Indigenous Man & 12-Year-Old Granddaughter Handcuffed At Bank For Trying To Open An Account

Indigenous Man & 12-Year-Old Granddaughter Handcuffed At Bank For Trying To Open An Account

Maxwell Johnson says he strongly believes he was racially profiled. 

Getty Images/ Creative/ Credit: choochart choochaikupt

Maxwell Johnson had an appointment with the Bank of Montreal in Vancouver and he expected it to go as any other bank visit would go. According to CBC, he's been a customer of the bank since 2014 and he wanted to open another bank account for his 12-year-old granddaughter so he could transfer funds to her online, especially when she was on the road for basketball games. However, the meeting did not, in the least, go as they expected. On December 20th, during their meeting at BMO's Burrard Street location in downtown Vancouver, an employee questioned the identification he and his granddaughter presented. 



"She said the numbers didn't match up what she had on her computer," Johnson said from his home in Bella Bella, a Heiltsuk community located on B.C's Central Coast. 56-year-old Johnson and his granddaughter submitted government-issued Indian Status cards, his birth certificate, and her medical card. However, the employee became suspicious and reportedly went upstairs with their cards.



Johnson thinks the employee might have been suspicious because he had $30,000 in his account — an amount he and every other member of the Heiltsuk nation received in December from the federal government as part of an Aboriginal rights settlement package. Then, the employee came and told them to go upstairs and a short while later, they saw cops walking towards the two of them. 



"They came over and grabbed me and my granddaughter, took us to a police vehicle and handcuffed both of us, told us we were being detained and read us our rights," Johnson said. It was one thing to handcuff him, but seeing his granddaughter crying and in handcuffs broke his heart. "You can see how scared she was … It was really hard to see that," he said. Johnson says he strongly believes he was racially profiled.  



The Vancouver Police Department corroborated Johnson's account of what happened. Spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Roed said the officers detained them after claims from the bank that he and his granddaughter were committing a "possible fraud" that was in progress and identified the two of them as suspects. "It was determined that there was no criminal activity and no fraudulent transactions," the spokesperson said. Both were released within the hour and, according to Johnson, the officers apologized.



Roed then added that it was up to the arresting officer if they wanted to handcuff someone or not. In a phone interview, Roed told the CBC," it is a regrettable situation, and we don't want anybody to have to go through anything like this." Roed also added that the officers who had made the arrest had taken cultural competency training.  Though the bank did not respond, they did issue a statement. "Although there were some mitigating circumstances, they do not excuse the way in which we handled the situation," the bank said in a statement to CBC News. 



Soon after, Bank of Montreal posted a statement on social media. "We value our long and special relationship with Indigenous communities. Recently, an incident occurred that does not reflect us at our best. We deeply regret this and unequivocally apologize to all. We are reviewing what took place, how it was handled and will use this as a learning opportunity. We understand the importance and seriousness of this situation at the highest levels of the bank."


Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.

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