A B.C. First Nation is calling the response to an Indigenous man’s arrest and detention at a Vancouver bank “woefully inadequate.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, the Heiltsuk Nation said they stood behind Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter after the duo were arrested and detained for an hour while trying to open a bank account.
Johnson, a member of the Heiltsuk Nation, and his 12-year-old granddaughter had been at a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver on Dec. 20 when an employee called the police to report a fraud in progress, citing concerns over Johnson’s Indian Status card and identification.
The Heiltsuk said the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner investigation launched Tuesday into the Vancouver police officers’ conduct fell short of addressing the community’s concerns.
The First Nation acknowledged the investigation was a step in the right direction but said it was not “comforting or acceptable to us that police should be investigating police on a matter that goes to the heart of systemic racism.” The Delta police have been tasked with carrying out the OPCC-ordered probe.
The officers in question have already cleared been by an internal Vancouver police investigation but the Heiltsuk want a civillian-based Vancouver Police Board probe.
The Heiltsuk said the responses from the Bank of Montreal and Vancouver police have not done enough. In a statement, the nation said they take “strong exception” to comments made by the Vancouver police chief that the officers’ response was “standard operating procedure.” The Heiltsuk also took aim at the Bank of Montreal, accusing them of racial profiling.
Johnson, the Heiltsuk said, is a “a much-loved and respected artist, carver, cultural leader, singer, foster parent, and knowledge holder in our community,” who has publicly talked about his struggles with anxiety and panic disorder.
The Vancouver police have admitted the arrest was “upsetting and distressing” to Johnson and his granddaughter, but have declined to comment further while the OPCC investigation is ongoing. The bank issued an apology following the incident.
A community support rally was held in Vancouver for Johnson on Tuesday.