More join human rights complaint against Vancouver police

The case is expected to be heard in late 2022

Heiltsuk carver Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter were arrested in 2019 after wrongly being accused of fraud. Photo: APTN file

The BC Human Rights Tribunal will allow the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) to intervene in a case involving the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).

The police are accused of discriminating against Heiltsuk grandfather Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter after arresting them outside of a Bank of Montreal branch in downtown Vancouver.

The pair was handcuffed after trying to open a bank account in December 2019

Johnson filed a human rights complaint against the police shortly thereafter.

UBCIC and Vancouver lawyer Turpel-Lafond welcomed the tribunal’s decision.

Indigenous experience

They say they will now be able to provide context of the Indigenous experience with policing and allegations of anti-Indigenous racism and stereotyping.

“We have been granted intervener status,” confirmed UBCIC Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in a telephone interview with APTN News.

“The UBCIC will to continue to pursue this matter to achieve a full measure of justice for Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter, and we’re very happy about that.”

Johnson alleged in his human rights complaint the police discriminated against him and his granddaughter on the basis of race.

The complaint

The police denied that in its response to the complaint.

“The police says the VPD Officers did not respond differently to the Complainants because of their Indigenous heritage or family status. It says the VPD Officers’ conduct was appropriate and measured in the circumstances and was not discriminatory,” the response said.

They said they were relying on information the bank provided that an alleged fraud had occurred.

“Officers investigated the merits of the allegation. It says the VPD Officers properly exercised their discretion to detain, arrest, handcuff, and then release the Complainants once further investigation had revealed exculpatory facts.”

Phillip said there is a long history of complaints against the VPD, which includes the practice of street checks that targets homeless and disenfranchised people.

“In reality, it’s just a way to harass Indigenous people and people that are homeless and poor people on the streets,” he said.

“We’re holding the Vancouver Police Department to full account for their ongoing abuses.”

Johnson’s human rights case is not expected to be heard until late 2022.

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