BC Human Rights Tribunal allows UBCIC’s application to intervene in Maxwell Johnson case

THE BC Human Rights Tribunal (BCHRT) has released their 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 Vancouver Police Department 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).

The BCHRT also ordered that UBCIC will be allowed to make oral submissions at the opening and close of the hearing, enter written and oral evidence through a witness on certain conditions, and file written submissions at the close of the hearing.

“We welcome today’s decision and are encouraged by the extraordinary scope and depth of intervention allowed,” said the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and Heiltsuk Tribal Council in a joint statement on Thursday. “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.”

For over 40 years, UBCIC has participated in the development of case law on a range of issues related to Indigenous peoples in Canada and has intervened at all levels of court. Recently, UBCIC successfully intervened before the BCHRT in Campbell v. Vancouver Police Board (No. 4), 2019 BCHRT 275, which was about police discrimination against an Indigenous mother whose son was being arrested.

A hearing date for the complaint is not expected until the fall or winter of 2022.