A Toronto man is suing Scotiabank, claiming that he was racially profiled and arrested at one of its branches after attempting to deposit a $9,000 check into his own bank account, the Toronto Star reports.
“We were first made aware of this issue by the Toronto police on the day of the incident. When we learned about the issue, we responded to the inquiry in a timely manner to clarify any concerns that were brought forward. We have always taken the position that the check was valid,” the company said in a statement.
“It was horrible. The worst thing that ever happened to me. I’ve never been arrested [in] my life. It was a Saturday morning; the bank was full and the mall also,” the 38-year-old told the Star. “Everybody was looking at me, and nothing was done quietly. Everybody saw everything that happened.”
His lawsuit names the bank, Toronto Police Services Board and Re/Max Community Realty Inc. as plaintiffs and seeks more than $225,000 in damages. Re/Max told the Star that the check was always valid.
“We’ve gone through every possible reason why they could think that the check Mr. St. Fleur proffered was fraudulent, and there’s nothing—the check looks fine,” Paul Druxerman, St. Fleur’s attorney, told the Star. “The basis for that would have been that he’s black. We couldn’t find any other reason why they would suspect him of passing a fraudulent check.”
According to the report, when St. Fleur presented the check for deposit, a bank employee took him to her office, where she offered St. Fleur investment products. St. Fleur declined, since he was just seeking to deposit the money for now. That was when the employee left and the police came shortly after, arresting him. He was questioned and eventually released after the police deemed the check valid.
“We are in the process of putting together our statement of defense. It is not at all unusual for lawsuit claims to fail in court,” police spokesman Mark Pugash told the Star in an email.
As for Scotiabank, the bank has apologized, calling St. Fleur’s treatment “unacceptable.”
“Customers are our No. 1 priority and are treated with the utmost respect. The treatment of Mr. St. Fleur was unacceptable and we have apologized and made an initial offer to reverse certain fees on his account and then offered an additional goodwill gesture in the spring. We have also worked with our employees to ensure that this does not happen again,” the bank said in a statement.
The bank had reportedly reached out to St. Fleur personally with a letter and offered to refund two years’ worth of banking fees, worth about $100, St. Fleur told the Star.
But for St. Fleur, this matter really isn’t about the money. “I’m not looking for money, but I want everybody to know about what happened so that it never happens to anybody else. There’s no other reason it happened. Because I’m black. I’m black and in the bank with a $9,000 check,” he said. “I want people to know. Everyone is equal in Canada … everyone is equal. With what happened, I realized there is something that needs to be fixed. I want everybody else to know.”
Read more at the Toronto Star.