One Saturday morning, Toronto resident Frantz St. Fleur was depositing a check at Scotiabank, his bank for almost a decade, when the police swooped in to arrest him. The check the Toronto man deposited was for $9,000.00, a refund for a deposit after a condo purchase he made in April fell through.
Reports state that when St. Fleur presented his check for deposit, a bank employee took him aside and showed him to her office. There she presented him with investment opportunities which St. Fleur declined because he was not in the market for such products. Shortly afterwards, the bank employee left the office and the police arrived, arresting St. Fleur.
The38-year-old Toronto man recounts the experience and remembers it as “the worst thing that has ever happened to me” and “horrible”. St. Fleur quotes, “I’ve never been arrested [in] my life. It was a Saturday morning; the bank was full and the mall also… Everybody was looking at me, and nothing was done quietly. Everybody saw everything that happened.”
Franz St. Fleur was interrogated but released on the spot after the police deemed the check valid. However, due to the emotional and psychological distress the event has caused him, St. Fleur is naming not only the bank, but also the Toronto Police Services Board and Re/Max Community Realty Inc., the issuer of the $9,000 check, as defendants. He is suing them for more than $225,000 in damages.
Re/Max Community Realty has always maintained though that the check they issued for the refund was valid and belonged to St. Fleur. They said that they had been made aware of the incident on the day of St. Fleur’s arrest itself, and that they responded in quickly and cooperated closely. In a company statement they released, the firm said, “We have always taken the position that the check was valid.”
As such, it remains unclear to the plaintiff and his camp why the arrest was made to begin with. Unfortunately, they find that there is only one possibility why this arrest was made and that is the fact that St. Fleur was a black man with a substantial amount of money. Because the check was completely legitimate, the Toronto man’s lawyer, Paul Druxerman, says that the only reason the bank employee possibly tipped the police was because of St. Fleur’s skin color.
Scotiabank has since apologized, saying that the treatment St. Fleur received was unacceptable. In a statement, they said, “Customers are our No. 1 priority and are treated with the utmost respect. The treatment of Mr. St. Fleur was unacceptable and we have apologized and made an initial offer to reverse certain fees on his account and then offered an additional goodwill gesture in the spring. We have also worked with our employees to ensure that this does not happen again.”
The bank has reportedly apologized to St. Fleur in a letter and offered him $100 and two years’ worth of refunds for banking fees. However, the offended man did not accept. For him it’s not about the money but the principle behind why the incident took place.
“…There’s no other reason it happened. Because I’m black. I’m black and in the bank with a $9,000 check. I want people to know. Everyone is equal in Canada … everyone is equal. With what happened, I realized there is something that needs to be fixed. I want everybody else to know.”