Thursday, February 20, 2020

MLA Rice pays tribute to Heiltsuk Nation member Maxwell Johnson in Legislature statement

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice shared some thoughts on Heiltsuk
elder Maxwell Johnson Senior in the Legislature on Wednesday

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice used some of the Wednesday legislature session to pay tribute to a Heiltsuk elder who was prominent in the news in January following a December incident at a Vancouver bank.

A hard to fathom situation which found Maxwell Johnson Senior placed in handcuffs by Vancouver police, that after he had attempted to open a bank account for his 12 year old daughter using his Indian Status card at a Vancouver branch of the Bank of Montreal.

The inexplicable approach to the situation from the Bank and responding police offers was something that was quite shocking for many British Columbians to hear and made for calls for better training and understanding of First Nations culture.

It's beyond comprehension as to how all those involved took the approach they did and the incident served to show that beyond the need for what surely would have been some common sense on the day; that there is still some work to be done on procedures and work towards battling intolerance and prejudice in the province.

Following the incident, the Bank of Montreal apologized for the incident and announced plans to develop an Indigenous Advisory Council.

The incident has also been taken on by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, which has launched an investigation into the events of December 20th.

Wednesday, the MLA for the North Coast provided some background on the life of Mr. Johnson, making note of a ceremony that took place in Bella Bella on Wednesday and rightfully called out the treatment that he received during the Vancouver incident.

What a shock it must have been to be put in the forefront of a recent controversy around racial profiling. Maxwell was handcuffed along with his 12-year-old granddaughter after trying to open a bank account with an Indian Status card.

Today in Bella Bella, hosted by the Heiltsuk Tribal Council and the Heiltsuk hereditary leadership, a traditional purification or washing ceremony will be held for Maxwell and his family. He didn't deserve this treatment.

But sadly, it's still all too common for Indigenous people today. Today I want to raise my hands up to this kind and selfless soul, to a person who exemplifies leadership, commitment to family and community — qualities we all value. 

Today, I just want to say: "Maxwell, I see you."

Ms. Rice's presentation to the Legislature can be viewed below:

For more notes of interest from the Legilsature see our archive page here.

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