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‘Save our bank’: Residents protest closure of only bank on N.B. island

Click to play video: 'Grand Manan island residents protest closure of only bank' Grand Manan island residents protest closure of only bank
WATCH: Losing your local bank can be a bother. But what if your bank shuts down, and the next closest one is 40 kilometres away – over water? That’s the situation people in Grand Manan might soon be facing. On Friday they took to the streets asking for their bank to be saved. Travis Fortnum reports. – May 20, 2022

Grand Manan, an island in New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy with a population of 2,400, is about to lose its only bank, but not without a fight.

Scotiabank, which has one branch on the island, announced earlier this year they’d be pulling their branch come August, after 113 years of service.

On Friday morning, about a hundred residents gathered in front of the branch to protests its closure.

“Save our bank! Save our bank!,” the protestors chanted.

Travis Fortnum / Global News

Gregg Russell came to the protest as a “concerned citizen,” but he’s also a councillor in the community. He was born and raised on Grand Manan, and though he left for his career before coming back, he says he’s always called the island home.

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Russell now has a small business on Grand Manan, so he often has to take cheques, cash and the safety deposit box to the branch – at least once a week.

“Everyone was in shock,” said Russell about the closure notice.

Read more: Scotiabank closure will be ‘another blow’ to rural N.S. community

The next closest bank is hours away, and the trip includes a $50 ticket for a 90-minute ferry ride and then another hour drive to the bank in St. George.

On top of that, the ferry goes only every four hours, and if weather is too bad for the ferry to run, passengers could be left stranded on the other side.

“How are people with disabilities, how are seniors, how are low-income families going to do banking?” Russell asked.

A sign on the Grand Manan Scotiabank branch notifies residents the branch is leaving the area. Travis Fortnum / Global News

A statement from Scotiabank to Global News said the company “did not make this decision lightly.”

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“We understand that this will have an impact on the people and community of Grand Manan,” it read.

“We regularly review our branch network, the number of customers that we serve in the market area, and the way that those customers are doing their banking. We look forward to the opportunity to work with customers to understand how we can help make this transition easier.”

Read more: Why Canada needs better public banks following the COVID-19 pandemic

Russell said he initially contacted the federal ministry of finance and then complained to local Scotiabank branch about the closure.

“First I was sad, but then I thought ‘sad isn’t going to fix this.’ Then I got pissed off and thought ‘well that’s a waste of energy.’”

Gregg Russell organized Friday’s protest in front of Scotiabank on Grand Manan island. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Realizing that something had to be done, Russell organized the protest held on Friday.

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He said he’s not surprised that people showed up – it’s a big issue for those who are not able or cannot afford to travel to St. George.

Anneke Gichuru told Global News she moved to Grand Manan 20 years ago and has used the branch since then.

She said staff at the bank have always been kind and have built a relationship with the residents.

“Year after year they were singled out as being exceptional,” Gichuru said.

Read more: Hillsborough, N.B. gets new grocery store after going without for more than 2 years

Finding about the closure, she said, “was a deep shock.”

Anneke Gichuru is seen sitting with her friend near the Grand Manan Scotiabank protest. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Not only is she worried about the trip to St. George, she is also worried about safety.

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“People will be forced to keep a lot of money either at their businesses or at home, and that is very tempting to people who would like to get their hands on it,” Gichuru said.

Russell agreed. He said Grand Manan is a community where people don’t even lock their doors – it’s generally safe. But with no banks in sight, Russell said residents are concerned about the crime rate going up.

“Our island is going to change dramatically.”

Read more: Duelling motions in N.B. legislature fuel stalemate on pump price relief

Russell said island residents tried to talk other financial institutions into stepping in to fill the gap, but to no avail.

The branch is set to close Aug. 24, but the community is hoping to create enough public pressure to get Scotiabank to stay.

— with files from Global News’ Travis Fortnum

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