Human rights complaints have been filed by an indigenous grandfather who was arrested at a Vancouver bank while trying to open an account for his granddaughter last year.
On Monday, lawyers for Maxwell Johnson announced complaints had been filed with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, as well as with the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in connection to the Dec. 20, 2019 incident at a Vancouver Bank of Montreal branch.
Johnson is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella.
In December of last year, Johnson visited a downtown Vancouver BMO with hopes of helping his then 12-year-old granddaughter Tori open an account. Instead, the pair were questioned about their government-issued Indian status cards and police called for what the bank believed was a fraud in progress.
Police then handcuffed the pair and had them wait on the sidewalk outside the bank for 45 minutes before they were released, after police confirmed no crime had been committed and their identification was valid.
A transcript of the police call and a police report from the incident were also released Monday.
Together, the documents and complaints highlight how Johnson’s mental health has been impacted by the experience during and since, and how the sight of his granddaughter in handcuffs brought to mind the traumatic history of residential schools.
“Human rights tribunals need to hold institutions accountable for systemic racism,” said Johnson in a statement.
“Visible minorities are under constant threat of racial profiling by organizations, and discrimination by police. We are filing these human rights complaints to seek justice for our family, our community, and First Nations, and so that other people of colour can feel safe.”
The complaints name both the Vancouver Police and the Bank of Montreal as respondents, and cite inadequate training for bank staff on how to handle Indian status cards and systemic racism as reasons for the incident.
Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, had previously said a public apology issued by the bank following the incident did not go far enough to ensure such treatment would not be repeated.
“From the BMO manager deciding our members didn’t belong, to the 911 call to police, to the cuffing, detention and questioning of Max and his granddaughter about how they came to be at the bank, this was a clear case of racial profiling and systemic racism,” she said.
“Max and his granddaughter deserve justice for the pain this incident caused, and BMO and the VPD must take steps to ensure this never happens again.”