Retail Council of Canada looking to address rise of retail-related violence

Tools and resources available to help workers

Retail Council of Canada looking to address rise of retail-related violence

Retail-related violence in Canada is on the rise.

Specifically, violence and aggravated offenses against front line retail staff, security personnel and customers have increased by 150 to 200 per cent from 2019 to now, CTV News reported, citing the Retail Council of Canada (RCC).

One of those workers who have experienced these assaults was Gavin Rampersaud, who was tackled by a shoplifter in March 2021.

A 21-year-old man was charged with robbery, mischief and three counts of failing to comply with probation in relation to that incident.

Rampersaud is still recovering from the assault, and he now must use a walker and take various medications to help him with the pain, according to the report.

“I have three swollen vertebrae in my neck and I was recovering from throat cancer,” he told CTV News, adding that he is in a “terrible mental state”.

But assaults against retail workers is nothing new.

In November 2019, a liquor store in Winnipeg was closed after one employee was hospitalized and two others were hurt in what the company described as an “unprovoked attack”. A month later, the president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 832 – which represents 8,000 retail workers – called for more police presence in stores in Winnipeg to address the growing shoplifting problems, even though that may only be “a good short-term solution”.

Now, RCC is searching for new solutions to prevent violence in Canada’s retail work environments by “linking police services, government officials and store employees to find an end to indiscriminate attacks on the country’s retail workforce”.

RCC is advocating for a constructive relationship with local police services, courts and government agencies to deal with the frequency of violence in retail.

The council is also advocating that Canada’s courts better prosecute those who commit crimes in retail spaces, especially in cases of assault or repeat offenders.

“RCC pushes for divergent, alternative response measures to ensure offenders are provided adequate rehabilitation methods – for their and the employees’ sake,” it said.

Also, the council is in ongoing discussions with partners to create de-escalation training and best practices that can be utilized by retailers and their employees.

British Columbia, in cooperation with the province's Urban Mayors’ Caucus, has hired two experts to investigate and report on prolific offenders and random violent attacks, and the necessary actions. This is in response to concerns that shifting crime patterns during the pandemic were particularly hurting downtown retail areas.

RCC and members of the RCC working group on retail security met with these experts appointed by the province on Thursday, July 28, 2022.

The council is also providing tools and resources to help retail employers and employees deal with violence, available here.

In 2021, WorkSafeBC accepted 7,125 claims related to work injuries from young workers. Injuries were most likely to occur in service sector jobs (2,801 claims), followed by retail and wholesale (1,335 claims) and construction (1,258 claims).