This is a community that rallies around each other

Community concern and response around the announced closure of the Pemberton Scotiabank branch has made the news, garnering coverage in both the Pique and CBC in the past few days.

In the Pique, Dan Falloon interviewed Doris Peters, a councillor for N’Quatqua, who explained the impact on N’Quatqua community members, who have relied on an actual branch for their banking and to cash assistance cheques to spend immediately, locally on their shopping.

Dan captured the impact of this decision:

Scotiabank spokesperson Daniela Da Silva said that as of July 15, it will relocate its services from the Prospect Street location to its Lake Placid Drive branch in Whistler. The branch’s location in Creekside is more than 30 minutes’ drive from the existing Pemberton location, tacking on more than an hour round trip for those who are already travelling an hour-and-a-half at minimum from N’Quatqua, which would further deplete the limited funds of some members.

In the two pieces, Lower Stl’atl’imx Tribal Council CAO Sheldon Dowswell (representing five of the 11 Stl’atl’imx Nation communities in the area), N’Quatqua Councillor Doris Peters, Village of Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman, Pemberton + District Chamber of Commerce president Steve McCloskey and Pemberton Valley Lodge owner and general manager David MacKenzie all spoke to their concerns, as did local citizens, all of which have been echoed by more than 2200 petitioners.

There are so many things I could say about this – I mean, here’s a little news piece about Scotiabank CEO’s annual earnings (which dropped 5% from 2018 to 2019 to $12.6 million and obviously are set to drop even more after 2020 with the pandemic impacts), and here’s the letter to shareholders from Brian Porter, the CEO, dated 1 December 2020, in which he wrote:

The past year has demonstrated the vital, positive role that banks play across society. Indeed, without strong institutions, such as banks, you cannot have a strong society. The COVID-19 pandemic has unquestionably reinforced the role that your Bank plays as an enabler of economic stability, an advocate for positive social change, a partner in development, and a driver of growth and prosperity across our Americas footprint – from the top of Canada’s Arctic, through the United States and the Caribbean, and down to the southern tip of Latin America…  We know that our Bank is only as successful as the societies in which we operate, and when there are individuals and communities that feel left out, we cannot be strong. We are committed to calling out injustice of all kinds when we see it and striving to use every opportunity to make better, stronger societies today, and for generations to come.

But I’m not business-savvy enough to connect all the dots or understand what drives decisions in head offices in Toronto, when they’ve just reported strong growth and adjusted earnings of $2.6billion from their Canadian Banking portfolio… or how this lovely rhetoric and these profits square with closing a 60-year old branch and rerouting all the business up the road, to a town that already has four competing bank branches, and puts it completely out of reach for most of its customer base. And honestly, I feel angry about the decisions CEOs make from their money-padded offices, and frightened about the future, as the world becomes more divided between the have-it-alls and the scraping-bys.

Pemberton and District Chamber president Steve McCloskey, in CBC’s article this week

So I will leave that alone.

And simply say: this response, and the chorus of voices from this community, is my kind of rally. It makes my heart swell to see and hear community leaders throughout this region, voted leaders, appointed leaders and those who lead from amongst us, by showing up and speaking truth and doing what they can (like starting an online petition, or sharing a letter to the community forum), expressing a concern that is basically a concern for one another.

This decision impacts people differently – some people, not at all. Some people, profoundly. The show of care and concern for the way it affects US, not just ME, makes me grateful to be a member of this bigger community.

If the pandemic has pushed me to no other reckoning, it is this: We are being called to move from a ME-perspective to a WE-perspective (and if we can get it right, if we can make this tricky transition, we *might* have a chance to survive the oncoming climate crisis. But we are only going to do that together. There might be a few I’s in “survival” but there are none in “wellness” – that is all WE. (And I’ve read enough dystopia fiction to know that I definitely don’t want to survive into that darkness, especially if cannibalism is required.)

Brian Porter, or his assistant, or his copywriter, might craft these nice words for the annual report: We know that our Bank is only as successful as the societies in which we operate, and when there are individuals and communities that feel left out, we cannot be strong.

BUT IN MY COMMUNITY, WE ARE PRACTICING THIS. We are only as strong as the most vulnerable among us. We are in this together. When anyone is left out, we cannot be strong.

Thank you to everyone who rallied, coordinated, wrote letters, signed the petition. Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce, and our new executive director Meredith Kemp, and the leaders who sit at the Economic Development Collaborative table.

You can still add your name to the petition at https://www.change.org and write a letter to CEO Brian Porter, at Brian.porter@scotiabank.com and let him know that this branch is important and it can’t be substituted by shifting all the activity up to Whistler.

Let’s remember that “when there are individuals and communities that feel left out, we cannot be strong.”

And let’s keep building our resilience and vision for a thriving future together.

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