Opening a bank account is a very common practice in the Western world. Not so for Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter, who nearly got arrested while doing so.
The Story of Maxwell Johnson
In Canada, one can open a bank account at a very young age. All that is required is to have one parent or guardian on site when doing so. With a valid ID in hand, anyone can get their bank account opened in a few minutes.
Or that is how it should work, but it doesn’t always. Maxwell Johnson, an indigenous Canadian, experienced that first hand. Together with his 12-year-old granddaughter, he was handcuffed by the police while trying to open a bank account.
When asked to present an ID, they both agreed to do so. During the verification process by bank employees, two police officers showed up to arrest them. Both individuals were handcuffed and questioned for 45 minutes.
According to the Bank of Montreal, there were “discrepancies” with one of the IDs. An odd statement, considering Maxwell Johnson is a BMO client for several years. His ID numbers have never changed, yet they seemingly did not add up during this check.
As indigenous people, both Maxwell and his granddaughter posses government-issued Indian Status Cards. These cards are issued to individuals registered under Canada’s Indian Act. Without such an ID, one cannot sign up for services such as bank accounts or other financial products.
A Major PR Nightmare for BMO
For BMO in Vancouver, this incident is rather disastrous. Turning people away who want to open a bank account can happen for many reasons. Wrongfully accusing them of committing fraud, is something else entirely.
The police were called to investigate “a fraud in progress”. This seems to indicate the BMO employee in question saw something she did not approve of. However, the police were able to verify Maxwell’s ID and that of his granddaughter without any problems.
Why the bank could not do so, remains unclear. No official explanation has been provided by BMO regarding this matter. The bank did apologize in a public statement.
Things can get worse for BMO from here on out. Not only is it a PR nightmare, but a lawsuit may be filed. Mr. Johnson confirms he may file a lawsuit through Canada’s Human Rights Tribunal. Doing so will certainly create an interesting precedent.