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BMO apologizes for arrest of Indigenous man and his 12-year-old daughter

VANCOUVER — BMO Financial Group says it is establishing an advisory council of Indigenous leaders from across the country after an Indigenous man and his 12-year-old granddaughter were handcuffed at one of the bank’s Vancouver branches.

CEO Darryl White says in a statement the customer was “not treated with the respect or trust” and his arrest after he tried to open an account for his granddaughter is “unacceptable.”

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, Metis and Inuit communities.

Earlier this week, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner in B.C. said it has requested information from the Vancouver Police Department to determine if the actions of officers who made the arrests on Dec. 20 amount to misconduct.

The investigation is being conducted by the Delta Police Department.

White said its employees have difficult jobs that sometimes require them to make important decisions based on incomplete information, but the decisions made in this case were wrong.

“The vast majority of the time we get these decisions right,” he said in the statement. “This time we didn’t. I — and our entire organization — unreservedly apologize for what happened. We simply should not have called the police, regardless of the circumstances.”

He said the bank is also introducing new training in partnership with Indigenous leaders for its senior leadership across the country and is accelerating training for all its employees in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call for more education on the history of Indigenous Peoples.

“People are disappointed and angry with us, and I don’t blame them,” White said.

“I recognize apologies alone are not enough. The buck stops with me. I know we have to do better and we will do better. Creating this council is an important step.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 16, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:BMO)

The Canadian Press