Ground-breaking Human Rights Settlement in favour of Maxwell Johnson Sr., Heiltsuk First Nation and UBCIC Initiates Significant Change within VPD
tkwəɬniwt (Westbank), Syilx Territory, BC: The BC First Nations Justice Council (BCFNJC) is pleased to learn that after a three-year fight for justice, the Human Rights Tribunal has concluded in favour of Heiltsuk Nation member Maxwell Johnson Sr. against the Vancouver Police Board. This case represents an overt example of the systemic racism and discrimination embedded in police service agencies that too often rears its head at the expense of Indigenous peoples.
“While this indignity that the Johnson family experienced should never have occurred, the BCFNJC is pleased to learn the result will be change and education within the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) to improve interaction of officers with Indigenous peoples,” said BCFNJC Chair, Doug White, KC. “The outcomes of policing on First Nations people are dire, and the role of police continues to fragment our communities and disrupt our traditions, legal orders, and governance. This is why today’s announcement is so meaningful, as it acknowledges our traditions and justice systems which predate the colonial systems imposed upon us.”
In late 2019, Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter, both members of the Heiltsuk Nation were handcuffed outside the Bank of Montreal in downtown Vancouver after bank staff looked at the pair’s identification documents—government-issued Indian Status cards—and called 911 to report an alleged fraud in progress.
The terms of this settlement will see efforts made within the VPD that align with the BC First Nations Justice Strategy as it pertains to law enforcement, and the inherent right to self-determination of justice [Strategies 2, 7, 8, 14, 20 and 22].
The VPD will work directly with the Heiltsuk First Nation and an appointed representative from UBCIC to implement improvements and training for officers specific to anti-Indigenous racism and cultural humility and competency, education and training about status cards as well as anti-racist responses to calls or interactions about status cards as well as identifying the appropriate trainers.
The VPD will host an apology ceremony at Heiltsuk’s Big House in Bella Bella on October 24, 2022. The ceremony will mark the start of the VPD, Heiltsuk, and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) working together on initiatives agreed to in the settlement. Today’s announcement is especially significant as it recognizes our traditional systems of justice-in this case, the potlatch – as playing a vital role in the reconciliation process and upholding the principles of self determination.
There is no group of people in BC who have been more profoundly or adversely affected by policing than Indigenous people, and yet no group of people who have had less say in how policing has been established. The social contract between Indigenous peoples and police was never established in good faith and Indigenous peoples continue to be criminalized at individual and systemic levels. The BCFNJC, through the BC First Nations Justice Strategy, seeks to: (1) achieve balance in the current system of policing in BC, and (2) to create space and support Indigenous peoples to move towards models of public safety founded upon self-determination. “
About the BCFNJC:
The BC First Nations Justice Council has been entrusted with the mandate to transform the justice system and create better outcomes for Indigenous people through implementation of the BC First Nations Justice Strategy.
Transforming the relationship of First Nations with the criminal justice system through Nation to Nation partnerships, with a goal of advancing First Nations’ self-determination and self-governance through the application of First Nation laws, traditions, and jurisdictions, making changes to the existing system and its administration, and building capacity for Nations to increase holistic wellness, safety and security for their communities.
The strategy, signed March 06, 2020, was jointly developed by the BC First Nations Justice Council, BC First Nations communities and the Province of British Columbia. It includes 43 actions along two paths which involve the reformation of the current system as well as the restoration of First Nations’ legal traditions and structures.
BC First Nations Justice Council
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