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RBC client accusing bank of racism after police called to investigate transaction

Tyler Fleming CTV News Ottawa Multi-Skilled Journalist, Published Sept. 25, 2023 7:02 p.m. EDT 

An Ottawa woman plans to file a human rights complaint against the Royal Bank of Canada after a routine trip to her branch to pick-up her credit card resulted in what she calls a dehumanizing and racist experience to prove her identity to police.
Barratou Barry, an RBC bank client of 15 years, says on Aug. 18, she went to her regular branch location on Bank Street to make a cash deposit in her account and to pick up her new credit card.
"The first transaction went well. I put money into my account, I gave them my debit card; everything was smooth. To pick up my credit card I needed identification," she says. "I did not have my driver's license handy with me at that time. I had my health card."
Barry says the teller took the identification, briefly walked away and returned, asking if she had another piece of ID. Barry then provided her new, unused passport, which had been recently renewed.
"I showed her the passport she said yeah one second she went to the back and spoke to the manager and she came back and said can I actually have your health card too," says Barry. "Then she came back and said Mrs. Barry we will need you to sign some paperwork before getting your credit card back, just give us some time we're working on the papers and it shouldn't be too long. At that point I'm like, yeah, sure, do your thing, I'm still waiting."
But after nearly an hour of waiting, it was then Barry says she saw the bank manager outside, handing her documents to three police officers.
"I started filming. At that point, it was just emotions," says Barry, who posted the interaction on TikTok. "I was very scared and I was very shocked. I never ever had an issue with the law before. My only reaction at that time was to just cry and feel the injustice. The police officers asked me to stay outside until they finished the investigation and that process took over an hour."
Barry says the police told her the bank suspected her passport might have been fraudulent, and the name on the official document did not align with other account information.
"The police said your passport had two R's on it, but your bank account and your bank statement, your name had one R," she says. "And remember I just put money into my bank account and that was fine … this was something that was so easily solved by asking me one more question, I even had my old passport."
RBC would not comment on the specifics of the incident, citing privacy reasons, but in a statement to CTV News Ottawa said it regrets that its client did not have a positive experience and is reviewing the matter.
"We take our responsibility to safeguard the privacy and confidentiality of our clients' information very seriously. When authenticating a client, for any transaction, RBC carries out thorough due diligence. This includes verifying that identification provided meets established requirements.
While we cannot speak to the specifics of this situation for privacy reasons, we take all concerns of this nature seriously and are steadfastly committed to treating our clients fairly and in an inclusive manner.
Diversity and inclusion guide our actions and behaviors to ensure we develop a relationship with clients based on trust and, most importantly, mutual respect.
We aim to truly represent the communities we serve and are committed to earning the right to be our clients' first choice. We continue to provide employee training programs to deepen awareness of the concepts of diversity, bias and anti-racism."
"This is a typical case of banking while black," says Ketcia Peters, president of The Red Coalition. "Not only that she [Barry] was treated in a way that was insensitive, but it was also shameful. She had to pretty much take a walk of shame while people in the bank were looking at her as a person that was guilty when she wasn't."
Red Coalition, which advocates to eliminate the practice of racial profiling and systemic racism, will file a complaint against Royal Bank of Canada with the Human Rights Commission on behalf of Barry, and Peters says the organization will accompany her through the entire process.

"It's significant to take proper action in order to make them accountable for the way they treat some of their clients," says Peters. "And for awareness for them [RBC] to understand that they have a policy that's centric to not discriminating against certain clients and to also be able for them to be sensitive towards what it means for the Black community, for a member of the Black community to be exposed to an experience like that. It is traumatic it is an experience we go through every day."
Barry says she wants the bank to understand that this incident cannot be brushed aside.
"The people that treated me like I was a criminal that I was a customer for 15 years did not even have the decency to ask me one simple question, which could have resolved this," says Barry. "I want them to be accountable for their actions … I know deeply how I felt that day and want to bring justice to what happened to me and to many, many other victims." 



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