By Catherine Owen
(WINDSOR, ON) – Over 40 concerned citizens gathered together on May 6, at the corner of Wyandotte and Ouellette, to register opposition to exorbitant rates charged by payday loan establishments. The event was organized by Making Waves Windsor/Essex and Voices Against Poverty.
Judy Duncan, from ACORN in Toronto, stated that six years ago the rates that were being charged by payday loan establishments were illegal, because they were in violation of the Canadian usury laws. Since then, the federal government has allowed the provinces to make their own payday loan regulations. Ontario was one of these provinces.
Duncan went on to say that it is now legal for these businesses to charge 21% a month for these loans, totalling 500% a year.
Duff Conacher from Democracy Watch, pointed out that with preferred interest rates at 1%, these businesses should not be charging more than a few percentage points above that on these loans. He noted that many of the payday loan establishments are on sites where banks used to be.
”The government should have required that banks serve the people, instead of people serving the banks” Conacher stated.
Many of the speakers proposed that the government make these establishments comply with the usury laws regarding the rates they charge, and that banks develop products that would address people’s needs.
Another possible solution discussed was that Canada Post could start offering banking service.
Michelle Johnson, the local CUPW 2nd Vice President, explained that expanded financial services at post office outlets could be accomplished a number of ways; from Canada Post being the sole owner of a chartered bank to partnering with an existing financial institution. She said that over 3,000 banks have closed since 1990, and that the over 6,000 postal outlets could help alleviate this loss of service if postal banking was offered.
One recurring theme was rejection of the criticism of panhandlers by some members of city council and the media.
”We need to get the predatory lenders off the street, not the panhandlers,” said Lorena Garvey-Shepley, a spokesperson for Voices Against Poverty.
Travis Reitsma, a graduate student at the University of Windsor who is doing his thesis on panhandlers, was particularly disturbed by comments made by Chris Vander Doelen of the Windsor Star. In Vander Doelen’s April 9 column he referred to panhandlers as, ”the platoons of beggars infesting the downtown like fleas.”
Reitsma asserted that in all the discussions the city is having about panhandlers, no-one is consulting the panhandlers directly. They should be allowed to speak for themselves.
Making Waves Windsor/Essex has launched a petition calling for an end to predatory lending. It can be accessed online.