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The Canadian Banking System vs. Persons with Disabilities

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bullet"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948

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The Globe and Mail reported on 1998-JUN-25 that some of the banks of Canada have reneged on a promise to the Government of Canada (and thus to the people of Canada) to hire more employees with disabilities. 1

In 1988, a coalition of disability groups filed complaints with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC) against all 5 chartered banks, and four other federally regulated financial companies. The Bank of Montreal and Royal Bank of Canada were congratulated at that time for agreeing to negotiate settlements. The Bank of Montreal promised to increase the percentage of people with disabilities to 10.2% of the total hired by 1998. The Royal Bank agreed to a 12.5% target. They both agreed to aim for a workforce where 6.5% of the employees had a disability.  This is "the same fraction of the working population identified in the 1961 Census as being disabled but ready and able to hold down a job."

10 years have passed. These two banks appear to have missed their commitments. Their hiring rates of disabled people have nose-dived.

Bank of Montreal

Year Hiring Goals * Actual Hiring Rate *
1994 5.1% 7.8% for 1st 6 months
1995 5.1% 2.4%
1996 7.6% 1.6%
1997 7.6% 0.9%
1998 10.2% Not available

Royal Bank of Canada

Year Hiring Goals * Actual Hiring Rate *
1994 12.5% 2.2%
1995 12.5% 0.8%
1996 12.5% Not available
1997 12.5% Not available
1998 12.5% Not available

* Expressed as a percentage of total new hirings.

The CHRC has asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to investigate the matter. Under a previously unused part of the Canadian human rights law, a breach of a settlement can be prosecuted in Federal Court.

Gerald Savard, director general of the CHRC's antidiscrimination programs branch commented: "At the end of the day, we're seeing a situation where they are going backward in terms of the hiring rates they have for people with disabilities, as opposed to moving forward...The commission is now in a situation where it has to pursue its enforcement options under the statute. And the banks are on on notice that activity is now in the process of being activated..."

David Baker, is a representative of the Disabled People for Employment Equity Human Rights Group - the organization that brought the original charges. He said: "Common sense would indicate the banks should have been leading in terms of their capacity to accommodate people with disabilities."

The banks claim that they have made major efforts in the past to search out and hire people with disabilities. Also, they stated that many of their employees refuse to declare themselves disabled. So their actual levels are higher that the figures show.

Meanwhile, every large city in the country has an office of the Ministry of Community and Social Services (or an equivalent ministry). Each office has many employees, each with caseloads of hundreds of persons with disability. Some of these people have talents and abilities which are going to waste.

Unfortunately, the maximum fine for reneging on an agreement is $50,000. This is a miniscule fine in comparison to the profits that these banks make each year - over 1 billion dollars each.

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A Catch-22 Situation:

The percentage of  persons with disability is lower in the banks than in the general population. However, the methodology imposed by federal government legislation under-reports their number. The only employees who are counted must volunteer that they:

  1. have a "long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment"
  2. and that they:
    bulleta) "consider themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment," or
    bulletb) "believe that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment".

Thus, a person with a disability who is fairly treated by her/his employer might not feel "disadvantaged in employment." They might well answer "no" to the second question and thus not be counted as having a disability. So, as an employer becomes more enlightened and fair to its employees, the lower will be their reported number of persons with disabilities.

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You might consider:

bulletAsking your bank manager what his branch is doing to add persons with disabilities to the staff.
bulletWriting to your MP urging that penalties for reneging on human rights agreements be increased, say to $100,000 per year or 10% of their net profit, whichever is greater. A $100 million dollar fine would certainly get a banks' attention.
bulletMoving your banking business to the first bank in your city to hire a person with a disability.
bulletEmailing banks, expressing your opinion on this matter. Although only the Royal Bank and Bank of Montreal are cited in this article, we suspect that most Canadian banks are dragging their feet on this matter. All but one of the banks have Email addresses.
bulletIf you just have the time to mail one organization, we recommend the Canadian Bankers Association. Their slogan is "building a better understanding."
Bank Web site URL Email address
Bank of Montreal http://www.bmo.ca/ feedback@bmo.com
Bank of Nova Scotia http://www.scotiabank.ca email@scotiabank.ca
Canada Trust http://www.canadatrust.com/ ctmailbox@canadatrust.com
Canadian Bankers Assoc. http://www.cba.ca/eng/ cba@minacs.com
Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada http://www.cibc.com/ Unknown
Credit Union Central of Canada http://www.cucentral.ca/ webmaster1@cucentral.ca
Desjardins http://www.desjardins.com/ Unknown
Hongkong Bank of Canada http://www.hkbc.com/ info@HKBC.com
National Bank of Canada http://www.nbc.ca/ telnat@bnc.ca 
Royal Bank http://www.royalbank.com/ feedback@www.royalbank.com
Toronto Dominion Bank http://www.tdaccess.com tdinfo@tdbank.ca

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Recent Developments:

bullet1998-JUN-26: We mailed identical, critical Emails to the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada .
bullet1998-JUL-6: A representative of the Royal Bank responded. She acknowledging that the bank "needs to increase its representation of persons with disabilities and are actively seeking to do so." She asked that if anyone knows of know of individuals with disabilities who are seeking employment opportunities, "we would appreciate you referring them to:"
bulletRoyal Bank Financial
c/o Employment Resource Centre
970 Lawrence Avenue West,
Suite 110, Toronto, Ontario M6A 3B6
bulletTelephone: (416) 256-0088 or 1-888-256-3088
Fax: (416) 256-0169
TTY: (416) 256-0172,
Email emp@rb-erc.com
bullet1998-AUG-2: The Toronto Dominion Bank will accept resumes at their general recruiting e-mail address of recruit@tdbank.ca.
bullet2004-JAN: The Canadian Bankers Association reported that: "Representation of people with disabilities increased slightly to 2.3 per cent in 2002. Hiring and retaining staff with disabilities is an ongoing challenge for the industry. The banks are currently engaged in a number of special initiatives to promote and sustain employment of people with disabilities in their workforces." 5

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  1. Margaret Philp, "Banks on Carpet over Hiring," The Globe and Mail, 1998-JUN-25, P. A1 & A11
  2. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has a home page at: http://www.chrc.ca/
  3. The CHRC has free posters available at: http://www.chrc.ca/frames/poster.htm
  4. "Discrimination 'Fact of Life' for Canadians with Disabilities," CRHC essay, at: http://www.chrc.ca/ar1997/ardiswe.htm
  5. "Banks as Employers in Canada," Canadian Bankers Association, 2004-JAN, at: http://www.cba.ca/

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