TORONTO – A Toronto man has launched a $250,000 lawsuit against his bank, his real estate broker and Toronto Police for what he alleges is a case of racial profiling.
Frantz St-Fleur went to Scotiabank at the Scarborough Town Centre last April to deposit a $9,000 cheque given to him from Re/Max. The money was a refund for a deposit he put down on a condo.
St-Fleur says when he tried to put it back into his tax-free saving account, bank officials questioned him.
“I felt very bad, I felt humiliated,” said St-Fleur. “The first question that came to my mind was why? Why did this happen?”
Moments later, he was placed under arrest.
“They said you’re under arrest. I said why? And then they said you’re under arrest because you’re trying to cash a fraudulent cheque,” said St-Fleur.
St-Fleur says he was handcuffed and walked through the busy mall to a waiting cruiser. Despite insisting the cheque was valid, he was taken to the 43 Division police station and put in a jail cell.
Police confirmed the cheque was not fraudulent a few hours later and let him go.
St-Fleur’s lawyer Paul Druxerman said there was no reason to arrest his client. Not only has his client been a customer with the bank for ten years, he’s also never had a run-in with the law.
“The initiation of checking on whether the cheque was valid, that stems from nothing else but racial profiling,” said Druxerman.
Druxerman was told by Scotiabank that it had reached out to Re/Max to inquire about the $9,000 cheque, but in a statement sent to Global News by Re/Max Community Realty Inc. it said it was always thought the cheque was valid.
“We have always taken the position that the cheque was valid. According to our independent phone records, the bank has not contacted us on this matter.”
Scotiabank sent this statement to Global News on Wednesday afternoon:
Customers are our number one 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. Unfortunately, because this matter is before the courts we can’t comment on the specifics. It is Scotiabank’s policy to treat every customer fairly and with respect regardless of race, national or ethnic origin, gender, colour, sexual orientation, or religion.
In a letter sent to St-Fleur days after the incident last spring Scotiabank wrote, “Let me begin by apologizing for any frustration and offence experienced by you.”
The letter, signed by the branch manager, goes on to say, “As a goodwill gesture we will be reversing the fees on your account for the last two years.”
According to St-Fleur, that amounts to less than $100.
“It’s like a slap in the face,” said St-Fleur.
Scotiabank says it “treats every customer fairly and with respect” but St-Fleur is certain he was questioned by bank staff and arrested because of the colour of his skin.
Despite available proof that the cheque was valid, he was still placed in police custody.
The married father has been left traumatized by the incident that has caused nightmares and anxiety. St-Fleur says it is not about the money, it’s about getting his story heard.
“I wouldn’t think those things exist especially in Canada,” said St-Fleur. “I want something to be done.”