Black customer recounts 'degrading' treatment at Ottawa bank branch
Nothing changed after bank apologized, says longtime customer Keshna Spalding
A Black man who says he's repeatedly experienced racism while depositing cheques at a TD Canada Trust branch in Ottawa is dismissing the bank's apology to him as hollow.
Keshna Spalding said he's been a TD customer for more than 20 years, but never had an issue until two years ago when he moved to Orléans, a suburb in the city's east end. At a branch there, Spalding said he has experienced "degrading" treatment that he believes is rooted in racism.
"They will question every cheque that I come into the bank with," Spalding said. "Everything had to be verified, which wasn't the case before."
When clients are giving me the cheque, the butterflies are coming in my belly because I know there's going to be an experience [at the bank].- Keshna Spalding
Spalding, who works in painting and construction, said he's often paid by cheque and payments can total as much as $15,000.
When he went into the Orléans location on Mer-Bleue Road, to deposit his pay, Spalding said employees would often huddle over printouts of his account history. The branch has even held cheques and bank drafts that were already verified by TD, he said.
Before using that branch, Spalding said he had never experienced such intense scrutiny while banking.
"It was just mind-blowing. [I'm] wondering what's going on here. I've never experienced this before," Spalding said. "It's degrading, man."
'Nothing more than racism'
Spalding said bank employees have told him cheques made out for large amounts are routinely held, but according to TD's own policy, such holds are "applied differently for each customer."
According to the bank, "creditworthiness" is based on a customer's credit history with the bank and other financial institutions, how long they've been with TD and the current status of their accounts.
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Spalding said he's been told by tellers at other branches that based on his banking history, he should be under no such restrictions.
"[I'm] very frustrated," he said. "It is tough because it brings me back to some ugly memories of what I've experienced in Alberta, and what I'm experiencing here is nothing more than racism."
Spalding said he's lost sleep over the treatment he's received at the bank.
"It's played in my head for months and months and months .... to the point where when clients are giving me the cheque, the butterflies are coming in my belly because I know there's going to be an experience [at the bank]."
Spalding's allegations are part of a larger conversation across the country around racial profiling at financial institutions. "Banking while black" is a common term among Black Canadians who often face intense questioning, skepticism and poor customer service at banks.
TD offers 'unreserved public apology'
Spalding recently filed a formal complaint to the company and has received what Carla Hindman, TD's manager of corporate and public affairs, described to CBC as "an unreserved public apology."
Hindman said TD is "committed to providing a level of excellence for those we serve, and when an individual has the courage to speak out, we have a responsibility to listen and take appropriate action."
She said the company has introduced enhanced training and education programs about anti-Black racism in order to foster "a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equity."
Staff at the Mer-Bleue branch will participate in sessions "focused on our shared responsibility to interrupt conscious and unconscious bias," she said.
But Spalding said after receiving the apology, he had another negative experience at the branch. He said he isn't optimistic things will change.
Spalding said he'll remain a TD customer, but has decided to switch to a different branch farther from his home.
Hindman said the bank is aware of Spalding's ongoing concerns and "hopes to be able to rebuild trust."
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.