Founded in 1983 - United for Diversity and Racial Equality


Montreal, September 29, 2008 --- Aboriginal individuals and organizations should press the Canadian Human Rights Commission to launch an inquiry into possible racial discrimination in financial services provided by the Laurentian Bank, subsequent to a report by Radio-Canada’s Enquête program that was broadcast last week.

Reacting to the ground-breaking Radio-Canada report, which disclosed Laurentian Bank’s policy and practice of declining financial services to individuals residing in specific postal codes, most of which belong to Aboriginal communities, CRARR will request in writing that the Canadian Human Rights Commission to launch an investigation into this policy and practice.

“The Radio-Canada television program broadcast last week clearly points to race-based redlining,” said CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi. “It warrants a broad inquiry because Aboriginal peoples’ civil rights may have been illegally violated.”

In the September 27, 2008 article in the Montreal Gazette, one of the bank’s vice-president confirmed that the practice is “restrictive, but not systematic” and that a bank watchlist “signals to loan officers that they be “cautious” when lending to people with those postal codes.”

Redlining is common practice in many American cities whereby financial and other institutions draw a red line on a map to delineate the area where they will not invest or provide credit card and insurance services as well as mortgage and business loans. Although community reinvestment laws were enact to prohibit redlining, the practice still continues in subtle forms.

CRARR calls upon all Aboriginal individuals who may have been denied a personal or business financial service such as a loan or credit line within the last twelve months to file complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (the Canadian Human Rights Act prescription is one year). CRARR can also file complaints on their behalf.

CRARR also urges Aboriginal organizations such as the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) and the Native Women of Canada, as well as their provincial chapters to press the Commission for an inquiry into possible race-based discrimination. It has initiated discussions with the AFN to this effect.

“Redlining, or racial profiling in financial services, should be severely sanctioned not only because it denies Aboriginal peoples’ their right to equality and dignity, but also because it deprives people and communities of economic opportunities and ultimately, self-sufficiency,” said Mr. Niemi. “It runs contrary to the spirit of business entrepreneurship and to key programs to foster Aboriginal economic development,” Mr. Niemi concluded.