BELLA BELLA, B.C. – Members of the Vancouver Police Department are expected to take part in an apology ceremony today in an expression of regret for arresting and handcuffing an Indigenous man and his granddaughter when they tried to open a bank account.
The apology is part of a settlement agreement arising from a human rights complaint against the Vancouver Police Board filed by Maxwell Johnson of the Heiltsuk Nation in Bella Bella, on B.C.’s central coast.
A Bank of Montreal employee called police under the mistaken assumption that Johnson and his then-12-year-old granddaughter’s Indian status cards were fake, setting off the public arrest in December 2019.
The settlement included an undisclosed financial award to Johnson, $100,000 to fund the nation’s restorative justice department, and the development of a plan to improve police training on anti-Indigenous
racism and “cultural humility.” However, the Heiltsuk Nation issued a statement Sunday saying it is possible the two arresting officers won’t be attending, and the traditional ceremony can’t be carried out unless those who caused the harm are present.
It says the absence of constables Canon Wong and Mitchel Tong would be another hurtful chapter in Johnson’s long jour- ney to address the discrimination he and his granddaughter faced.
Johnson’s granddaughter, Tori-Anne, told a news conference last month that she hoped the story of her arrest would encourage more people to stand up against injustice and discrimination.
The nation says the ceremony is a prerequisite for true reconciliation and is intended to be an uplifting experience for everyone.
“The apology ceremony is also to deliver a message of relationship rebuilding between police and First Nations, following a traumatic incident,” the nation says.