Bank's withdrawal infuriates Outaouais town

People living in Ripon, Que., are furious over the removal of the small western Quebec town's only Desjardins banking machine.

Desjardins removed bank's only ATM from Ripon, Que., after use slumped

Hundreds of people from Ripon, Que., packed a local church Tuesday night to denounce a decision by Desjardins to close the credit union's only local ATM. (Jacaudrey Charbonneau/Radio-Canada)

People living in Ripon, Que., are furious over the removal of the small western Quebec town's only Desjardins banking machine.

Hundreds of residents packed the Paroisse St-Casimir-de-Ripon Tuesday night to denounce the closure, which happened in January.

Desjardins representatives explained that use of the ATM in the Petite-Nation Market building on Route 317 has dropped 13 per cent since 2015.

The credit union operates as a co-operative in the rural community of about 1,500, about 80 kilometres northeast of Ottawa.

Many residents accused the co-op's board of abandoning Ripon, while some residents who said their families have banked with Desjardins for generations threatened to quit doing business with the credit union.
Desjardins representatives got an earful from residents of Ripon, Que., over the closure of the credit union's only local ATM in January. (Jacaudrey Charbonneau/Radio-Canada)

Decision left to co-op's board

Many were also angry the fate of Ripon's only Desjardins ATM was left solely to the co-op's board of directors.

By refusing the [popular] vote, you have denied the very principle of a co-operative.- Vincent  Ouellette-Destroismaisons

"By refusing the [popular] vote, you have denied the very principle of a co-operative," said market president Vincent Ouellette-Destroismaisons, who began a petition against the ATM's removal.

Ouellette-Destroismaisons said the decision demonstrates that banks and credit unions such as Desjardins don't understand how their decisions affect smaller communities.

Ouellette-Destroismaisons said market vendors rely on a nearby ATM for their customers, many of whom prefer to use cash.

He said keeping the ATM where it is would cost Desjardins just $25,000 a year.

Desjardins said it's considering setting up a shuttle from Ripon to its branch in Saint-André-Avellin, about 10 kilometres away.

More communities prepare for the loss

The Outaouais communities of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette and Plaisance are also at risk of losing their ATMs and have begun pushing for their own meetings with Desjardins.

"We're going to lose the automated tellers in most small cities that are fighting to survive," said Denis Légaré, the mayor of Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette. "In a small municipality cash is very important."

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When that community learned it was set to lose its ATM in August, it went beyond a lobbying campaign, promising to foot the bill for a new machine. 

But Légaré says the credit union argued that wasn't enough. 

Desjardins told Légaré it would need at least 5,000 transactions per month to make the machine profitable, when the small community is only making half that number. 

"It's been like that for 20 years. Why all of a sudden is it not profitable for them, when we're not charging them rent [for the service counter] and we offered to pay for the automatic teller?" said Légaré 

"Every justification has been shot down. They're out of arguments."

With files from Jacaudrey Charbonneau