First Nations chiefs asking Vancouver Police Board to release BMO handcuffing 911 call

Jan 23 2020, 1:02 pm

The Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs is urging the Vancouver Police Board to conduct a thorough review if an incident at a Bank of Montreal branch where an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old daughter were handcuffed.

UBCIC is also demanding the Vancouver Police Department release a transcript of the 911 call from bank staff as a “matter of public interest,” the group said in an open letter Thursday.

“To be criminalized and met with suspicion for simply opening a bank account is deplorable,” the letter said. “It speaks to the prejudice and intolerance that pervades all levels of the society, and that the BMO and VPD have become enabling agents of.”

Maxwell Johnson, a Heiltsuk Nation member, and his 12-year-old granddaughter Tori-Anne, were arrested by VPD officers on suspicion of fraud when they tried to open an account at BMO’s Burrard Street location in December. The pair was placed in handcuffs until officers determined no fraud had taken place.

The chiefs’ union also condemned BMO’s response to the incident, saying their public apologies framed what happened as “unfortunate” or as a learning opportunity.

UBCIC is calling for an independent civilian review to address the following:

  1. Why VPD’s “standard operating procedure” ended with an Indigenous man and his granddaughter in handcuffs when they’d done nothing wrong
  2. Why BMO reported the Indigenous pair on suspicion of fraud before obtaining further information
  3. Why both BMO and the VPD failed to understand the trauma the arrest and handcuffing would inflict on the child and her grandfather
  4. Whether the Delta Police Department is an appropriate body to investigate the incident (they’ve been appointed to look into it by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner)

“It is not enough to have half-hearted apologies and promises of ‘moving forward’ and ‘learning’. We want concrete action,” the letter said.