News Photo Essay

Picketers lead ‘shame convoy’ with Legault mannequin

Photos from Thursday: ‘Shame Convoy’

Photos from Wednesday: Classroom picketing


Getting your sh** together with ADHD

That overwhelming feeling of being overwhelmed, you know?

When I finally overcame my aversion to paperwork, organization, and assignments, I started using a trick my therapist taught me which was basically to stop telling myself that I could just do it “later.” Somehow, I was also supposed to convince myself that I was even capable of doing such tasks.

This is the extent to which I had never done that before in my life: I had to ask my therapist what specific words to tell myself when this kind of work arose. She basically taught me to be my own cheerleader, and I would say things (in my head) like, “Just get it done now, don’t wait. You got this. Just get it out of the way so you can relax!”

That was the fix for a lot of things. I was able to complete tasks, show up for meetings… I didn’t waste entire days and nights online shopping or browsing Wikipedia. I wasn’t writing radical political think-pieces that would never see the light of day, or making concept drawings for my dream house I would someday build. I still did all those things, but only when there wasn’t something more important to do.

That worked for a few months. Eventually, it crept back in. Here’s the thing: this kind of talk doesn’t work when you commit yourself to an impossible quota of responsibilities. Eventually, that time for creativity and research you’re using to motivate yourself, when everything’s finished and you can just chill, is basically never. Things pile on top of things. Soon, the whole concept of “free time” feels like make-believe.

With ADHD, your brain is constantly on the move. What happens when you don’t have time to play with the hundreds of ideas buzzing around in your head? They come out in those crucial moments. Due date approaching. There’s no way you can focus now, not with this much pressure. Let’s do something fun to relax. Let’s just explore this idea a bit while it’s still fresh. And the cycle begins again. 

Staying grounded is so important when you get stuck like this. Here’s a weird thing I do to accomplish that: I smell books. 

I used to hang out at the library as a kid. Kudos to my mom for training the dweeb in me. Since then, I haven’t spent much time in libraries at all, except for studying. One day, walking around in the Webster Library, I decided to walk through the bookshelves instead of around them. 

In that moment, I was sweating after stomping up four flights of stairs. I was tired from not sleeping the night before. I was on my way, much later in the day than I had planned, to find the perfect spot to finish an assignment. This one was two weeks late, and I wasn’t even sure I would be allowed to turn it in. 

Weirdly, memories are strongest when we can barely remember what we ate for dinner last night. When I walked through the bookshelves, I smelled those old books. It’s weird… I felt like I was walking in the front door of the house I grew up in. It reminded me of springtime, my pink birthday outfit, just playing outside by myself and feeling completely free. Raking leaves with my brother in the fall; jumping into the piles after.

It made me remember my days in the library when I was little, sitting in that quiet place and browsing through picture books. I was cross-legged on the floor, in-between shelves, getting lost in the pages of a new world I’d just discovered. I was enjoying the simplicity of the moment, feeling at home with my curiosity and natural love of learning. 

It made me remember why I was at university in the first place, which was to learn. I remembered that I was not only capable of the task, but that these things came naturally to me. I used that reference of peace to motivate me. I knew that soon, I’d get back to that peaceful time, once the assignment was done, once all the assignments were done. That smell grounded me to my core being, and that gave me the focus I needed to continue.

I’m in the middle of that toxic cycle I spoke about before, trying to get back to how I used to be. Take my advice or not (after all, those who can’t do, teach, right?). Here’s what I would tell myself right now, if only I would listen:

1. Do the thing, do it now. Finish one big thing, and you’ll feel like a million bucks. Start there — see where that feeling takes you.

2. Spend time doing something small each day that grounds you. It’s so hard for us to get out of our heads sometimes, and remember how capable we are… We really need that.

Getting your sh*t together is a new column written for students with ADHD, or for those who simply need to get their shit together, from someone with ADHD. It’s a learning process, but in the end, here’s hoping this column helps us all get it together, um, together.


Revisited: Teen Angst

A look-back at my emo teen music and letting the feels rush in

We all go through phases. Some are more embarrassing than others, but they all play an equal part in shaping who we are now. To think of these phases musically, as the curation of our own tastes over the years, can be especially defining.

Call it an accidental reminiscence. I was browsing through Spotify last month and came upon a playlist called “Alternative 80’s.” “Waiting Room,” by Fugazi, was playing. Suddenly, after years of repression, I was taken back in time to age 16, when music filled every nook and cranny of my life.

I’d blocked it out for a long time. I moved into a long phase of passivity, listening to whatever random music I happened to stumble onto, including the radio, which in my angst phase was a sin worse than murder.

Then that damn Fugazi song was playing, and it all came back.

Shortly after freshman year started, I found myself involved with something called, “the scene.” Being punk in (near) Washington, D.C. then wasn’t so much about being part of a single genre like when it first started. That was a time which gave way to punk legends like Fugazi, then later, Dave Grohl, and by 2015 it was more of an established subculture of DIY. It was where diverse genres including punk, bedroom pop, lo-fi, alternative rock, hardcore (a subculture of its own), emo, math rock, and many others first came about, and later called home. 

It was hard to remember everything at first. All my favorites who were active during (2015-2017) either broke up or went AWOL in 2019. As soon as I dug deeper, though, every church basement, house show, and sweaty mosh pit came through crystal clear.

Pulling from memory, I could at least remember my very favorites: Forth Wanderers was one of them, who’s first EP Mahogany, 2014 album Tough Love (remember when Lorde tweeted it?!), and later EP Slop was playing for the majority of 2016 and 2017. Probably my favorite band of all time (RIP), Forth Wanderers was formed by three great musicians looking for a lead vocalist. Everything became whole when they came together. 

Remembering that led me to remember my other favorite sing-alongs, like Hop Along‘s 2015 release Painted Shut. If you’re suburban-rural bred like me and in need of some melancholy reminiscence, it will bring out everything heavy in you. Anyone into shows like Shameless and Twin Peaks, or any other general malaise should find this album well. Palehound always had a similar effect on me, led by Ellen Kempner, whose voice and lyrics carry the same strength and attitude as Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan.

Also on repeat was Philly-based band LVL UP. Hardcore fans will be disappointed that this was about as angsty as I got — if you want something edgier check out Cold Foamers, Stove, Downtown Boys, or Spirit of the Beehive, but that’s as deep as I’m taking it. LVL UP songs “Soft Power” or “Angel from Space,” both from their 2014 Hoodwink’d album, had these intense build-ups which did a good job transforming teen angst into pure elation.

Don’t limit LVL UP to your angsty moods though, they’re still the best medicine for any moment. “I Feel Extra-Natural” was my go-to for general sorrow, along with Clique‘s “Lil T,” another fave, with major “oof” lyrics like “I’ve been thinking a lot / all the fights we had / and what they were about / I can’t even remember.” More uplifting is the classic Clique banger “Get By,” sure to be a hit the next time you find yourself among a group of angsty teens or, more likely, angsty nostalgic adults. The real angst party soundtrack, however, would be (RIP) Warehouse‘s 2016 album Super low (can we agree that all the best music comes out of Atlanta?), whose timeless symphonies would also make great exercise companions.

We were all teens once. It may have been angst during the day, but at night it was all sorrow. Don’t lie. There was a lot of heartbreak, mostly from beginnings and endings that never actually played out in real life. We all had the music to help us get through it.

Some tracks made me fall in love, like Soccer Mommy‘s 2015 EPs songs for the recently sad and songs from my bedroom (parts one and two). I can still remember every line, and some still make my heart skip: “I just want you in my life / kissing circles on my thighs / like you do” and “you’ve been spending all your time / living on the backside of my eyes” (both from songs from my bedroom pt. 2). Montrealers can see her perform at the Corona Theatre on March 30.

If Soccer Mommy was my teddy bear back then, Alex G was water. A master guitarist, lyricist and composer, his songs bench heavyweight somewhere between lullaby, emo, and indie folk. Between the years 2011-2019, he was busier than anyone else I listened to, putting out over 24 releases, most of which were full-length albums. As one example out of many, “Thorns” from the 2015 Beach Music release tells a full story in one minute (first verse): “why would I lie / this thing / it haunts me like a shadow / never lets me go / he was cross / I knew how lost / I knew my way / oh, how I played him.”

Me with friends circa 2016.

As I discovered more, I saw every memory attached like a supernatural vision, unearthing old feelings of anger, sadness, grief, and happiness that hadn’t been touched in so long. It was like opening a time machine. Other icons from that time including Furnsss, The Obsessives, Snail Mail, Foozle, SitcomSwings, Tall Friend, Shya, Horse Jumper of Love, and Brittle Brian, all of whom bring back all the car trips, late night diners, Fort Reno sunsets, and concerts that made my teen life worth remembering. Each song is a roll of film, vine artistry, or finsta post, revealing all the beauty I had wanted to forget.

My teen phase wasn’t just an awesome time for music, it was an awesome time in general. It was a time of intense feelings and discovery. What I found was that even if you’re 22 and permanently jaded, your teenage self is still there. Just hit play on that old playlist and you’ll remember who they really were. 

Photos by Nathaniel Salfi of Bleary Eyed

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Student Life

Girls Who Like Money: Why we’re workaholics

Answer: we don’t know


Girls Who Like Money is a column written to help you feel less bad about your money habits, plus some advice on how to finance your expensive taste.

What is it about being 22 that makes you realize who you are? Is there some sort of old and wise threshold that you need to pass in order to understand all those parts of you that don’t make sense?

I’ve been a perfectionist for as long as I can remember, and for a long time that was all it was. I have always been artistic, creative, independent, down-to-earth, and a go-getter. However, I am also forgetful, never on time, stubborn, jaded, and chronically depressed and angry.

Everyone’s good traits have a dark side (call it yin and yang). For me, perfectionism manifested into hard-core-BDSM-level workaholism. Some might call it ambition. I call it perfectionism, but often throughout my life it appeared as the exact opposite: carelessness.

I suppose it’s because it’s impossible to be perfect all the time, but my nit-picking has always been selective, and school was last on the list. I took the easy way out with everything that was required, but anything not required had to be executed to perfection.

The other day I started thinking about high school. I don’t remember much from my time spent in class, apart from harsh fluorescent lighting and the constant feeling of wanting to get in and out of it as soon as possible. I was always rushing to school, as two tardies got you detention, and rushing out of school, back to my other life.

My other life, my real life, was work. I’ve always loved learning, but having long-ago realized the arbitrariness of grades, my brain must have logically pushed them to the bottom of my priorities. Schoolwork was just below chores, which were below exercise, which was below friends, which were below family, which, admittedly, was below work.

Work is over everything, and when you’re not working, you’re thinking about more ideas you can execute and whether something needs revision. Somehow, you always create more work.

You hope to surround yourself with other workaholics, so that your priorities don’t get in the way of, but rather support the friendship. So that’s how I’ve always met my best friends — through work. And that’s just one way a workaholic unconsciously creates a life that is centred around their job(s).

But how does a workaholic manage the other aspects of life? A workaholic might respond, “What other aspects?” Family, friends, relationships, and health all take a backseat when there’s work to be done. And there’s always work to be done… even when you’ve finished it all..

A workaholic often stays up late to top things off. Nine-to-five work hours are suggested for other people, but not for us. How does one kick off a budding career with all that time spent sitting around? Answer: one doesn’t. Instead, we use the omnipresent threat of said “budding career” as a reason to push harder.

We often wake up in the middle of the night to write things down, set our alarms for way too early, and end up sleeping in. Our Google Calendar app is where we feel most at home.

Even now as I write this, my partner and I are spending quality time, as we always do, cuddled up next to each other. As usual, he’s sleeping and I’m deep into this semi-necessary extra-curricular task.

We’re both workaholics, and as I explained once to my therapist, “It works out well because we have the same schedule.” She responded, “Yeah, but when do you spend time together?” I painted, for her, a picture of this exact moment: The Office plays in the background, he’s sleeping next to me, and I’m getting through the work I’m still catching up on from the day. That counts, right?

If you’re reading this and you think this may be you, I’m sorry but I haven’t figured out why we’re like this. If this article seems chaotic, that’s because it’s a reflection of me. However, there has been one discovery to come out of this.

As much as I love money, I realize now that money has nothing to do with my workaholism. You know how I know? Because I have three jobs. Two jobs are fun and make me almost nothing. The other job sucks and makes enough to pay rent and then some. Guess which job I do most?

I always thought I loved money so much that all I wanted to do was make more of it. But the truth is, I just want to do stuff. I always want to stay busy, because when I’m not busy, I just have ideas that never come to fruition.

It’s like getting in a metro car that never closes its doors. It just stays still for 20 minutes and you wonder if you should get off. And then another 20 minutes go by and you get off and you have to figure out another way to get to the place you’re going. It’s the same feeling.

People talk about balance, and I wonder how I can do that too. Let me know if you figure it out.


With love,



Girls Who Like Money: How I Beat My Shopping Addiction

My story of hitting rock bottom and making it out on top

Girls Who Like Money is a column written to help you feel less bad about your money habits, plus some advice on how to finance your expensive taste.

Let’s talk about depression. When people think of an extreme case, they automatically think of suicide, but the extremities of your symptoms can manifest in every area of your life. Think finances: Who’s paying the bills when you live alone and sleep for 16 hours a day?

Depression is something every person can be afflicted by. Even if you aren’t diagnosed, it’s not an overreaction to say, “I’m feeling depressed today.” Of course, it affects everyone differently. As a person with chronic depression, it makes me feel like life is hard. In truth, my life is easy. For me, it just takes a little more effort.

The difference between myself today and myself two years ago is that I now make a continued effort to stay out of depression. I closely monitor my actions, my reactions, and my mood. If I feel like I might be getting into a depression, I muster up all my strength to crawl out of it. Not saying it always works. But it’s better than what I did before.

Two years ago, if I felt myself getting depressed, I would relish in it. Actually, I wouldn’t “feel” myself getting depressed at all. I would ignore it. I would skip class, not turn in assignments, and show up late to work. When I lost my job, I had so little confidence that I couldn’t find a new one. I almost got kicked out of school. I could barely pay rent, never remembered to pay bills, ignored calls from collection agencies… That year I paid my tuition six months late.

On the outside, I appeared fine. I would joke and hang out with my friends, go out every night of the week, and consistently treat myself to whatever I wanted. 

It’s called instant gratification. It’s when a person ignores the reason why they feel bad, and just solves it right away with something really cool. This is the root of all addiction. Only problem is, it wears off after about 30 minutes. For me, that was shopping. One thing that’s great about Concordia is that a new pair of shoes is less than a minute’s walk away. Great for me, anyway.

At that time, after class, I would make myself feel better for showing up to the lecture 45 minutes late by treating myself to something nice.

It started out innocently enough. I just needed a new pair of mittens, since they keep my fingers warmer than gloves. $12. No big deal.

Later that week, it got colder. I needed a new coat, as mine was not quite warm or chic enough. And a scarf. And, ooh, this cute hat! $65. It’s okay, only a few dollars more than my wifi bill.

Next week, I decided I didn’t have any pants to wear (meaning I didn’t have enough so that I only had to do laundry every three weeks instead of two). So I bought a few new pairs of pants. While in the store I realized I was simply out of cute shirts, so I bought a few of those as well. $200, gone. Woah, half a month’s rent… But it’s okay, I’ll get a new job soon. (I didn’t.)

After pulling one too many times from my tuition-only savings account, I started not having enough money for rent. I was now spending up to $600 in one shopping trip, about once a month, wondering why I couldn’t pay for anything else. I still had no job, and no awareness that I was depressed. After ignoring yet another late rent payment, I decided my only option was to never enter a store again. Luckily, Canadian Amazon sucks.

I recovered soon enough. The next year, I quit smoking cold turkey. Soon after, I met my boyfriend of two years. If anything, what a relationship does is make you really see yourself. I started talking to a therapist and realized I was depressed.

Therapy taught me that I am the only one able to help myself. I speak to myself much more kindly now. I forgive myself for not doing the dishes for two days straight, and I get up and do them. I force myself to pay rent and to turn in my assignments on time, even when I suddenly have the urge to drop out or move across the country. I have not one job, but three. I signed up for auto-pay. I use a planner. I have money saved for the first time in five years. Everyday depression is there, but now I’m strong enough to fight it.

Feature graphic by Lily Cowper


Why banking sucks here

Why does Quebec make us choose a bank based on which one sucks the least?

Upon meeting a new friend, one might be asked their astrology sign, how many siblings they have, or what they do for a living. It helps us get a sense of who a person is. What might be most telling, for Quebecers, is to ask which bank they use.

The Big Five make up most of the Canadian market share, so chances are, your new friend banks with one of the following: Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), Toronto-Dominion Bank (TD), Scotiabank, Bank of Montreal (BMO), or Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC).

Thanks to extensive mergers over the past few decades, these banks have become about as big as government institutions themselves. An international banking regulator called the Financial Stability Board determines which banks are global systemically important banks (referred to as G-SIBs, and domestically as D-SIBs). As of 2020, TD and RBC are still on that list, which also includes U.S. banks such as JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs.

Lists like these are based on an economic theory that some banks become “too big to fail” (TBTF), when so much of the population relies on them to remain stable. G-SIBs and other banks the government decides, whether explicitly or implicitly, are TBTF, are regulated to “maintain additional capital buffers” and “discourage banks from becoming even more systemically important,” according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS). They are also high-profile enough that in an economic recession, or even a forecast of a recession, the government becomes pressured to become their guarantor.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems

Logically, it seems like if a big bank has so much money, it would be the safest place to be during a recession. Sometimes that’s true. The fact that our banks are so large and diversified made them some of the most stable banks in the world, as ranked by Global Finance Magazine in their annual stability report. But sometimes it makes it riskier.

Once big banks get TBTF status, they have virtually unlimited protection from the government. Given they are still businesses trying to make as much money as possible, they are prone to make riskier moves, leading to higher likelihood of more government bailouts.

Don’t like the fact that your tax dollars would be bailing out a company that rakes in a couple billion dollars each quarter? Maybe you do. It’s partially what makes our banks so stable.

Others can’t get down with it. Given the fact that our banks are very stable, most Canadians believe they aren’t in need of government assistance. Many journalistic efforts have been published, including pieces by the Financial Post and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Most of these pieces are merely estimations based on public funding, such as pension funds and individual welfare checks. Some have even cited CERB as an implicit government subsidy for people’s pandemic-related bank struggles.

Employee-led research from the Bank of Canada arguing against TBTF cites that along with increased market power, gaining TBTF status was the driving force behind major bank mergers and the formation of the oligopoly we know and love today. While at the G-SIB level, they are subject to global regulations putting caps on profits, they are more likely to receive implicit support when the economy struggles.

Like any good government organization, our big banks have their flaws. You might wait forever, or be helped pretty unhelpfully. You might wonder why your bank doesn’t give a hoot that you’re funding their business with literally all the money you have.

Bank mergers are a major reason why we pay way more for our banking privileges, compared to the United States. Down south, you can almost universally expect to bank for free, and earn a decent interest on your savings account. That’s due to their more fragmented system, which creates more competition between large and small banks, leading to lower rates. Our Big Five are the result of major mergers of medium-sized banks seeking more market power. They now dominate the Canadian market and charge us the fees to match.

Another downside to the oligopoly is that no matter what, money in your bank account is funding a company that can put money in whatever they choose, regardless of their clients’ politics. As CBC reported earlier this year, RBC is among the top five banks worldwide involved in fossil fuel financing, with over $160 billion lended out between 2016 and 2020. Reasons for not pulling out, if any, would be fear of disrupting the Canadian economy, which is heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry, according to CBC.

As of November 2021, all Big Five will sign onto a new international agreement, the Glasgow Financial Alliance for Net Zero (GFANZ), according to CBC. While the goals of this new agreement include prioritization of “green” investments and lowering emissions of bank clients, signatories of the plan need not to withdraw from ongoing funding projects in the fossil fuel sector. Climate activists have warned the public not to start celebrating until those withdrawals are made.

Finding My Bank Soulmate

Ever tried joining a new bank in Quebec? Maybe you’ve just been with the same one since you were 14, like I had. When I first moved to Canada four years ago, I just went to the one that was closest to me. After three years, I started noticing how much I detested it. Some people do all their banking online, but I’m more high-maintenance than that.

My bank never answered the phone, and when they did they would respond with long scripted responses. At the branch, they looked at me with disgust when I approached their counter, they held my checks for days on end. I didn’t feel wanted.

Since my broke beginnings while growing up in the States, I’ve held an account at a credit union, not a bank. If you’re a true Quebecer, you’ll know it as the “caisse-populaire,” associated with the Desjardins group. Credit union, caisse-populaire, potato, potate. Same thing? You could say so. I’ll share my American experience first.

Close your eyes. Imagine a world just like your own. Maybe a tad warmer. Imagine you call your bank and they pick up right away. Imagine they speak with you like a friend: They ask you about your day, and give you all the platonic intimacy you deserve. Imagine you hang up the phone feeling satisfied and reassured that your request has been diligently honoured.

Imagine your account is free, no matter how much is in it, and when you walk into a branch, at least three individuals await you with a smile, and even if they have filing to be done, you, a member, are their top priority. Open your eyes: that’s what a credit union feels like.

Upon making the decision to leave TD after three years — a bank I highly do not recommend — I looked endlessly for another bank with this level of devotion. Unfortunately, I don’t think it exists in Canada just yet.

When inquiring on what bank is best to turn to, most reddit users recommended Tangerine, one of the only online banks available in Quebec. Formerly known as ING Direct, it has since been acquired by Scotiabank, but still operates as a separate company. Due to the lack of in-person branches, it’s free for everyone, and has some of the best rates for high-interest savings accounts. It seemed like my only option. At the same time, if I did turn to Tangerine, I’d be going from unpleasant, in-person branch visits, to no branch visits at all. Is that what I really wanted?

I quickly realized that what I was looking for was not a bank, but a credit union, just like I had back home. The peak difference between a bank and a credit union is that a bank is for-profit, and a credit union is not-for-profit.

A credit union is like your local co-op grocery store. As a member, you are part owner and participant in the union, in turn taking advantage of low rates and high quality service. A bank is a business set out to make profit and satisfy shareholders —  the reason for usually much higher rates.

Did you ever notice that while a credit union has more of a “you’re one of us” attitude, a bank has more of a “you need us, we don’t need you” attitude? Maybe not. That’s because unlike every other Canadian province, in Quebec, Desjardins is basically just another one of the Big Five. Actually, if you considered it a bank, it would knock CIBC right out of the Big Five club.

Caisses Un-Populaires

Time for the tea you all came for. Let’s talk about credit unions in Quebec: a concept that has a history tied to the very beginning of credit unions in North America.

Desjardins is our one and only caisse-populaire in Quebec, founded in 1901 by a Mr. Alphonse Desjardins as the first credit union in North America. Just seven years later, Desjardins and a group of French-speaking immigrants opened the very first credit union in the United States, which is now home to well over 5,000 of them, as of 2021.

So why is Quebec left with only one? And why does Desjardins play along like they’re just another one of the Big Five?

If you search the term “caisse-populaire” in Wikipedia, you’d be redirected to the Desjardins Group, made up of numerous investment firms, real estate holdings, and brokerages. It’s also the proud owner of many Canadian expansions of U.S. insurance giants such as State Farm (since rebranded to Desjardins Insurance). Does any of that remind you of your friendly neighbourhood gardening collective?

During my search for a new financial soulmate, I actually found exactly what I was looking for. It was a credit union (duh), whom I called and was immediately connected to a friendly customer service woman. The conversation was refreshingly friendly and easy, like talking to an old friend. I felt strongly that this union was the place for me: a perfect match. The representative then explained that membership was not available in Quebec, due to some regulations. She encouraged me to call back in a year, though, to see if the law had changed. A law that possibly hadn’t changed since 1901?

Since I couldn’t find any answer for this online, or an alternative credit union in our province, I nearly gave up. Every article I found was talking about how cool and hip Desjardins was, so I decided to check it out for myself. Maybe I would make this my bank after all.

When I got there, I felt like I was back at TD. The computer was so slow, and after 5 minutes of dial-up style loading speed, I was told I couldn’t get an appointment for another four hours (even though I was the only one there). I knew there was an advisor upstairs holding her breath, because I heard her sneeze right before leaving.

I went back to my trusty sidekick, Google. I suddenly found myself reading words like “…the authority shall establish…” on the Quebec government’s open source website, and discovered nothing further.

It Really is Quebec’s Fault

I spoke with Professor Moshe Lander, a senior lecturer in the Economics Department at Concordia, who has at least 20 years of experience teaching on the subject.

As I quickly discovered, one thing Google can’t explain is the vast, black hole that is the relationship between Quebec’s history and its modern economic regulations. It might be something that goes right over the heads of Quebecers who have never lived anywhere else, and only be a problem for those of us who have migrated from other provinces or countries.

When we ask questions like, “We’re a part of Canada, so why don’t we get what everyone else has?” the answer almost always has something to do with our provincial government.

You see, the Big Five aren’t affected by Quebec laws. Banks are regulated by the federal government. Credit unions, on the other hand, are regulated provincially.

My first assumption was that there was a distinct law mentioning Desjardins as the only credit union allowed to operate in Quebec. In fact, the situation is purely circumstantial.

According to Professor Lander, after 120 years of operation, Desjardins has a monopoly over our province, making it hard for outsider credit unions to gain traction here. “It’s not worth it [for them],” he said.”Tack on all of the language requirements, the different legal system […] getting your foot into Quebec is almost impossible.”

It seems that the province’s unique legal system is what keeps a lot of that cool stuff out. “Just take a look at fast food restaurants,” Lander began. “Swiss Chalet doesn’t exist here. St. Hubert exists here, because the legal system is different. So, in terms of product liability, consumer protection, disclosure requirements… For a privately-held company it’s different.”

Professor Lander said these provincial differences also extend to the banking and financial sector. Credit unions such as Vancity in British Columbia, and motusbank in Ontario, can operate in any other Canadian province, since their legal and regulatory systems are similar, but not in Quebec.

One other reason that this problem might be specific to credit unions is the very fact that they are only as big as their clientbase. Lander said that both the non-Quebec credit unions and Desjardins would not seek to maximize their client-base all across Canada for the same reason. “Because [credit unions] are not a private company that’s looking to maximize shareholder value, [they] are ultimately owned by [their] customers,” he explained.

So, when the operator from the Ontarian credit union I spoke with before said, “if something changes in a year, call us back,” she probably wasn’t talking about a change in Quebec regulations. Most likely, she was talking about a change within their company that would drive them to begin doing business here.

Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Quebec is pretty much a ghost town compared to the United States. Our population is just a fraction of the size. That’s probably why Desjardins doesn’t offer the hottest rates or the hottest service ⏤ with their member numbers being just as low as a mid-size niche credit union in the United States, they can’t afford to offer Quebecers a better rate than any of the Big Five.

As for the lack of choices to overall banking methods in Canada, it’s actually a federal problem. Professor Lander attributes this to both population size and lack of regulations over mergers between banks, unlike the U.S. which regulates inter-state transactions. As for Canada, “Through mergers, [big banks] basically came to swallow up everybody underneath them, and left nothing behind. That sort of concentration hasn’t taken place in the U.S.,” he said.

“Even if you take the biggest banks in the U.S., [such as] Bank of America, they don’t add up to 95 per cent of the deposits or mortgages and loans. It’s a much more fragmented system,” he said. That also explains why Desjardins became a monopoly across the province, which was once home to many small, local credit unions.

As it turns out, you can assume that it’s all loosely attributed to the war between the French and the English that took place 350 years ago. That’s what makes us special. As Professor Lander noted, “It drives a huge amount of product law and business law and these oddities that just don’t exist elsewhere in North America.”

It seems things won’t change until the nicer credit unions take a leap of faith across provincial borders, or our government does a major ego-check. For now, we’ll have to choose between the bank that sucks the least, or keeping the cash under the mattress.



Visuals by Lily Cowper

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