A Ruling Found That 2 Vancouver Police Officers 'Recklessly' Arrested An Indigenous Man
Two Vancouver Police officers handcuffed an Indigenous man and his granddaughter outside of a Bank of Montreal branch, and have now been ordered to be suspended.
The officers were found to have "acted oppressively in their dealings," according to a decision posted on the Heiltsuk Nation website on Wednesday.
The man, named Maxwell Johnson, and his 12-year-old granddaughter are members of the Heiltsuk Nation in B.C.
Brian Neal, a retired provincial court judge appointed to the case, found that both officers — Constables Canon Wong and Mitchel Tong — recklessly used unnecessary force and arrested Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter "without good and sufficient cause," according to the decision.
On December 20, 2019, Johnson and his granddaughter travelled from Bella Bella to Vancouver. Johnson was trying to open a bank account at BMO for his granddaughter.
"Both Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter found themselves escorted out of the Bank without explanation by two Vancouver Police Officers," the decision added.
Then on the busy downtown sidewalk, the pair was arrested and handcuffed by the police officers.
They were cooperative with the police, but were "clearly confused, upset and fearful," said the decision.
Johnson and his granddaughter were released, as "the allegations of possible fraud which were the basis of the arrests, had been determined to be completely without merit," it added.
After the arrest, Johnson and his granddaughter filed a complaint with the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner and the BC Human Rights Tribunal.
On March 18, 2022, retired judge Brian Neal found that both police officers had committed professional misconduct.
"I have found that no reasonable police officer standing in the shoes of the two officers could support such actions based on suspicion alone," Neal said.
The tribunal has ordered the police officers be suspended for "several days," said a statement from the Heiltsuk Nation.
They are also ordered to write an apology and to "complete intensive, immersive Indigenous cultural sensitivity training," the statement said.
The officers have been invited by the Heiltsuk Nation to go to Bella Bella, to participate in an apology ceremony with Johnson and his granddaughter.
"This story has become a symbol of the fight against systemic racism, and we are committed to working with the officers to make broader change and ensure this never happens again," said Marilyn Slett, the elected Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation.
The statement added that there are still two outstanding human rights complaints against the Bank of Montreal and the Vancouver Police Department.
Narcity reached out to the Vancouver Police Department for comment, but they did not respond in time for publication.
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