The British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has agreed to allow Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) to provide insight into the Indigenous experience of policing for a racial profiling case against the Vancouver Police Department.

The decision allows UBCIC to bring submissions in a case against Vancouver Police for the racial profiling and wrongful detainment of Heiltsuk First Nations man Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter outside a bank in Vancouver in December 2019.

“We welcome today’s decision and are encouraged by the extraordinary scope and depth of intervention allowed,” said the UBCIC and Heiltsuk Tribal Council in a joint statement.

“This case embodies the systemic racism that we must all work together to eliminate, and this intervention will allow UBCIC to address many aspects of that racism in a deep way that is a sign of how important these issues are to the Tribunal.”

The case brings a complaint against the Vancouver Police Department for detaining Johnson and his granddaughter for 30 minutes without reasonable grounds.

Police were called to the Bank of Montreal in Vancouver when Johnson’s granddaughter attempted to open an account with the bank.

When Johnson presented his Indigenous status card for identification, staff said there was an issue with the card and refused to open an account.

While staff were looking at the card, they called the police department because they believed Johnson and his granddaughter were engaging in fraud.

Johnson said the Bank’s unreasonable conclusion was due, at least in part, to their Indigenous heritage and family status.

The pair were detained for half an hour in handcuffs when police arrived.

Johnson said seeing his granddaughter in handcuffs brought back memories of the history of residential schools in his community and the history of people from his community being handcuffed and taken away from their families.

The Human Rights Tribunal is allowing the UBCIC to bring oral submissions at the opening and close of the hearing, file written submissions at the close of the hearing and enter written and oral evidence through a witness on certain conditions.

The Tribunal has said it believes UBCIC would be able to assist as an intervenor to contextualise “the Indigenous experience of policing and the nature of anti‐Indigenous racism and stereotyping central to the allegations”.

Johnson’s case is not expected to be heard until 2022.

By Sarah Smit