The First Nations Leadership Council has condemned the actions of Bank of Montreal staff and police for handcuffing an Indigenous man and his granddaughter while they tried to open a bank account in Vancouver.
Maxwell Johnson, a Heiltsuk Nation member, tried to open an account for his 12-year-old granddaughter at the Burrard Street BMO branch in Downtown Vancouver on December 20, according to a news release from FNLC.
But the BMO employee helping them was concerned they were committing fraud and called the police. Officers arrived and arrested Maxwell and his young granddaughter.
What happened is an example of the Canadian justice system intimidating and oppressing Indigenous people, the FNLC said.
“All British Columbians must step up and work together to end racism. The best hope we have is to take steps to stop normalizing racist attitudes and actions towards First Nations children, families and communities, and create a more equal and just society where everyone can thrive and be healthy,” BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Terry Teegee said.
The police handcuffed Johnson and his granddaughter at first, Vancouver Police Department media relations officer Sgt. Aaron Roed told Daily Hive.
“We recognize that this entire situation has been upsetting and distressing for the two individuals,” he said. “Based on the initial call, our officers conducted an investigation and cleared the individuals of any wrongdoing.”
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BMO apologized for the incident on Twitter, saying it “does not reflect us at our best.” The bank added it will review what happened and use it as a “learning opportunity.”
— BMO (@BMO) January 10, 2020
According to FNLC, this is a type of “commercial racial profiling” that’s on the rise.
“A pattern of behaviour is observed where a person of colour is treated rather with a lack of respect, a lack of professional courtesy, and an automatic assumption of guilt and criminal activity,” FNLC said.
Daily Hive has reached out to Johnson for comment about what happened.