A police investigation has been ordered into the arrest of an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter at a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal.
The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner said it has requested information from the Vancouver Police Department to determine if the actions of officers who made the arrests on Dec. 20 amount to misconduct.
The investigation to be conducted by the Delta Police Department will also consider any policies, procedures or training from the department or the Vancouver Police Board that may be a factor in officers handcuffing the girl and her grandfather, it said.
Andrea Spindler, the deputy police complaint commissioner, said it’s important that a thorough and independent investigation be done.
“The investigation will carefully examine and assess the circumstances of this incident including the legal authority to detain, arrest and use restraining devices such as handcuffs as well as any relevant questions of policy or training,” she said in a news release.
The bank customer could not be reached for comment.
The head of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs called on institutions to beware of racial profiling.
“They made the outrageous decision to handcuff the 12-year-old girl as well as the grandfather and take them into custody, publicly,” said Chief Stewart Phillip.
“In terms of making it right, we must go far beyond the public relations efforts on the part of the bank as well as the Vancouver Police Department.”
Phillip said the investigation by the police complaint commissioner is a step in the right direction.
Paul Gammal, a spokesman for the Bank of Montreal, said it would not comment on the arrests and referred to two tweets from last week.
On Thursday, the bank tweeted that the incident “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 the seriousness of this situation at the highest levels at the bank.”
In a tweet the following day, Cameron Fowler, president of North American personal and business banking, again apologized for the bank’s actions, calling the situation “unacceptable.”
Fowler said the bank is working to improve its policies and would establish an Indigenous advisory council in partnership with several chiefs across Canada to support further education and awareness.
“We have developed strong relationships with Indigenous communities over a long period of time, supported Indigenous initiatives, and are committed to doing more,” the statement said.
Chief Adam Palmer was not be available to comment.
The bank called police to report a fraud in progress, the police department said in a statement last week.
“Both individuals who were identified by the bank as suspects were initially handcuffed while officers investigated the claim. Officers confirmed the identity of the two individuals and confirmed that no criminal activity had occurred,” it said, adding the pair was then released.
“We recognize that this entire situation has been upsetting and distressing for the two individuals. Based on the initial call, our officers conducted an investigation and cleared the individuals of any wrongdoing.”
The department said its officers receive ongoing “cultural competency training” as it looks at better ways to deal with sensitive issues including cultural differences.
Kat Norris, a member of the Lyackson First Nation, said she has spoken to the grandfather and organized a rally for Tuesday evening in support of him and his granddaughter as well as people of colour who deal with systemic discrimination.
“We all, people of colour, deal with some form of discrimination, however subtle, every day, but nothing to that extreme,” she said. “What happened to him happens to all of us because we feel the pain and we feel the shame and it’s embarrassing as well.”
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