I heard it. I heard the contact to her face,” she told CTV News Winnipeg in an interview.

A woman involved in the altercation at Foodfare is pictured in the grocery store parking lot on April 28, 2024 in the aftermath of the incident. (Angela Antoine)

Other employees eventually stepped in to break up the altercation, Antoine says.

The employee accused the woman of hitting him first, but Antoine didn’t see that happen.

The woman’s young son was also with her, and got shoved into a gumball machine, Antoine says.

“It was a disgusting situation.”

Winnipeg police confirmed to CTV News Winnipeg officers were called to the grocery store Sunday for a report of an assault. No arrests have been made, and an investigation is ongoing.

Antoine says she and the woman gave statements to police, but Antoine says the woman is still deciding whether to press charges.

“She’s just discouraged. She feels nothing’s going to happen anyway.”

Employee suspended in wake of ‘violent confrontation’

Foodfare owner Munther Zeid said in a statement he is deeply concerned about a violent confrontation during a shoplifting incident.

“Dealing with incidents of shoplifting is a challenging and complex task. Our employees are trained to prioritize the safety of themselves and others while handling such situations,” the statement reads.

“However, we understand that the circumstances can escalate quickly, leading to unforeseen unfavorable outcomes.”

He notes the employee has been suspended pending the investigation, and says they are working with authorities on the investigation.

Zeid says the employee is from a marginalized community and has experienced many challenges in life. He believes firing them would not be the right course of action.

Foodfare owner and manager Munther Zeid is shown in a Nov. 20, 2023 image at his Portage Avenue store.

AMC cuts tied with Foodfare in wake of altercation

Antoine says the woman involved in the incident is Indigenous and a member of Norway House Cree Nation.

After Antoine’s account of the incident began circulating on social media, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) released a statement, noting it had terminated a business relationship with Foodfare where AMC purchased food from the grocery store to create hampers for families in its Jordan’s Principle program.

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick writes in a statement violence against First Nations women and girls is a systemic issue that permeates every intersection of their lives.

“I cannot believe that in 2024, First Nation women can’t even go to the store without experiencing this level of physical aggression, particularly with a child present,” Merrick said.

“It makes you wonder why he felt so comfortable acting in such a manner with cameras recording his every move. What that tells me is that systemic discrimination and racism against First Nations women and girls is so deeply ingrained in Canada’s social fabric that people feel empowered to treat us this way.”

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick is shown during an interview on April 13, 2024.

Meantime, Zeid says he is implementing additional training for employees and seeking partnerships with Indigenous organizations.

AMC confirmed they had an initial conversation with Zeid and are willing to meet to discuss how the organization can help educate Foodfare to offer cultural competency training to create safe spaces for First Nations people to shop.

“We are determined to rebuild trust, enhance our training programs, and strengthen our commitment to fostering cultural understanding and sensitivity,” Zeid said.

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