Insurance co's refuse to cover native communities

Insurance companies say they won't cover people living on a native reserve in Quebec because the risk is too high. Some native people call it racist.

Ronald Bonspille owns an ambulance service serving the communities of Kanesetake and Oka, Quebec. He also owns several properties in the area. But Bonspille can't get insurance for his properties.

Bonspille is Mohawk. He says insurance companies have told him his community had been designated a "red zone" after the 1990 Oka crisis when native militants blocked bridges and roads to protest the building of a golf course on a native burial site. It resulted in several violent clashes and the death of one police officer.

"I'm living here in the village (and) I have no problems getting insurance," says Bonspille. "But my three other houses are on the reservation, I can't get any insurance for."

When Bonspille rented a farm on the reserve last May, he called up an insurance company.

"She asked me, 'Is that on the reserve?' I said 'Yeah.' She says 'We can't insure you.'"

Bonspille says the woman called him back the next day and said the company can't insure natives on the reserve.

"It's downright discrimination. It has to be," says Bonspille.

'Insurance is based on discrimination'

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) agrees.

"Basically, insurance is based on discrimination," says Louis Guay, assistant vice president of IBC.

Guay says men pay more for car insurance and the same rules of insurance apply to communities like Kanesetake.

"Some insurers did have bad experiences in trying to settle claims involving people staying on the reserve," explains Guay. He adds it's difficult to get access to the grounds or to inspect damaged goods.

"Some insurance employees have faced threats," says Guay. "And that's perhaps why some insurers are a little more lukewarm."

Insurance broker Fabi Bertolotto knows the community well. He doesn't recall having any problems with the region.

"Excellent. Just one word, excellent. I never have...problems with anybody."

Bonspille says it goes beyond insurance rules.

"The non-native people that reside within the boundaries of the reserve of Kanesetake can get insurance," says Bonspille.