Security video shows Indigenous man and granddaughter being handcuffed by Vancouver police
VANCOUVER -- Security video showing an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter being handcuffed in downtown Vancouver more than a year ago has now been made public.
While the police are defending the officers' actions in response to a human rights complaint filed following the incident, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) is now looking to intervene in the case, and is calling for action on systemic racism.
The 45-minute long video shared by the UBCIC and the Heiltsuk Nation shows two police officers with Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter out on the busy sidewalk of Burrard Street.
The officers place them in handcuffs, and roughly 13 minutes later it appears the cuffs are removed from the child. More than 30 minutes after first appearing outside, Johnson and a police officer appear to head back towards the bank.
Johnson says the video is still hard to watch.
“I had to keep calm and keep a good head on my shoulders for my granddaughter, because she was crying,” he said. “That was one of the hardest things to see.”
Johnson went to the bank in December 2019 to open an account for his granddaughter, when staff mistakenly suspected fraud and called 911. Last fall, Johnson filed a human rights complaint. Now the UBCIC is also hoping to get involved, represented by lawyer and former B.C. child and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
“These kinds of police acts, where people are handcuffed and humiliated and mistreated, and their rights are not respected, these are very serious issues that will not be tolerated,” Turpel-Lafond said. “There has to be proper justice here. There has to be proper change.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the UBCIC said his organization and other Indigenous people across the country are standing in solidarity with Johnson and his granddaughter.
“We have all experienced ugly racism that is very harmful and very traumatizing,” he said. “And in extreme cases, racism kills. It must stop. It must stop now.”
Johnson and the Heiltsuk Nation have also launched an online anti-racism campaign, called Strong As Cedar, where people are being encouraged to share their experiences, as well as help fundraise for legal fees.
Chief councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation Marilyn Slett said their leadership is supporting Johnson and his granddaughter, and want to empower their members to speak out and seek justice.
“In a just society, Indigenous people must be able to walk down the street, go grocery shopping, go to the bank, carry out ordinary activities of life without being assumed to be criminals,” she said.
In a response filed to the human rights complaint, legal counsel for the Vancouver Police Board deny the officers actions were discriminatory, and called their conduct “appropriate and measured."
The police department would not comment on Wednesday, citing an ongoing investigation by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner.
Johnson said he’d like more education around government-issued status cards, which he had provided at the bank before an employee became suspicious and called police, and an apology.