Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montréal, November 5, 2019 - Being subjected to unfounded suspicions and multiple ID checks at the bank counter has led a Black man and an Arab man to take two banks to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

In the case of the Black man, the experience was particularly frustrating because of his work as advisor to CRARR on racial profiling and policing.

The incident occurred two weeks ago when Alain Babineau, a retired RCMP Staff Sergeant and McGill law graduate, who now works as an advisor on racial profiling in policing at CRARR, went to the CIBC branch at the Guy Favreau Complex to ask for a replacement debit card. Babineau is an African Canadian male of mixed heritage (Quebecois/African American) in his 50s and was wearing business attire at the time of the incident.

From the beginning, the CIBC bank teller who served Babineau, a Québécoise in her 50s, was unfriendly throughout their interaction. At first, Babineau, had provided her with two pieces of ID, his Ontario driver’s license and his CIBC credit card. Still, the bank teller continued in her embarrassing questions to verify Babineau’s identity, despite his 35 years with CIBC.

When Babineau asked to change his address on file, she coldly replied that she could not unless he presented her with a proof of residence. Coincidently, he had his lease with him and showed it to her. Suspiciously, the teller took his lease and two pieces of ID and showed them to her Asian supervisor. The supervisor explained that she would need the manager’s authorization in order to complete the transaction. They left him wait at the counter for nearly 10 minutes.

Upon their return, they told him they could not accept his lease as proof of residence and that they would need a piece of mail bearing his name. As he happened to have a piece of mail bearing his name and address, he showed it to the teller who ignored it. When it was clear to Babineau that he would not be getting his replacement debit card, he left, feeling humiliated.

Every one of the CIBC customer service agents Babineau spoke to on the phone told him, that his request for a replacement card should have been a routine transaction. “They could not explain why I was treated that way”, Babineau explains.

He told the agents that he believed that he been the victim of consumer racial profiling, whereas he appeared suspicious to the bank teller as a Black person with a French-Canadian name. Finally, two day later, Babineau was invited to meet with the bank branch manager who finally gave him a new temporary replacement card and apologized for the treatment he received.

“There was no reason for their suspicion of my identity. A Black man like me can have a name like Alain Babineau”, Babineau said. “No matter my long record of service with the RCMP and my role as an anti-racism advocate, I still get very upset when I myself become the target of racial profiling. It hits home, and the anger is still raw,” he added.

In a similar case, last March, a young Arab male in his 30s, Hichem Raïs, was not only denied the opportunity to open a bank account, but he ended having the police on him by a TD branch in Laval because of suspicion of ID fraud.

When he wanted to switch from National Bank to TD, he went to the branch at 3855 Le Carrefour, Laval. Since the branch was busy, he decided to go the branch at 4865 Notre Dame, Laval, where he gave a teller his Medicare card and his driver’s license to open an account.

The teller seemed to suspect that he gave a fake driver’s license and told him that she could not open an account for him. She told him to come back with another ID card, but Raïs told her that he wanted to go to the branch at 3855 Le Carrefour, since it is closer to his place, which he did.

The next day, he went to the TD branch on Le Carrefour, this time with his Medicare Card, his driver’s license and his passport. A teller told him in a vexatious tone that he was “doing the round” of bank branches, and went to consult other staff about his IDs. He came back, refused to return to Raïs his driver’s license and told him to leave the branch.

When Raïs asked for his driver’s license back, the teller told him to leave or he would call the police, which the teller eventually did. Two officers eventually came, one of whom took Raïs’ IDs and went to his car to check. He later came back to say that they were in order, but ordered to leave the premises. In fact, the officers told Raïs that he was forbidden to return to the branch.

« I was treated like a criminal, and this is anti-Arab bias at its worst,” Raïs said. “I asked for an apology but didn’t even get one. I got expelled and barred instead.”
“Banking While Black or Arab is the new challenges for banks and retail businesses. These institutions need to adopt policy and training on consumer racial profiling, because more complaints and lawsuits are coming,” Babineau said.

There have been important court decisions on consumer racial profiling in Ontario and Nova Scotia in the last two years.

With CRARR’s assistance, both men have filed complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission.