Ottawa In the final event of the first ACORN Canada Convention members gathered in front of the National Bank of Canada, assembling to raise the demand to lower bank and money transfer fees for remittances. With Parliament looming over them car after car honked in support of lower bank fees. Hardly a struggling immigrant driving a cab along the street didn’t lean on their horn, understanding the issue precisely.
A popular radio broadcast on politics on CBC had interviewed Kay Bisnath of ACORN Canada and ACORN International shortly after 8 AM in a national broadcast. A piece had run in the daily paper, Ottawa Citizen, made the campaign clear.
The nearly 100 protests left the Bank of Canada, responsible for regulations, to make the same demand at the offices of the Finance Minister Michael Horgan. We didn’t get far. Police blocked the doors and locked them quickly, as the members chanted below and beat the plastic trash receptacles to a drum beat, calling on the Minister to “come down, meet the people!”
Finally using police as embassaries, Marva Burnett, outgoing president of ACORN Canada and other leaders were able to get their message up and get the answer down. The deputy finance minister agreed to study the issue and issue a response. The finance ministry communication director came down and parsed a few words indicating they had read the Citizen and heard the news, and would “study the matter.”
A mild response, but a step forward because truly this is an issue where there is every indication that the government is totally clueless of the issue despite the huge impact. Back-of-the-envelope figuring had put the cost of excess fees, defined as fees above the G-8 and World Bank target of 5%, sent by immigrant and new Canadians back to families and communities in their home countries as being over $500,000,000 per year!
Members had prepared a “giant invoice” as chant leader, Pascal Apuwa, called it and after the Finance representative slinked away, a chant rose for the giant invoice to be left and collected. Marva Burnett placed it pointing inside the locked doors of the ministry. I am categorically clear that a small piece of history was made here, since I am confident that in the history of social movements over thousands of years, these members may have been the first to chant “GIANT INVOICE!”
Nonetheless, the chant makes the point. This is a huge bill, now past due, that needs to be repaid to the poor and migrant works and immigrant families around the world, being exploited by money transfer organizations and banks on a daily basis at the price of billions.