EDMONTON – The executive director of an addiction treatment centre in Alberta is calling for a boycott of TD Canada Trust after he says the centre’s aboriginal clients were racially profiled at a St. Albert branch.
RCMP approached a group of six clients and a staff member from Poundmaker’s Lodge Treatment Centre outside the Hebert Road branch on Friday, after bank staff alerted police to a suspected robbery.
TD Canada Trust spokesperson Alicia Johnston said a customer overheard the group discussing the bank’s alarm system.
“One of our customers alerted branch staff to a perceived threat of a robbery,” Johnston told Global News in a statement. “Our branch staff followed security protocol and contacted the RCMP immediately to report what the customer had told them.”
Brad Cardinal, the executive director Poundmaker’s Lodge, said his clients and employee never discussed robbing the bank and were clearly in a marked van.
Poundmaker’s Lodge said in addition to treatment, one of its main goals is to help clients re-establish their independence. It provides transportation for clients to visit the bank and conduct other errands on a weekly basis.
Johnston said RCMP arrived quickly and left after a brief conversation with the Poundmaker’s group.
Poundmaker’s Lodge said its clients were there to do their banking, and described the incident as “racially charged.”
TD Canada Trust said it apologized the Monday after the incident occurred but the treatment centre’s executive director said he was unaware of an apology other than a reaction he said was quoted to him that said: “We are sorry to hear that (racial profiling) was your perception of what happened at the branch.”
“Saying you are sorry for what someone perceives is very different than apologizing for the actions of your employees,” Cardinal said.
“We were shocked and appalled at the treatment received by our clients and staff member by TD Canada Trust and the RCMP,” the lodge said in a news release. “We are deeply troubled by the events … and the lack of common sense utilized.”
TD Canada Trust said it made several attempts to contact Cardinal over the weekend but calls weren’t returned. The bank said it also sent an official to the Poundmaker site, but was told to leave. TD said the official then tried to leave an apology letter but it was refused.
At a press conference Monday, the chair of the Poundmaker’s Lodge board said the centre plans to take action with regard to how the RCMP handled the situation.
“We will be filing a complaint with the RCMP commissioner who has already publicly acknowledged the problem of racism in the ranks,” Jim Brule said. “We will be moving forward with a human rights complaint. This type of behaviour will no longer be tolerated.”
Brule also said his organization plans to close its accounts at TD Canada Trust.
“Our community deserves more from those in a position of authority,” Brule said. “For our people who are dealing with this on a daily basis, in the small towns and communities and the big urban centres, we encourage you to speak out.”
TD Canada Trust said it reached out to Cardinal to apologize for the “misunderstanding.”
“The race of the individuals was not known by the staff member when they reported the incident to the police,” said Johnston. “We are very sorry that this misunderstanding caused any trouble or embarrassment for the individuals involved.”
At Monday’s press conference, Cardinal rejected the bank’s version of events.
“Where safety is concerned, TD and RCMP has a responsibility to act and we fully understand that,” Cardinal said. “The question we ask is if the safety and well-being of the customers and employees of the bank is at risk, why would the branch manager speak with people whom he assumed were there to rob the bank. Does that not break their safety protocols?”
Cardinal said he is asking all First Nations and supporters of Canada’s indigenous people to stop doing business with TD Canada Trust.
The staff member who made the decision to call RCMP, an acting branch manager, said he wants to be sure people know he is Metis.
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