People who live on aboriginal reserves are automatically refused loans from Laurentian Bank to buy a recreational vehicle due to a company policy, Radio-Canada has learned.
An investigation by CBC's French-language service found that staff have been told to refuse such loans to people living at 3,000 postal codes that are, without exception, located on First Nation reserves across Canada.
An internal e-mail told employees what to do if they encounter a case from one of those postal codes.
"Refuse the file for any reason, and in addition mention that we don't serve that area or postal code anymore," the e-mail said in French. It added that the employee should never mention that the file is being refused because it's on a reserve, nor should the employee use the words "Indian reserve," "Indian" or "Native."
As part of the investigation by the Radio-Canada program Enquête, Michael Descontie, an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi reserve near Maniwaki, Que., sought a loan to buy an all-terrain vehicle. As he had an excellent credit record, his application was initially accepted.
However, three hours later, it was rejected by Laurentian Bank.
A bank employee told a journalist for Enquête that the application hadn't even been analyzed because the applicant lived in an area that she was not allowed to accept applications from.
Luc Bernard, vice-president of Laurentian Bank, said in a French interview that the policy was temporarily put in place as a result of losses in the department that deals with recreational vehicle loans, but the bank is trying to analyze why those losses occurred.
He would not specify the amount of the losses, nor would explain why all reserves in the country were on the list rather than those where the losses occurred.
He added that the internal e-mail instructing employees about how to deal with clients from reserves seeking recreational vehicle loans was poorly worded and does not reflect "in any way" the bank's credit policies.
However, he gave no indication that the bank plans to change its practices.