What was intended to be an apology ceremony with the Heltske Nation’s grandfather, granddaughter and the Vancouver police officers who arrested them at a Bank of Montreal branch in 2019 has been canceled due to the absence of constables.

Constables Kenan Wong and Mitchell Tong failed to appear at Bella Bella on Monday (October 24) and did not provide an explanation for their decisions, The Nation said.

Maxwell Johnson was trying to open a bank account for his then-12-year-old granddaughter, Tori Ann, in 2019 when bank employees called 911 on suspicion of presenting fake local status cards. According to March’s disciplinary decision against the constables, Wong and Tong attended and improperly handcuffed Johnson and Torrey Ann using “unnecessary force.”

Both were suspended and ordered to work on de-escalation and cultural sensitivity, but the moment Johnson had been waiting for was the verbal, personal apology he and his nation had received. It was expected on Monday.

“I take it very personally.”

In his culture, Johnson said, forgiveness must be done in person. The absence of the constables meant that the event could not go ahead as planned. Instead, the nation will host an elevation ceremony for Johnson and his family.

“It seems like they’re stepping on our culture. They don’t take into account our way of life,” Johnson said Monday afternoon. “I take it very personally.”

Heiltsuk-elect Chief Marlin Slate said he sees the absence of Wong and Tong as a sign of a larger systemic failure to acknowledge and take responsibility for systemic racism in the Vancouver Police Department.

“It was meant to mark the beginning of a new relationship between the Heltsk Nation, (Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs), and the Vancouver Police Board,” said Chief-elect Marilyn Slate.

“The constables’ lack of willingness to walk with us and respect our traditions is a continuation of the discrimination the police have shown towards indigenous people in the past.”

The Police Board hopes that there will be no speculation.

VPD Chief Const. Adam Palmer, along with a delegation of department and police board members, will attend Monday evening. The police board settled a human rights complaint with Johnson in September and has agreed to address issues of racism in the force. In the past, however, Palmer has stated several times that he does not believe systemic racism exists in Canadian policing.

In a statement on Monday, the police board said it “hopes that assumptions will not be made about the constables’ decision not to attend the event. The board will not allow this to detract from the bigger picture, or cooperation and change.” From our willingness to apply.

In response, Slate said the statement didn’t hold much weight for him.

“When you don’t take that responsibility and accountability to show, you know, words can be pretty empty.”

Heiltsuk chief questions police expansion

He also pointed to Mayor-elect Ken Sim’s campaign promise to add 100 more police officers to the force, noting that the lack of attendance at the traditional amnesty — intended to serve the disciplinary sentences of Wong and Tong Had to – calls into question the expansion of the department.

“Why expand an institution that cannot promote justice and reconciliation, or accept responsibility for its actions?” Slate said.

Black Press Media has reached out to the Vancouver Police Board and Sims for comment.

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