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‘I felt sick’: Vancouver mayor says handcuffing of Indigenous 12-year-old to be reviewed by police board

The BMO Bank of Montreal logo is seen on the BMO Nova Centre, housing their Atlantic Canadian headquarters and support services, in Halifax on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
The BMO Bank of Montreal logo is seen on the BMO Nova Centre, housing their Atlantic Canadian headquarters and support services, in Halifax on Tuesday, April 2, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Vancouver’s mayor says he “felt sick” when he learned about an Indigenous grandfather and his 12-year-old granddaughter being handcuffed after trying to open a bank account at BMO last month.

Vancouver police have acknowledged the duo did nothing wrong, and police and BMO have both issued statements apologizing for the way the incident was handled.

In its initial statement following the incident BMO said “although there were some mitigating circumstances, they do not excuse the way in which we handled the situation.”

The bank followed up with a another apology saying it deeply regretted the incident, which was “not representative of who we are,” however has yet to accept an on-camera interview.

READ MORE: Indigenous man, 12-year-old granddaughter handcuffed after trying to open account at Vancouver bank

On Monday, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the incident will be reviewed at the next meeting of the police board on Thursday.

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“The board will be provided with a detailed briefing at our next meeting where we will decide next steps, including looking at a full review and understanding the policies and procedures that led to this deeply regrettable situation,” said Stewart in a statement.

“What is clear right now is that no young person doing something as innocent as opening their first bank account should ever be put in this situation.”

The incident happened on Dec. 20, when Maxwell Johnson of Bella Bella took his granddaughter to the BMO branch on Burrard Street to open her first bank account.

Johnson says he and the girl provided ID, including Indian Status Cards. A BMO employee told him “one or two numbers didn’t add up,” then took the cards out of the office to be verified, he said.

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Instead, the pair were told that there were discrepancies with their status cards, then told to wait in an office. Police arrived not long after, when the duo learned they were being accused of fraud.

BMO demonstrators demand justice for B.C. Indigenous man and girl
BMO demonstrators demand justice for B.C. Indigenous man and girl

The pair were handcuffed and detained while police investigated — eventually determining that no fraud had occurred and apologizing to both of them at the scene.

Vancouver police have since said the bank provided officers with incorrect information in a 911 call reporting a fraud in progress, including describing the pair as South Asian, and the 12-year-old girl as a 16 year old.

READ MORE: Protesters call for action from BMO after Indigenous man, 12-year-old handcuffed in Vancouver

In his statement, Stewart said he and Palmer both feel bad “about how the misleading information provided by BMO staff led the officers who responded to take actions they did.”

Stewart added that Palmer has also “made efforts” to directly contact and apologize to Johnson, and called on the bank to “do right” by the family, “take full responsibility for their actions” and ensure the situation does not happen again.

On Monday, BMO referred to its statements last week and said it would have more to say in the days to come.

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In a statement last Friday, the company said it was working with its Indigenous employee resource group and other Indigenous stakeholders to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to action to improve its corporate activities and policies.

It said it is also setting up an Indigenous Advisory Council in partnership with “several chiefs across Canada.”