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Tension reached a high point during a trauma-healing ceremony when a hereditary chief walked across a sand-covered floor and returned the gift he had received from Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer.

Police participation in the ceremony in Bella Bella, on B.C.'s remote central coast, was one of several conditions of settlement in a human rights complaint against the Vancouver Police Board by Maxwell Johnson who was wrongly arrested and handcuffed in 2019 with his then 12-year-old granddaughter.

But the absence at Monday's ceremony of the two constables who arrested the pair after they tried to open a bank account set off a fresh round of accusations of systemic racism against Vancouver's police department that threatens to stall the process of reconciliation.

"My question is, 'What are we going to do about this?' Hereditary Chief Frank Brown said during Monday night's five-hour ceremony at the Heiltsuk First Nation's Big House.

"That's my question to you," Brown said indicating to members of the Vancouver Police Board and Chief Palmer. "In all due respect I can't accept this gift."

Applause erupted as Brown handed a gift bag back to Palmer.

Two chairs bearing the names of Vancouver officers Canon Wong and Mitchel Tong sat empty among the seated police delegation of about 20 members.

The board said in a news release on Monday that the human rights complaint launched by Johnson was against the board, not the individual officers.

That distinction did not placate those at the ceremony.

Vancouver police chief's gift rejected at tense Indigenous ceremony. #IndigenousApology #FirstNations #MaxwellJohnson #ToriAnne

"We need to do better," said Brown. "We have an opportunity before us to do better. The province, First Nations, Indigenous people, the country and the world is watching us. How Canada and how a city treats its Indigenous people is going to be a powerful symbol, a reflection on what we profess to be."

A dozen hereditary chiefs, several community leaders and elected Heiltsuk Chief Marilyn Slett all spoke during the ceremony, each expressing disappointment at the failure of the two officers to attend the gathering.

Several chiefs focused on comments made last summer by Palmer, a former president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, that systemic racism in policing in Canada does not exist.

They cited Johnson's case as an example of racism, while some chiefs also related their own troubling encounters with police.

"The light was shone on the ugly face of racism in Vancouver by the Vancouver city police," Brown said. "To say racism doesn't exist is not true."

Palmer did not speak during the ceremony but at its conclusion was seen speaking with Johnson and at one point the pair shook hands.

Johnson, whose knees visibly shook at times during the ceremony, said the absence of the two officers means he, his family and his community cannot yet experience full healing from the trauma suffered.

He said he spoke directly to the police board and asked them to ask the two officers to come to Bella Bella and complete the healing circle.

"If you could give them that message," Johnson said. "It's all about forgiveness for us. I really, really did wish they could come so we could all have closure."

Johnson held up the artworks he planned to give as gifts during the ceremony but said he must wait until the officers come to his community to complete the healing process.

The Heiltsuk First Nation replaced the apology event with an "uplifting ceremony" for Johnson and his family when it became clear the two arresting officers had failed to show up.

The settlement agreement released last month between Johnson and the Vancouver Police Board, included the board's admission that the conduct of the two constables contravened the B.C. Human Rights Code "by discriminating against the complainants because of their Indigenous identity, race, and ancestry.”

It included an undisclosed financial award for Johnson and the development of a plan to improve police training on anti-Indigenous racism and "cultural humility."

The settlement also involved a $100,000 payment to the Heiltsuk Tribal Council’s Restorative Justice Department to cover one year of community programming for at-risk youth, including young women who suffer from anxiety due to trauma.

B.C. human rights commissioner Kasari Govender, who attended the Bella Bella ceremony, said her office will monitor police training on anti-Indigenous racism initiatives over the next two years.

"My role as human rights commissioner in this agreement is to act as an independent auditor on the systemic components of the agreement," she said in an interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 25, 2022.

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What about the bank and the role it played in calling the police over a simple transaction?

Exactly! What about the bank? It is not exactly a private institution which can exist to do business without its (once) royal Charter. Banks have rules, fiduciary duties, it, by law, must perform . Modern day retail banking however seems to have lost its competitive zest for recruiting customers, unless those customers have thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars to entrust to the bank - even if it is only passing those dollars through in rapid succession and the bank can reap profits over each transaction - even if the bank's possession of those monies only lasts milliseconds.

Canada's big banks have a shrinking presence "on the street". Many small communities no longer have a branch bank. Many banks no longer open small dollar accounts. It is not worth their administrative costs. They are no longer invested in their customers- unless large amounts of money are involved. Many customers never enter their bank branch, doing all their banking transactions on line and heedless of the penny ante fees and merely annoyed by the not so negligible penalties banks routinely levy on small overdrafts. The speed of light transactions banks make bundling the accumulated sums from multiple deposits momentarily invested in money markets, astounds the layperson with their volume and value.
The only thing in modern banking that resembles the banks of 60 years ago is their laser focus on profits .

The biggest change is their opacity about how they make money. the rules they break, the obscenity of their money laundering and their willingness to play fast and loose with other people's money.

In this particular case they may have done this family a favour by refusing to open an account. Assuming it was for the child and deposits might have been sparse the bank's carrying charges could have wiped the account clean in mere months.

My personal recommendation for low value depositors or economically precarious communities, is to try to interest a credit union to offer banking services, perhaps through a mobile bank with a regular circuit in their region. It is a model already in use in many 3rd world communities and works very well - even providing cell phone access to on-line banking. Sparsely populated parts of the American continent can learn a great deal from the "micro-banking" movement in the 3rd world. Much innovation and prosperity has resulted from their smart community based methods. It must also be gratifying to the users of these services to thumb their noses at the stuffy (and frequently corrupt) establishment banks.

An alternative to micro banking in many parts of the banking deserts in the US is the demand for postal banking services. It is a way to strengthen postal services in reservations, and other remote settlements and strengthens the overall sense of the communal life so vital to the well being of the people served.

Banks are really only necessary to the crowded bustling urban agglomerations that bedevil our species.. Many of the inhabitants would prefer to live without so many pressing neighbors but the economics of capitalism demands this crushing convenience of readily available labour. Our lives would be greatly improved and healthier if we could innovate our way into less dense living, with the benefits of dispersed productivity. We must first solve the problem of rapid, secure transportation of goods and people. These are some of the revolutionary elements that would accompany the "greening of the nations" and the resolving of our climate catastrophe.,

I think there are selected groups of people for whom banks provide "free" accounts.
Most have some kind of seniors' account, accounts for students, newcomers, and poor people. For some, you have to ask. It used to be that accounts for children were free, too, but they had to have the child, him/herself, as the sole signatory on the account, or an "either/or" signature, not both parties. Because ATMs couldn't parse that. It made it hard to teach a youngster about saving, and savings accounts.