British Columbia

Vancouver police officers face new review in case of detained Indigenous man and granddaughter

A retired judge has determined that a further investigation is needed in the case of two Vancouver police officers and their alleged treatment of an Indigenous man.

Pair were handcuffed in 2019 after they tried to open a bank account

Maxwell Johnson was trying to open an account for his granddaughter so he could transfer her money while she was on the road for basketball games. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A retired judge has determined that a further investigation is needed in the case of two Vancouver police officers who handcuffed an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter outside a Bank of Montreal in downtown Vancouver.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner had initially ordered an investigation into the officers' conduct involving the detainment of Maxwell Johnson in December 2019, when he attempted to open a bank account for his granddaughter.

Victoria Police Chief Del Manak carried out the initial investigation, determining no disciplinary action was needed.

But the police complaint commissioner concluded there "was a reasonable basis'' the decision was wrong and appointed a retired judge to independently review the case.

Retired justice Brian Neal says the case will proceed to a disciplinary process, which could lead to a future proceeding where the officers face questioning and witnesses are called.

Marilyn Slett, the elected chief of the Heiltsuk Nation, says in a statement that the band — of which Johnson is a member — is pleased with the latest development but wants recognition of the systemic discrimination they say occurred.

"If we were white, the VPD would have talked to us to sort out the confusion about the typo in my granddaughter's status card," Max Johnson said in a statement.  (Submitted by Jess Housty)

"To our knowledge, the VPD has not apologized to Max and his granddaughter, and they continue to deny that their officers engaged in discrimination," Slett said.

"Without facing this truth, there is no hope for reconciliation."

Johnson echoed Slett's sentiments, adding that there were no reasonable grounds for handcuffing him and his granddaughter outside the bank.

"This would not have happened to us if we were white. If we were white, the VPD would have talked to us to sort out the confusion about the typo in my granddaughter's status card." 

With files from CBC News

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