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Human rights complaint filed after Indigenous man, girl handcuffed outside Vancouver bank

Click to play video: 'Human rights complaint filed after Indigenous man and granddaughter handcuffed outside B.C. bank' Human rights complaint filed after Indigenous man and granddaughter handcuffed outside B.C. bank
A B.C. Indigenous man and his granddaughter have filed human rights complaints against BMO and the Vancouver Police Department after an attempt to open a bank account last December ended with them being handcuffed outside the branch. Catherine Urquhart reports – Nov 23, 2020

A human rights complaint has been filed against the Vancouver Police Department and Bank of Montreal after an incident last year involving an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter inside a bank.

The release of a transcript of the 911 call and a redacted police report are “evidence of systemic racism,” lawyers for Maxwell Johnson said in a news release on Monday.

Click to play video: 'Indigenous grandfather files human rights complaint against VPD, BMO' Indigenous grandfather files human rights complaint against VPD, BMO
Indigenous grandfather files human rights complaint against VPD, BMO – Nov 23, 2020

Johnson, who had been a BMO customer since 2014, had taken his granddaughter to a downtown Vancouver branch on Dec. 20, 2019, to open an account for her. The two are members of the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella.

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When Global News first reported on the story in January, Johnson said the bank teller asked for his identification, so he gave them his Indian Status Card.

The teller then told Johnson that his ID wasn’t matching up and that she had to take it to be verified, Johnson said.

A transcript of the 911 call to police, released Monday, shows the branch manager said they have been given a fake ID and they had been told by the “Indian government” to call police.

According to the transcript, the manager described Johnson and his granddaughter as South Asian to the 911 operator.

Click to play video: 'Attempt to open bank account ends in handcuffs for B.C. girl and grandfather' Attempt to open bank account ends in handcuffs for B.C. girl and grandfather
Attempt to open bank account ends in handcuffs for B.C. girl and grandfather – Jan 9, 2020

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

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When police arrived, they took both Johnson and his granddaughter outside and handcuffed them, but said they were being detained, not arrested.

After some questioning, Johnson said he realized he and his granddaughter were being accused of trying to commit fraud.

The VPD incident report indicates the responding officers “formed reasonable grounds to believe that fraud had occurred.”

However, after the officers spoke with the justice coordinator for the Heiltsuk Nation, Margaret Brown, she confirmed the validity of the cards and the two were released.

“Visible minorities are under constant threat of racial profiling by organizations, and discrimination by police,” Johnson said in the news release.

“We are filing these human rights complaints to seek justice for our family, our community, and First Nations, and so that other people of colour can feel safe.”

Click to play video: 'BMO executive makes apology to B.C. grandfather and 12-year-old girl' BMO executive makes apology to B.C. grandfather and 12-year-old girl
BMO executive makes apology to B.C. grandfather and 12-year-old girl – Jan 16, 2020

Read more: BMO apologizes for handcuffing of Indigenous 12-year-old, denies racism a factor

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His lawyers said they have also filed with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and are releasing copies of the 911 call and police report in a bid to “show a discriminatory train of thought leading to the cuffing and detention of Johnson and his granddaughter.”

Click to play video: 'Bank appointment ends with B.C. man and granddaughter in handcuffs' Bank appointment ends with B.C. man and granddaughter in handcuffs
Bank appointment ends with B.C. man and granddaughter in handcuffs – Jan 9, 2020

“From the BMO manager deciding our members didn’t belong, to the 911 call to police, to the cuffing, detention and questioning of Max and his granddaughter about how they came to be at the bank, this was a clear case of racial profiling and systemic racism,” Marilyn Slett, chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation, said in a release.

A BMO representative reached out a few days after the incident and apologized, offering to do anything to make up for it, Johnson said at the time.

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About a month later, Vancouver police acknowledged the incident as Johnson described it and apologized as well.

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