Vancouver: Standing amid the noise of traffic and hustle of pedestrians on the same Vancouver sidewalk where he was arrested and handcuffed in December 2019, Maxwell Johnson said he finally feels at peace.
The Indigenous man and his minor granddaughter were arrested as they tried to open an account for her at the Bank of Montreal in December 2019. Police were called over suspicion they were using a fake status card.
On Thursday, Johnson announced he and his granddaughter had settled their human rights complaint with the bank. The agreement includes an undisclosed a monetary payment from BMO, a private apology, and a pledge from the financial institution to update its policies on how Indigenous status cards are handled.
Holding a grey and white eagle feather that represents healing and blessing, Johnson said his Heiltsuk First Nation culture is about forgiveness. “We don’t hold onto anything. We don’t hold any grudges,’’ he said. “I just want people to educate themselves more about First Nations issues and our culture.’’
He said he wants people to understand Indigenous culture, and issues faced by First Nations when they deal with the government and corporations.
“We’re people too,’’ he said during the news conference. “I don’t think it’s right that we have to prove who we are by carrying a status card. We’re the only race that has the status for proof that we’re First Nation people.’’
A retired judge who led a disciplinary hearing against the two officers who made the arrest said in a decision released last month that they “recklessly’’ arrested Johnson and the girl.
Brian Neal said Johnson and his granddaughter endured a “disturbing and profoundly disrespectful series of events’’ as they were held and handcuffed on the busy street.
The independent review, which was ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, said the two officers who responded to a call from bank employees detained the pair without reasonable grounds.
Johnson and his granddaughter still have a complaint pending against the Vancouver Police Department in the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
By Hina Alam
The Canadian Press