VANCOUVER — Human rights complaints are now being filed by an Indigenous man and his granddaughter after both were handcuffed outside a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver last December.

Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter Tori are both members of the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella. On Dec 20, 2019, they went to a bank on Burrard Street in downtown Vancouver, intending to open an account for the 12-year-old.

Johnson had been a customer of the bank for years. Instead, they found themselves in handcuffs, detained by Vancouver police officers, after someone at the bank called 911 on suspicion of fraud. The bank has since admitted it made a mistake, and apologized.

Johnson and his granddaughter are filing complaints against the bank and the police with the BC Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Johnson told CTV they are making the complaint not just for themselves, but in the hopes of helping other First Nations people and people of colour. 

“It’s not right to be put in a situation like this, for anybody,” Johnson said, adding he has had to return to counselling for anxiety since the incident at the bank. “Doesn’t matter the colour of your skin or the nation you come from.” 

Johnson said his granddaughter is also still affected by what happened.

“It’s something she’ll remember for the rest of her life,” he said. “The last time we were in Vancouver, we walked by a bank and she goes ‘Papa, I just get nervous when I see a bank.’ And especially with police too, she gets nervous.”

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