2 officers who arrested Heiltsuk man, granddaughter might not attend apology ceremony, nation says

Two Vancouver police officers, who handcuffed and arrested an indigenous man and his niece as they tried to open a bank account, may no longer attend the apology ceremony, according to National Heiltsuk.

In 2019, Maxwell Johnson and his then 12-year-old niece were detained by police in a busy downtown area at the Bank of Montreal.

Three years later, after a human rights settlement, the Vancouver Police Council and its officers are ready to apologize in person for discriminating against the couple because of their identity, race and ancestry. their land.

The apology is scheduled to take place during a ceremony Monday night inside the large home of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, BC, 480 kilometers northwest of Vancouver. The police delegation is expected to arrive on a chartered flight Monday morning.

But the two officers who made the arrest may not attend Monday’s ceremony, according to Heiltsuk leaders, who were provided with a passenger list for the plane that arrived in the remote village on Monday.

Johnson said: “My family and I will be deeply saddened if VPD officers do not attend our ceremony tomorrow.

“We’re looking forward to going to them and putting this behind us,” he said.

The passenger list contained the names of several senior VPD officials, including Chief Const. Adam Palmer and Deputy Sheriff Const. Howard Chow.

‘Symptoms of … systemic failure’

The story has become “a symbol of the fight against systemic racism”, according to Marilyn Slett, Sheriff of Heiltsuk.

But this latest development has Heiltsuk leaders questioning when their war will end.

Johnson, right, and his niece, center, are pictured during a news conference on September 28. The couple had expected the officers who arrested them in 2019 to attend the apology ceremony on Monday. (Ben Nelms / CBC)

A statement released Sunday by the nation said it considers potential non-attendance by officers “as a symptom of the larger system’s failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for racism.” systematic race in policy control.”

The country has also suggested that the apology ceremony cannot continue.

“Because the Heiltsuk protocols do not allow people to stand for others, a traditional apology ceremony cannot be performed unless all those who caused the damage are present themselves,” the announcement said. write.

“The absence of Constables Wong and Tong will be another traumatic chapter in Mr Johnson’s long journey to address the discrimination he and his granddaughter faced in December 2019.”

VPD initially said the incident was not racist

Back in 2019, a BMO branch manager called 911 because she thought Johnson and his niece were presenting fake identification cards, according to phone records.

Constables Mitchel Tong and Canon Wong arrived at the scene and handcuffed Johnson and his niece outside the bank on a busy downtown street. Both were released within an hour.

A month after CBC broke the story, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer said officers acted appropriately and without racism.

This spring, two officers were arrested ordered a suspension and ordered an apology for their “grave, reprehensible” misconduct.

VIEW | Maxwell Johnson’s niece said after the settlement:

VPD officers handcuffed Heiltsuk man and 12-year-old granddaughter outside the bank

Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter were handcuffed by Vancouver police on a busy street outside a BMO branch in Vancouver after the couple attempted to open her first bank account with an approved Status of India card. government approved.

Brian Neal, a retired provincial court judge appointed to the case by the Office of the Police Complaints Commission, found the officers each guilty of two counts of abuse of power by “arresting the complainant” recklessly and use unnecessary force by applying handcuffs.”

The VPD did not respond to requests made on Thursday and again Sunday afternoon for information about police panel members and officers scheduled to take the trip with Bella.


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