A First Nations senior, Maxwell Johnson, was racially profiled when he tried to open a bank account for his granddaughter with the Bank of Montreal. Now, he's taking them to court.
As Canada's neighbor, we often look to our northern brothers as a step in the right direction. After all, Canada is definitely where it's at for us liberals - nice people, equitable policies, and just a general understanding of how to do the right thing. Besides, we wish we could be staring at Justin Trudeau's face on the news every morning instead of finding out how Chief Orange messed up again. However, things aren't all rainbows and butterflies in Canada either. Recently, an indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter were arrested at a bank in the heart of Vancouver, one of Canada's biggest cities, when they tried to open a bank account, the CBC reports.
Maxwell Johnson, 56, and his granddaughter visited a Bank of Montreal outlet in Vancouver so they could open a bank account for the teen. Johnson, a customer of the bank since 2014, simply wanted a way to electronically transfer funds to his granddaughter when she was on the road for basketball games. He expected nothing more than a routine appointment at the bank. Instead, he and his granddaughter were confronted by the police. When an employee at the bank questioned the identification he and his granddaughter presented, police officers were immediately called in. Instead of assessing the situation, the officers handcuffed both the senior as well as the 12-year-old.
"She said the numbers didn't match up what she had on her computer," shared Johnson in an interview with CBC. The documents the duo had presented included government-issued Indian Status cards, his birth certificate, and her medical card. When they presented their identification, the employees at the bank became suspicious and excused themselves to go upstairs. A little while later, the employee returned and asked Johnson and his granddaughter to head upstairs with him. When they did, they were greeted by police officers. He said, "They came over and grabbed me and my granddaughter, took us to a police vehicle and handcuffed both of us, told us we were being detained and read us our rights. You [could] see how scared she was... It was really hard to see that."
Johnson believes he was racially profiled. According to him, the employees may have become suspicious because they saw $30,000 in his bank account. He received this amount - like all members of the Heiltsuk nation did - from the federal government in December as part of an Aboriginal rights settlement package. But the Bank of Montreal did not confirm this. After the Vancouver Police Department corroborated Johnson's account of what had happened, Spokesperson Sgt. Aaron Roed apologized for his department's actions. He said, "It is a regrettable situation, and we don't want anybody to have to go through anything like this."
The bank too shared a statement of apology. "We value our long and special relationship with Indigenous communities," Bank of Montreal stated. "Recently, an incident occurred that does not reflect us at our best. We deeply regret this and unequivocally apologize to all. We are reviewing what took place, how it was handled and will use this as a learning opportunity. We understand the importance and seriousness of this situation at the highest levels of the bank." Nonetheless, many believe the bank is just trying to save face with this apology and doesn't really care about indigenous communities. Therefore, Johnson plans to take his case to court. He asserted, "If I have to go to court to make this right, not only for myself but for every First Nations person that's been discriminated against by a bank or a big store or something like that, I will." More power to him!