Two members of Canada’s Heiltsuk Nation settle with Bank of Montreal over rights complaint
By Kanishka Singh and Nichola Saminather
TORONTO (Reuters) -Two members of Canada’s Heiltsuk Nation reached a settlement on Thursday with Bank of Montreal over a human rights complaint that arose from them being handcuffed in 2019 when they tried to open an account with the bank, after its staff alleged fraud.
The settlement includes an undisclosed monetary payment, a private apology ceremony to be held in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and the display of traditional territory plaques at the bank’s branches, the Heiltsuk Nation said in a statement.
Maxwell Johnson and his then 12-year-old granddaughter, both from Bella Bella, were handcuffed outside a Bank of Montreal branch in Vancouver in December 2019 after the bank’s staff looked at the pair’s identification documents and called police to report an alleged fraud.
Johnson and his granddaughter were using government-issued Indian Status cards, his birth certificate and her medical card. He said the bank staff became suspicious of their identity and thought they were presenting fake identification cards.
“This ends our legal action against the bank for what happened to me and my granddaughter, but we are still in a healing process,” Johnson told the media on Thursday.
“We are pleased that we have reached a settlement with Mr. Johnson and his granddaughter,” the bank said in an emailed statement. “This was an important step for BMO toward reconciliation and we hope that the Johnsons reach the resolution and closure they deserve.”
It has previously said it regretted the situation and created an Indigenous advisory council while also conducting cultural sensitivity training with its staff.
Despite the settlement, Johnson decided to close his account with the bank.
“Closing my account today is part of that process. While we appreciate the actions BMO has taken as part of this settlement and hope they will continue to educate themselves about Indigenous peoples and take actions towards reconciliation, this bank still triggers painful memories for me and my family.”
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and Nichola Saminather in Toronto;Editing by Nick Zieminski and Sandra Maler)