British Columbia

'BMO has to answer for this': Angry Vancouver mayor to review why 12-year-old, grandfather arrested at bank

Mayor Kennedy Stewart, in his role as chair of the Vancouver Police Board, will be reviewing what led to Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter being arrested for fraud at a downtown BMO branch while trying to open the pre-teen girl an account.

Kennedy Stewart, who is also Vancouver Police Board chair, believes officers were given bad information

City of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart speaks at a news conference inside Vancouver City Hall on Tuesday, Jan.14, 2020. about the wrongful arrest of Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter at a downtown BMO branch. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart says the Bank of Montreal must not be let off the hook for what he considers the false reporting of information by staff that led to the wrongful arrest of an Indigenous man and a 12-year-old girl in a downtown branch in December.

Stewart, who is also chair of the Vancouver Police Board, will begin reviewing this week what factors led to officers handcuffing Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter after they tried to open an account for the pre-teen at BMO's Burrard Street location. 

In an interview Tuesday on The Early Edition, the mayor laid most of the blame for the incident on the bank. But he said he will get a better picture of what happened on Jan. 23 at the next board meeting, when he expects to have all the information from the police force presented to him.

His comments were made before news broke late Tuesday morning that the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner had ordered an investigation into the detention and arrest of the man and his granddaughter.

Stewart said he has not yet heard from the bank.

"Believe me, BMO is on the list of people that we'll be contacting to make sure we fully understand what happened in this situation, that we can learn from it, and to revise our policies that are in any way appropriate," said Stewart.

Watch demonstrators protest the arrest outside the BMO branch:

Protesters demonstrate outside Bank of Montreal 0:35

'False information'

He said he will review the force's policy when it comes to the use of restraints to make sure it is "the best that it can be" — but it is his view that the bank relayed bad information that led to the arrest of Johnson and his granddaughter.

"I want to understand what our recourse is when we do receive false information from a source that is reporting a crime," said Stewart. "For me, that's the starting point."

Johnson said he believes the employee may have been suspicious because he had $30,000 in his account — an amount he and every other member of the Heiltsuk nation received in December from the federal government as part of an Aboriginal rights settlement package

"BMO has to answer for this," said Stewart. "I'm really mad at this organization that has benefited from our colonial history immensely and now has a duty to help us in reconciling."

The City of Vancouver was designated a City of Reconciliation in 2014 with the long-term goal of strengthening local First Nations and Urban Indigenous relations.

To hear the complete interview with Mayor Kennedy Stewart on The Early Edition, tap the audio link below:

Kennedy Stewart is also the police board chair. He speaks with Stephen Quinn about his reaction to the arrest of Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year old granddaughter at a BMO branch in Vancouver. 10:10

With files from The Early Edition and Angela Sterritt