First Nations group wants to intervene in human rights case against Vancouver police

Groups wants to intervene

The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs has launched an effort to gain intervener status in a human rights case involving an Indigenous man and his granddaughter over their treatment by Vancouver police while attempting to open a bank account.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, a former judge who represents the union, says the organization wants to have a voice in Maxwell Johnson's case to highlight what it alleges is a history of systemic racism against Indigenous people by Vancouver’s police force.

Johnson, who is from the Heiltsuk Nation on B.C.'s central coast, says both he and his 12-year-old granddaughter were detained in December 2019 by Vancouver officers when they tried to open an account at the Bank of Montreal using their Indigenous status cards.

His complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal alleges that the bank called 911 over an identification issue because they are Indigenous, while it accuses the police of racial profiling that led to their detention and the use of handcuffs.

The incident prompted an apology from the bank, which then launched an Indigenous advisory council and conducted cultural training for staff.

No one from the Vancouver Police Department was immediately available for comment, but it said after the rights complaint was launched last year that the circumstances were "regrettable" and that the actions of the officers were being investigated by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says Johnson's incident is an example of racism that Indigenous people and people of colour face every day from police.

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