Indigenous customers' arrest 'never should've happened': BMO CEO
The chief executive of Bank of Montreal is apologizing for an incident in which an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter were handcuffed at one of the bank’s Vancouver branches last month.
“This is an unfortunate situation from start to finish. It should never, ever have happened,” Darryl White told BNN Bloomberg’s Amanda Lang Monday.
“If somebody walks into one of our branches, it should never, ever be the case that they walk out in handcuffs. And that’s what happened here.”
On Dec. 20, the pair were handcuffed at one of the bank's Vancouver locations while trying to open an account. The Heiltsuk Tribal Council issued a statement last week saying the man who was arrested is a member of the community and an artist, carver and singer in Bella Bella, B.C.
“We apologize, I apologize, unequivocally, unreservedly that that happened,” White said. “There were challenges with respect to validating the customers’ [identification]. But that doesn’t matter. That should never end up the way it ended up in the circumstance. And the police shouldn’t have been involved and that’s on us. We take accountability for that.”
Last week, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner in B.C. said it requested information from the Vancouver Police Department to determine if the actions of officers who made the arrests amount to misconduct. The investigation is being conducted by the Delta Police Department.
The Heiltsuk Tribal Council criticized the bank's response on Thursday and accused BMO of failing to acknowledge that racial profiling had taken place at one of its branches.
White told BNN Bloomberg he and other BMO staff members have had “hundreds” of conversations with Indigenous leaders, customers and employees since the incident.
“I want to thank everyone for those conversations because they’ve been very valuable in terms of our thinking very deeply about the fact that while these are complex issues, they’re also very emotional issues,” he said.
Last Thursday, BMO announced it was establishing an advisory council of Indigenous leaders from across the country to support further education and awareness, and provide input on policies and practices to build upon the bank’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Eight people have been appointed to the advisory council and BMO says it will be expanded from its initial membership to represent more First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities.
“We think that we’ll fundamentally be a lot better for this incident,” White said. “But right now, it’s very raw and it shouldn’t have happened. People are angry and people are upset with us, and we understand that — and I agree with them.”
With files from The Canadian Press