Black man complains after National Bank falsely accuses him of theft

Black man complains after National Bank falsely accuses him of theft

June 14, 2018 0 By news club



Armstrong Victor speaks to the media in Montreal on Thursday June 14, 2018. Victor was followed by four bank security guards and falsely accused of removing a teller’s stamp from his local National Bank branch.


Allen McInnis / Montreal Gazette

A South Shore man and the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations have filed a complaint with the Quebec Human Rights Commission for an incident they call “banking while black.”

Armstrong Victor can’t stop replaying the memory of the four-minute-long walk from his workplace to his bank — flanked by four security guards — over and over in his mind.

Victor, who is 37 years old, was working in the kitchen at a comedy club in Brossard’s Dix30 mall. On Oct. 12, 2017, he came into work after a routine stop at a nearby National Bank branch.

Soon after starting his shift, Victor said two security guards came into the kitchen and asked him to come with them, saying he was accused of having stolen a bank stamp. Bank stamps are used to verify official documents.

When he agreed to leave with them, Victor says two other security guards were waiting outside the restaurant. They then escorted him to the bank. His complaint to the Human Rights Commission says he felt “like a detained criminal.”

“As I was walking, my mind was going in every direction you could think of. I felt like: Why is this happening to me, why does it keep happening, why does stuff like this keep happening to black people?” Victor said.

“I think because I’m a black man, people are just intimidated by the way I look,” Victor said.

When Victor arrived at the bank, the bank manager said they’d made a mistake and had no evidence that Victor had taken the stamp.

“The branch manager was super clear on the spot, saying I’ve got a multi-cultural branch, my employees come from everywhere. This wasn’t a play on skin colour, so we totally disagree with your appreciation of the event,” said Claude Breton, who works in public affairs for National Bank.

Breton said that when employees in the local branch thought that the bank stamp had been stolen, they called security at Dix30. The bank employees told Dix30 security that Armstrong Victor was the last person to have visited a teller at the bank and that they suspected him of stealing the stamp.

Breton said that bank employees made a mistake in contacting Dix30 security, instead of contacting National Bank security first.

“They would have reviewed the tapes before any intervention,” Breton said of National Bank security.

“We responded to a tenant concern and helped resolve the situation,” Oxford Properties, which manages Dix30, said in an email.

The stamp was found in a drawer later that day.

The bank then called Victor, apologizing and offering him a $50 voucher, which Victor did not collect.

Victor said he’s suffered from anxiety, depression and sleeplessness since the incident.

He said he was fired from his job at Le Club Dix30 in February. He believes the October 2017 incident was the cause. Le Club Dix30 would not speak with the Montreal Gazette about a specific employee’s file.

Victor contacted National Bank’s ombudsman. “I went step for step and it took months, with no result really,” he said.

Victor had a meeting with the branch representative in March.

“I felt like the bank manager acted like he didn’t know what was going on. I had to explain my story again, and then they offered $500. I felt at that point, you know what, I’m done with the bank and came to see CRARR’s services,” Victor said.

Breton said that National Bank is prepared to continue negotiating with Victor, but that they have not heard back from him since their March in-person meeting.

In their complaint filed to the Human Rights Commission last month, Victor and CRARR requested that National Bank compensate Victor a total of $13,000 for moral and punitive damages. They also asked that National Bank apologize to Victor in writing, and revise how their ombudsman deals with complaints of racial discrimination and profiling.

Victor and CRARR also want National Bank to require their employees and managers to go through an anti-discrimination training.

“We already have that in place,” Breton said of an anti-discrimination training.

“I’m trying to set an example because I feel like stories like that happen all the time here, and I want people to be aware of it,” said Victor.

Victor was inspired to tell his story publicly after a video was posted to social media in April, showing police officers arresting two black men as they waited in a Philadelphia Starbucks. The incident led to protests, and Starbucks closed thousands of their cafés for an afternoon in May to hold anti-bias trainings.

“People need to know that it happens here in Quebec too,” Victor said.



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