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VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA (May 5, 2022) – Heiltsuk First Nation members Maxwell Johnson and his 14-year-old granddaughter have reached a settlement agreement with the Bank of Montreal, whose representatives made a 911 call following suspicion that they had presented fraudulent Indigenous status cards while trying to open a bank account in 2019.
The call resulted in VPD officers attending the bank’s Burrard Street branch and publicly arresting and handcuffing Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter, who subsequently filed human rights complaints against the bank and the police. An earlier decision by retired judge Brian Neal, Q.C., released in April of 2022, found that the VPD officers committed professional misconduct and acted recklessly in their dealings with the grandfather and granddaughter.
Despite having now reached a settlement with BMO, Mr. Johnson closed his account today, with members of the Heiltsuk Nation gathering outside the bank to show their support.
“This ends our legal action against the bank for what happened to me and my granddaughter, but we are still in a healing process,” said Johnson. “Closing my account today is part of that process. While we appreciate the actions BMO has taken as part of this settlement and hope they will continue to educate themselves about Indigenous peoples and take actions towards reconciliation, this bank still triggers painful memories for me and my family.”
The terms of the settlement include the following:
“The Heiltsuk Nation could not be prouder of Max and his granddaughter for pursuing justice and making real and significant change in the fight against systemic racism,” said Marilyn Slett, elected Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “We will continue to support Max and his granddaughter in their healing journey, and we remain committed to working with all institutions who seek to make broader change to ensure this kind of incident never happens again.”
Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter’s complaint against the Vancouver Police Department at the BC Human Rights Tribunal remains ongoing.
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