“IT’S LIKE YELLING ‘STOP THIEF’ says Alice Power. “Taking to the street focuses attention on how the banks are free to gouge us and get away with it.”
Power was among activists who took to the street in front of, and inside, many banks in 10 Canadian cities July 13. Their action was the latest in a long-running campaign, by ACORN Canada, to pressure our big six banks to end predatory practices and to make banking affordable and fair for all. ACORN Canada is a community-based organization that advocates for low- and moderate-income families
The goal at each bank was to deliver a letter to branch managers calling on the bank to lower fees permanently, return others, and to end “Two Tier Banking” policies that push low-income people into debt.
Actions in ten cities
In Toronto 40 ACORN members stormed into Scotiabank’s headquarters to occupy the lobby. The activists then marched to CIBC, TD and BMO, shutting down all the banking headquarters for two hours. The activists also stopped traffic for a time at the intersection of King and Bay, the heart of the financial district.
In Halifax ACORN members did a walking tour, starting at CIBC and did a loop around the block to RBC, TD, HSBC, Scotiabank and BMO. Activists got a boost when more than one manager told them “Oh we know who you are” when they told the managers they were ACORN members.
In London severe thunderstorm warnings didn’t stop members from visiting RBC and NBC branches—under the close scrutiny of about five security officers from both banks. RBC even closed their security gate so activists couldn’t walk in to deliver the letter.
In Moncton members got a shipment of ACORN t-shirts and flags just in time to add colour to their visit to the CIBC bank. The branch manager said the CEO was very well aware of ACORN’s campaign.
In Ottawa 28 members marched to the downtown branches of the seven biggest banks. The RBC and National Bank called security and barred activists from entering the branch. The activists just stood outside and chanted louder
ACORN activists also targetted banks in Hamilton, Montreal, Peel in Ontario and in Surrey and Victoria in BC.
No limits on fees
Outrage over the most recent round of bank fee increases stems from the fact the banks are awash in money.
Last month the Big 6 Banks reported record second quarter profits for 2021: CIBC quadrupled their profits since last year; BMO and RBC doubled theirs.
On top of that the banks got $750 billion in support from the federal government to help them weather the pandemic.
But all that money wasn’t enough. The banks still raised their fees.
“So what is this about?” asks Audrey Williams a TD bank customer. “This is just about trying to get people when they’re already down. Kicking them one more time, harder.”
TD is raising the minimum balance required for avoiding fees from $2,000 to $5,000.
On top of that, TD is raising transaction fees by 56% (from $1.25 to $1.95) on customers who don’t maintain the new, higher $5000 balance. That higher fee will kick in for every transaction, including when customers use their debit card
At least one bank raised its NSF charge to a sky-high $200.
Government must step in
Duff Conacher says the banks are jacking up fees for just one reason: because no one is stopping them.
“Prime Minister Trudeau said a year ago that the banks should be doing more to help Canadians—and gouging them is not helping them,” said Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, a citizen group calling for government accountability and corporate responsibility. “It’s about time he and the finance minister stepped in.”
A lot of Canadians agree. More than 120,000 signed onto a Democracy Watch online letter-writing and petition campaign calling on the federal government “to work together with all federal parties in this minority government situation to stop gouging, racism in lending, and other abuses by Canada’s Big 6 Banks.
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