Justice (25-42): Current Problems

Vancouver Police Dept.

June 10, 2020

Systemic Racism in Policing

Police Street Checks

June 10, 2020: The BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, and Hogan’s Alley Society – are calling on Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, who is also the Vancouver Police Board Chair and Board Spokesperson, to immediately put a stop to police street checks in Vancouver. A recent review of VPD street checks provided clear evidence that the VPD has been arbitrarily stopping people without lawful authority, including people who were walking in the rain or walking a dog on a church lawn. VPD must put an end to this blatantly arbitrary, illegal, and discriminatory practice” further states Latoya Farrell of BC Civil Liberties Association.

  • Indigenous and Black people are significantly over-represented in the numbers of street checks conducted by the VPD. In 2017:
    • Indigenous people accounted for over 16% of street checks despite making up 2% of the population, and
    • Black people accounted for 5% of street checks despite making up 1% of the population.
  • In 2016, Indigenous women, who comprise 2% of Vancouver’s women population, accounted for 21% of women who were street checked

September 7, 2020

Systemic Racism in Policing

Police Street Checks: Call for complete ban

BCCLA, UBCIC, Black Lives Matter – Vancouver, Hogan’s Alley Society and Wish Drop-in Centre Society – have written a letter and petition to the Mayor Kennedy Stewart and premier John Horgan, co-signed by 87 other organizations and another 8,265 individuals calling for an immediate ban on police street checks:


On July 30, 2020, Commissioner Clayton Pecknold issued a follow-up letter outlining the conclusion of the investigation by the Vancouver Police Professional Standards (VPD- PSS) investigation that issued a “Notice of Discontinuance” since none of Pyxis researchers agreed to testify and ALL had destroyed their notes from their investigation relating to the two police officers above. As a result, the discrepancy between the official Vancouver Police Board Street Check Review final report that omitted details of the police officer’s actions has been swept aside.

June 25, 2020

Systemic Racism in Policing

Police Street Checks: questions about Pyxix-authored VPB Street Check Review

BCCLA and UBCIC have released a letter to the Vancouver Police Board calling into question the objectivity, methodology, and findings of the Pyxis-authored Vancouver Police Board Street Check Review, and requesting the disclosure of any and all draft reviews, field notes, or ancillary materials from Pyxis. They identified a discrepancy between the final report as released and the absence of details about an incident involving two Vancouver police officers

December 17, 2020

Systemic Racism in Policing

Police Street Checks: Review of VPB commissioned street check study

Former BC Information and Privacy Commissioner will conduct a review of the Vancouver Police Board-commissioned street check” study that kept allegations from being publicized of officers making racist and inappropriate comments about vulnerable and marginalized people

January 28, 2021

Systemic Racism in Policing

Trespass Prevention Program

NationTalk – A coalition of Indigenous, women, Downtown Eastside, and legal organizations are voicing their opposition to the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program, which authorizes police officers to remove people without a call for 911 service if they have allegedly violated the provincial Trespass Act. States Chief Don Tom, Vice President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, “We are appalled by the Vancouver Police Department’s Trespass Prevention Program. Indigenous people already experience institutionalized racism in the justice system and a disproportionately high level of stereotyping, surveillance and violence by police. For Indigenous people, especially our Indigenous unhoused relatives, to now be criminalized as trespassers on our own lands is a cruel legal fiction. During an era of reconciliation, in which BC has committed to fully implementing and championing its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, this is simply unacceptable. We call on the Vancouver Police Department, the Vancouver Police Board, the City of Vancouver, and the Province of BC to all act immediately to withdraw this discriminatory program.”

Since 2016, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has repeatedly noted conflict of interest issues arising when Vancouver police officers act as agents for the private sector. In a VPD program known as the Restaurant Watch/Bar Watch Agreement that similarly derives authority from the Trespass Act, the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner has emphasized “this relationship places them [police officers] in a conflict of interest whereby they are simultaneously acting as private citizens and peace officers.” Additionally, the Commissioner has raised police accountability concerns, including the practice of demanding identification akin to street checks, and the use of police databases to record and collect identifying information.

June 16, 2021

Systemic Racism in Policing

Wrongful Detainment: Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond appointed by UBCIC

Union of BC Indian Chiefs – and Heiltsuk Nation announced today that Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, former judge and Senior Associate Counsel with Woodward & Company, will be applying to intervene on behalf of UBCIC in an ongoing BC human rights case against the VPD for the wrongful detainment of Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter, outside a bank in Vancouver in December of 2019.

In making the announcement, the leaders also released security camera video of the detainment, which shows that after a bank employee called 911 in response to suspicions of fraud, Max and his granddaughter – both members of the Heiltsuk Nation – were detained, brought out onto a busy downtown sidewalk, separated from one another, handcuffed, and searched. “This intervention is about supporting a complaint that aims to fight systemic racism, hold institutions accountable, and offer redress for the racial profiling and wrongful detainment that Max and his granddaughter experienced at the hands of the VPD,” said Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. “This case embodies the systemic racism that we must all work together to eliminate.

“We welcome today’s important intervention by UBCIC and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond,” said Marilyn Slett, Chief Councillor of the Heiltsuk Nation. “This case has become a symbol of the fight against systemic racism in Canada, and we must all work together to hold institutions to account, and make sure this never happens again.” The leaders also released a copy of the VPD’s statement of defence, and rejected its claim that officers were unaware of the pair’s Indigenous identity before detaining them. If justice is to be attainable, the VPD must be held accountable for any violations of human and Indigenous rights and set an example for other law enforcement agencies and institutions. The VPD must apologize for this incident, compensate the victims, and vastly improve its cultural competency training and anti-racism education.”

To help fight racism and to fundraise for the legal challenge, Maxwell Johnson and the Heiltsuk Nation have launched an anti-racism campaign titled, Strong as Cedar, inviting others to share their experiences of systemic racism in Canada.

October 21, 2021

Systemic Racism in Policing

Wrongful Detainment: Heiltsuk Nation members

Heiltsuk Nation – The Heiltsuk Nation and Maxwell Johnson are disappointed by the secret and exclusionary process that the Vancouver Police Board and VPD have carried out to consider a new handcuffing policy. This type of colonial top-down decision making does not support reconciliation. “Neither the nation nor the complainants were:

  • advised that the board had conducted an extensive examination of all VPD training relevant to Indigenous cultural competency;
  • consulted about their views on the policy;
  • asked to consider the appropriateness of the external consultant;
  • told who the external consultant is.

“The nation and Maxwell Johnson were kept in the dark about this policy review until yesterday (Oct. 20, 2021) when we were told there would be a Vancouver Police Board meeting to review the policy today. “Had we been consulted, we would have told the board that there needs to be components placed within this policy that address cultural safety, which is an important part of addressing systemic racism. These include police actively considering their actions given:

  • the history of racial profiling when dealing with Indigenous peoples
  • given stress and trauma that is caused to Indigenous peoples when having to deal with the police at all, and
  • given the fear of being disbelieved, misidentified, and victimized that Indigenous people feel when having to deal with the police

Police need to stop and check their assumptions when dealing with Indigenous peoples.

August 12, 2021

Systemic Racism in Policing

Wrongful Detainment: Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter

Union of BC Indian Chiefs – The BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) decision to allow the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) and their counsel, Dr. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, to intervene in an ongoing BC human rights complaint against the VPD for the racial profiling and wrongful detainment of Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter outside a bank in Vancouver in December of 2019. In its decision, the BCHRT said it needed to understand the full context of the complaint to meaningfully determine whether discrimination occurred, stating that: “[f]or Indigenous people in Canada, this context includes a legacy of stereotyping and prejudice” (para 48). The BCHRT said that given UBCIC’s expertise, it was satisfied that UBCIC would be able to assist the Tribunal as an intervenor to contextualize “the Indigenous experience of policing and the nature of anti‐Indigenous racism and stereotyping central to the allegations…” (para 49).

This case embodies the systemic racism that we must all work together to eliminate, and this intervention will allow UBCIC to address many aspects of that racism in a deep way that is a sign of how important these issues are to the Tribunal.” Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Heiltsuk Tribal Council in a joint statement.

April 6, 2022

Systemic Racism in Policing

Wrongful Detainment: VPD officers commit professional misconduct

Heiltsuk Nation: Vancouver – Retired judge Brian Neal, Q.C., has decided VPD officers committed professional misconduct by recklessly arresting and handcuffing Maxwell Johnson and his 12-year-old granddaughter on December 20, 2019, while the two were trying to open a bank account for her at the Bank of Montreal.

He found that the granddaughter and grandfather presented no risk to the safety of any person and provided no concern for flight or unpredictability. Neal also found that the officers acted recklessly and without any reflection, assumed fraud without sufficient information, did not take time to exercise judgment to assess if anyone was at risk, and assumed that handcuffing was appropriate without good and sufficient cause.

“I have found that the officers’ actions in arresting and handcuffing the parties was undertaken without reasonable and probable grounds. I have found that no reasonable police officer standing in the shoes of the two officers could support such actions based on suspicion alone. Furthermore, I have found that such actions demonstrated serious, blameworthy conduct contrary to section 77 of the Police Act,” wrote Neal in his decision.

The tribunal ordered the officers be suspended for several days, that they complete intensive, immersive Indigenous cultural sensitivity training, and that they complete re-training on de-escalation skills, risk assessment, and power of arrest. The tribunal also ordered the officers to provide a written apology and offer to meet to listen to concerns and give an oral apology.

“We are inviting the officers to travel to Bella Bella to take part in an apology ceremony with Max, his granddaughter, and our community,” said Marilyn Slett, elected Chief of the Heiltsuk Nation. “This story has become a symbol of the fight against systemic racism, and we are committed to working with the officers to make broader change and ensure this never happens again.”