VANCOUVER — Standing amid the noise of traffic and hustle of pedestrians on the same Vancouver sidewalk where he was arrested and handcuffed in December 2019, Maxwell Johnson said he finally feels at peace.
The Indigenous man and his minor granddaughter were arrested as they tried to open an account for her at the Bank of Montreal in December 2019. Police were called over suspicion they were using a fake status card.
On Thursday, Johnson announced he and his granddaughter had settled their human rights complaint with the bank. The agreement includes an undisclosed a monetary payment from BMO, a private apology, and a pledge from the financial institution to update its policies on how Indigenous status cards are handled.
Holding a grey and white eagle feather that represents healing and blessing, Johnson said his Heiltsuk First Nation culture is about forgiveness.
“We don’t hold onto anything. We don’t hold any grudges,” he said. “I just want people to educate themselves more about First Nations issues and our culture.”
He said he wants people to understand Indigenous culture, and issues faced by First Nations when they deal with the government and corporations.
“We’re people too,” he said during the news conference. “I don’t think it’s right that we have to prove who we are by carrying a status card. We’re the only race that has the status for proof that we’re First Nation people.”
A retired judge who led a disciplinary hearing against the two officers who made the arrest said in a decision released last month that they “recklessly” arrested Johnson and the girl.
Brian Neal said Johnson and his granddaughter endured a “disturbing and profoundly disrespectful series of events” as they were held and handcuffed on the busy street.
The independent review, which was ordered by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner, said the two officers who responded to a call from bank employees detained the pair without reasonable grounds.
Johnson and his granddaughter still have a complaint pending against the Vancouver Police Department in the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.
When asked for comment on Thursday, Vancouver police Sgt. Steve Addison sent a statement saying the office of the complaint commissioner conducted an extensive investigation related to the matter and it respects the findings of the report.
Johnson is an artist and as part of the settlement with the Bank of Montreal, he gifted the bank an artwork that will be displayed at the downtown branch.
Prints of his work will also be put up at four other branches.
“The copper represents the treasure of our people,” he said, holding up a copy of the art piece with red and green colours.
“I used BMO colours in it. So, on the top it has the ancestral human face, and on the bottom it has the BMO logo on here.”
BMO spokesman Jeff Roman said the bank is pleased that a settlement was reached.
“This was an important step for BMO toward reconciliation and we hope that the Johnsons reach the resolution and closure they deserve,” he said in an email.
Chief Marilyn Slett of the Heiltsuk First Nation on B.C.’s central coast said the bank has undertaken remedies including updating internal policies and procedures for how Indigenous status cards are handled.
“It’s really shone a light on the treatment of Indigenous people and it puts attention and focus on that.”
They hope to see systemic changes on policies and how they work in communities, including territorial acknowledgments of where they are, not just in B.C. but across the country, she said.
The police officers who arrested the pair have been given an invitation to their community of Bella Bella to attend an apology ceremony, Slett said.
“That invitation is still extended,” she said.
“We’ve yet to hear from them. Ceremonies happen in our community because they help us in the healing journey. So, it’s really important for the Vancouver Police Department to make good on that apology and come to Bella Bella and do it in person.”
Johnson said he closed his account at the bank.
“Would you work with them if that happened to you?” he said.
“No, I couldn’t do it. I had to close it to move forward with my life. For healing too. It’s part of my healing process to do what we did today.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2022.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press
India tells Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats: official
Canada needs diplomats in India to help navigate the “extremely challenging” tensions between the two countries, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday in response to demands that Ottawa repatriate dozens of its envoys.
India reportedly wants 41 of 62 Canadian diplomats out of the country by early next week — a striking, if largely anticipated, deepening of the rift that erupted last month following Trudeau’s explosive allegations in the House of Commons.
The prime minister bluntly spoke of “credible” intelligence linking the Indian government to the shooting death in June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh leader India has long assailed as a terrorist.
The demand, first reported by the Financial Times, comes less than two weeks after the Indian government first called on Canada to establish “parity in strength and rank equivalence in our diplomatic presence.”
Canada has a much larger diplomatic corps in India, owing in part to the fact it’s a country of 1.4 billion people, compared to 40 million in Canada — about 1.3 million of whom are of Indian origin.
Trudeau would not confirm the reports Tuesday, nor did he sound inclined to acquiesce to India’s request.
“Obviously, we’re going through an extremely challenging time with India right now,” Trudeau said on his way to a caucus meeting on Parliament Hill.
“That’s why it’s so important for us to have diplomats on the ground, working with the Indian government, there to support Canadians and Canadian families.”
Canada, he continued, is “taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the government of India.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said largely the same thing.
“In moments of tension, because indeed there are tensions between both our governments, more than ever it’s important that diplomats be on the ground,” Joly said.
“That’s why we believe in the importance of having a strong diplomatic footprint in India. That being said, we are in ongoing conversations with the Indian government.”
During Tuesday’s daily briefing at the State Department, deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel was at pains to avoid exacerbating tensions any further.
“We are — and continue to be — deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau and we remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” Patel said, a message the U.S. has had on repeat for weeks.
“It’s critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We also have … publicly and privately urged the Indian government to co-operate in the Canadian investigation and co-operate in those efforts.”
Patel also demurred on the potential impact of an escalating tit-for-tat exchange of diplomatic staff on the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, a key element of U.S. efforts to mitigate China’s growing geopolitical influence.
“I certainly don’t want to get into hypotheticals,” he said. “As it relates to our Indo-Pacific strategy and the focus that we continue to place on the region, that effort and that line of work is going to continue.”
David Cohen, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, has already confirmed that the allegations were buttressed in part on intelligence gathered by a key ally from the Five Eyes security alliance, which includes the U.S., the U.K., Australia and New Zealand, along with Canada.
Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, India’s external affairs minister, confirmed last week that the subject came up in his meetings in Washington, D.C., with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser.
Trudeau’s allegation “was not consistent with our policy,” Jaishankar told a panel discussion Friday hosted by the Hudson Institute.
“If his government had anything relevant and specific they would like us to look into, we were open to looking at it. That’s where that conversation is at this point of time.”
Jaishankar went on to note that the issue of Sikh separatists living in Canada had long been “an issue of great friction,” notably after the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.
“In the last few years, it has come back very much into play, because of what we consider to be a very permissive Canadian attitude towards terrorists, extremists, people who openly advocate violence,” Jaishankar said.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 3, 2023.
With files from Mickey Djuric in Ottawa.
In the news today: Regimental funeral today for B.C. Mountie, NDP victory in Manitoba – National Post
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All Flesh Redux
Director’s Notes, Stacey Christodoulou
MONTREAL October, 2023 – Combining polyphonic singing, dance, and theatre, All Flesh REDUX is a poetic journey through time and space. Part sing-a-long, Dadaist performance piece as well as a love letter to our planet, the work enfolds the public in an intimate theatre-in-the-round setting where humour, music, storytelling and movement reign. Bringing together the worlds of medieval composers Guillaume de Machaut, Hildegard von Bingen and modern composer John Cage, the company’s creation contemplates the unknowable past and the unimaginable future, and asks what acts of faith are possible in an uncertain world. October 13-22, seating is limited.
Director Stacey Christodoulou: “We could never imagine that the themes we spoke about in 2019 would become reality. In a certain way the show was prophetic. However, I believe that the message of creating beauty as a form of resistance is even more important now. The weaving of medieval song, contemporary dance and text continues our company’s interdisciplinary approach and reminds us that throughout history people have responded to turmoil with innovation and art.”
With: ENSEMBLE ALKEMIA (Jean-François Daignault, Dorothéa Ventura and Leah Weitzner), Stéphanie Fromentin, Erin Lindsay, Vanessa Schmit-Craan, Lael Stellick
Musical direction by Jean-François Daignault; scenograpy by Amy Keith; sound by Debbie Doe; costumes by Cathia Pagotto; lighting by David Perreault Ninacs and technical stage coordination by Birdie Gregor.
All Flesh REDUX
Studio Jean Valcourt du Conservatoire
4750, avenue Henri-Julien
Dates: Friday, Oct., 13, Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8pm; Sunday Oct. 14 at 3pm
Wednesday, October 18-Saturday, Oct. 21 at 8pm; Sunday, Oct. 22 at 3pm
Tickets/514 873-4032: $20, Students/Seniors: $15
Seating is limited
About THE OTHER THEATRE
Formed in 1991 by Artistic Director Stacey Christodoulou, The Other Theatre is devoted to contemporary creation. Working bilingually, their award-wining work has included adaptations, installations, theatre texts, and collectively written material performed in numerous venues in Montreal and abroad, including theatres, galleries, as well as a moving elevator.
Drawing inspiration from art forms other than theatre – dance, cinema, science, architecture, and the visual arts – the company presents evocative performances, grounded by thought-provoking texts. From a creole Macbeth, to sci-fi with polyphonic singing, to the horror of H.P. Lovecraft, their original creations are thrilling and visually striking. They have also presented the work of International and Canadian writers, giving them their French-language premieres in Quebec. Exploring the large existential issues of the time, The Other Theatre aims to move audiences to greater emotional connection and reflection, bridging communities and languages to create a hybrid theatre that is reflective of the cultural richness of Montreal. They value and foster artistic exchange, both locally and internationally and share their artistic process in Canada, the US, Europe and Mexico, through mentorships, workshops and cultural mediation in local communities and schools.
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