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Sunday, January 29, 2023
Mother fired from Niagara Falls dealership over videoof her defending daughter against carriage protesters

A Niagara woman has lost her job, after a video of her trying to protect her 16-year-old daughter from NOTL horse carriage protesters was sent to her employer.

The woman, Elizabeth Beattie, was fired from AutoValue Hyundai in Niagara Falls after being filmed telling protesters to leave her daughter alone.

Her daughter Hailey works for Sentineal Carriages in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which for three years has been a regular target of protests by animal rights activists. 

On multiple occasions the protesters have verbally accosted carriage operators and customers, including children, and recently a pregnant mother and her two-year-old daughter.

Beattie said the company fired her because she was wearing a company name tag when she was filmed July 4.

She said she was so concerned for her daughter that she forgot to take the nametag off, heading straight to Old Town after she got off work at 4 p.m.

“My daughter text messaged me one day saying, ‘Mom, the protesters are here. I’m scared.’ So right after work, I came downtown and I was still wearing my name tag from work because I was so upset that I didn’t realize I didn’t take it off,” she said.

She said all she wanted that day was for protesters, specifically a man named Jason King, to leave her daughter alone.

“When I arrived, I approached Jason King and I asked him several times to please leave my child alone,” she said.

“(Protesters) then posted an edited video on YouTube,” she said. The footage of Beattie is interspersed with other unrelated videos.

Beattie points out the nametag isn’t legible in the video. The tag is attached to a lanyard around her neck and it flops around during the video, making it difficult to read or recognize.

The video, which calls her a “Karen” (a derogatory term for women who are vocal in expressing concerns) was sent to every salesperson at the Hyundai dealership at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 7.

“This is what your employee, Elizabeth Beatrice (sic), does on her time off,” the message said.

“Watch the entire video. My family lives in the area and sent the link of the video to me. Needless to say, they won’t be doing business at your dealership. They are also sending the link of the video to all the people they know in the area so they do not consider doing business at your dealership. I suggest you think about the kind of people you want working for your company,” it threatens.

The message was signed by a Shelly Johns, though it is not clear if that person is the sender. Prior to the email, King tried to send the video to the dealership’s Facebook page, but it was removed.

The video also is posted on a YouTube channel called Vegan Gaze, and is cut and edited to accentuate Beattie’s response, in some parts repeating parts of the video and using dramatic music alongside clips of Beattie.

In the video, Beattie asks protesters to stop filming her daughter, and suggests they go protest at Marineland instead of the carriages, pointing out that many of the carriage horses are saved from slaughter.

“Stop making people feel bad for doing their job, for trying to live,” Beattie can be heard saying.

“You’re making children feel unsafe.” 

Also in the video, while being recorded herself, Beattie starts to record back, saying, “How do you like it?”

She then follows the protesters and tells them if they have the right to stand on the sidewalk, then so does she.

Beattie was fired later in the day on Aug. 7 over the video. She was a service co-ordinator and had worked at the dealership since Jan. 2, 2020.

Beattie said her employer didn’t do an investigation into who sent the video and that the day she was fired she felt she was coerced into signing a termination letter, which she hadn’t even read because she had tears in her eyes.

“They pointed to where I needed to sign, and I said to them, ‘Sorry I can’t even hold a pen, I have so many tears I can’t see.’”

AutoValue Hyundai controller Meghan Cousineau said Beattie was fired because she was wearing “business accessories” and the incident of her defending her daughter is “reflecting poorly” on the business.

“Unfortunately, she was wearing business-related accessories,” Cousineau said, during a phone interview, adding the company has also now been harassed.

“We’ve already been taking some abuse this morning ourselves,” she said.

She said while what Beattie does on her own time is “her business,” the dealership treated the incident as if she was on company time because she was wearing her name tag.

“What she does in her own time is her business but she was being careless, unfortunately, acting out of anger, I guess you could say, and she neglected to take off her (name tag). It’s reflecting poorly on us.”

In the video, the name tag is visible but not legible.

However, Cousineau said “any business would be” concerned about public blowback from the way Beattie behaved on the video.

“We don’t agree with her behaviour. We made that quite clear with her. And, you know what, unfortunately there’s consequences to everybody’s actions,”

However, Cousineau said she sympathizes with Beattie in trying to defend her daughter.

“Obviously we’re all parents here, we all want to defend our kids. However, that being said, our behaviour and in doing such things needs to be appropriate. And unfortunately, the video that is surfacing only shows her poor behaviour,” she said.

“Perhaps there was other behaviour from the protesters, I have no doubt about that. I don’t employ the protesters, however. And if that’s going to be her behaviour on a public street, I just can’t take the chance that she’s going to have poor behaviour at work and do harm to a customer. She didn’t really show any care or concern for that in the footage that everybody has seen.”

She said she’s unaware of the continued protests by animal rights activists in NOTL, but that “there are consequences to actions.”

“I’m not a resident of Niagara-on-the-Lake so perhaps I’m not up to speed on all the nitty gritty, but, you know, protests are supposed to be peaceful. They’re supposed to kind of abide by certain rules. She wasn’t abiding by that. And, unfortunately, maybe the video is one-sided, but there are consequences to actions when they fall outside of the appropriate societal rules.”

She added that she isn’t siding with either party.

“The protest really isn’t what the issue was about. It’s her specific behaviour in (the video) — her very disrespectful actions, getting in people’s faces, following them up and down the street, yelling … that behaviour is not necessary and that behaviour is unbecoming of any individual, employed, not employed, it really doesn’t matter.”

Beattie said she thinks the firing constitutes wrongful dismissal. She said she has currently not received any severance pay.

The termination letter, signed by general manager Ralph Sheuermann, warns the company could pursue legal action against her in the future if she says anything bad about the company.

“You shall refrain from making any statements contrary to the best interests of the company,” her letter warns. “In particular, you shall not make adverse or unfavourable public statements concerning the company or your relationship with the company (whether verbal, in writing, via social media or in any other manner).”

She was also asked to agree not to discuss the termination letter with anyone besides her family, legal counsel, accountant or financial adviser.

“From my understanding it was the fact that I had my name tag on still. I did remove my name tag, once I realized it was on me. But I didn’t get any warning or written up or anything, it was just straight let go,” Beattie said.

She said she doesn’t think there’s been any consequences for protesters actively trying to sabotage her job, or for harassing a minor.

She’s called police, she said, but they have done nothing.

“I called the police for harassment. And they said, ‘We will call Jason and tell him to stop,’ “ however police told her they would not press charges, even though they believe the protesters actions to be harassment, Beattie said, fighting tears during an interview.

“I feel that I can’t rely on the police for their help. I feel that if I call them they think I’m a joke,” she said.

She said she also tried to report the incident of her daughter being harassed to police, but she had to call numerous times before an officer came to take a statement. Beattie said she called 911 to report it, but police didn’t come to take a statement. So she called again the next day, and again they didn’t come. The following day, after calling again, an officer showed up at about 11 p.m.

Now, she said she doesn’t feel police are protecting her.

“The fact that I called 911 and no one followed up with me and I had to do two follow-ups in three days for a police officer to come to my home scares me,” she said.

Beattie said she doesn’t blame her employers as much as she blames police for not enforcing charges of harassment on King.

“It was a great company to work for, and I know they felt bad for letting me go,” she said, adding she would likely take her job back if offered.

“I don’t hold anything against them. They’re just doing their job. I’m just heartbroken that it turned out this way. Had the police actually stepped up in the first place and charged Jason King with harassment the first time he went after my employers and when he made the video, then maybe we wouldn’t be here right now.”

She said she thinks it’s important to add that the protesters are attacking anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their beliefs, which she thinks is wrong and a violation of her own rights.

“For them to attack everybody who doesn’t believe in the same things that they believe in is wrong. And I give them respect for protesting for animals that can’t speak their mind. I don’t condemn them for doing what they’re doing. But if someone doesn’t believe in the same things you do, it doesn’t mean you can attack them and affect their place of employment and their whole life.”

Hailey is still working for the carriage company, and Beattie got her a camera so she can record when she feels threatened and intimidated.

To date, Niagara Regional Police have not laid any criminal charges for harassment against protesters, despite pleas from the carriage operators and residents of NOTL.

The video can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpuQ1xIqPHU

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