Even if they have bank accounts, low and medium income Canadians can’t use their accounts like the rest of their compatriots, because banks usually don’t approve loans or overdrafts for this category of customers. The only alternative, for many low and medium income Canadians, is to use the so-called payday loans, which means that they end up paying huge annualized interest rates that can go as high as 600%.
ACORN, a grass-roots organization for social justice, is fighting for access to fair banking for all Canadians. Across the country, in all provinces and in all major cities, activists gathered around governmental buildings, banks and payday lenders on 30 November 2017, demanding access to fair, affordable loans for low-income people. Marches took place in Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Mississauga and Vancouver, among other locations.
In Ottawa, ACORN members marched around the city, making stops at several payday loan companies, and visited MP Mona Fortier’s office, asking for a meeting and for her support. ACORN activists also rallied outside of Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s office in Toronto, delivering petitions for fair banking and asking for him to stop ignoring requests to meet. In Vancouver, ACORN members and supporters delivered letters to the banks in New West, asking for improved access to bank services for low-income Canadians. City councillor Jaimie Mcevoy spoke in support of ACOIRN’s campaign and praised members for their hard work in the local community.
Some of the people who took the streets demanding for access to fair loans are victims of predatory lenders. A Toronto-based man who didn’t want to share his name for privacy reasons explained that he took out a $5,500, two-years loan to be paid back with a 60% interest. The man explained that he understood how bad the deal was, but he did not have another choice. As a part-time retail worker that only now got a full-time job, he was forced to take the loan in order to cover his rent. Even if he was a customer of Scotiabank for 20 years, the bank refused to give him a loan, forcing him to take the only alternative left, a payday loan.
ACORN activists have a list of demands that, if adopted by the government, would improve access of low and medium income Canadians to fair banking and would protect them from predatory lenders. ACORN demands include: access to low-interest for emergencies, access to low-interest overdraft protection, no holds on cheques, alternatives to predatory lenders, such as postal banking and credit union credit products geared toward low and moderate income families, creation a national anti-predatory lending strategy, a real-time national tracking system (or database) to help stop roll over loans, and lower the maximum interest rate from 60% to 30%.
According to Vlad Rascanu, founder or Loans Geeks, all Canadians should have access to fair banking services. “By aggregating and comparing all the loan offers available, we are helping our customers take away the guesswork from their search. Every aspect of each offer is analyzed and laid out for our customers, helping them secure the best deal”, added Vlad Rascanu.