Heiltsuk man files human rights complaint against Vancouver police, BMO after bank arrest

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Nearly one year after Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter were handcuffed after trying to open a bank account in Vancouver, the Heiltsuk First Nation artist has filed a human rights complaint against Bank of Montreal and the Vancouver police.

The complaint was filed Monday (Nov. 23). Johnson’s lawyers also released the transcript of the 911 call and redacted Vancouver police report.

Johnson and Torianne were arrested by officers on Dec. 20, 2019, in response to a 911 call made by BMO staff reporting fraud in progress after an employee had grown suspicious of recent transactions on Johnson’s existing BMO account and alleged issues with their Status Cards.

According to complaint documents, one of those recent transactions included a large deposit resulting from a legal settlement between Heiltsuk First Nation and Canada, and a recent small transfer to a family member.

“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,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation in a news release.

“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.”

An apology issued by BMO earlier this year was rejected by Johnson.

Rebecca Dyok, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Williams Lake Tribune