FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island is the latest rural community in the region facing the loss of banking services that have been in place for years.
A small group of residents from Grand Manan Island travelled to the provincial capital Thursday to protest plans by Scotiabank to close the island's only bank in August.
The bank plans to close the branch and relocate services to St. George — on the mainland.
Resident Gregg Russell said that will mean a lengthy trip including a 90-minute ferry crossing each way in order to use a bank and access cash. With gas and meals, he said a trip to the bank will cost about $60, which is too much for seniors and low-income people who may not have a car or access to online banking.
"There's only one bank on the island, and when they leave they are taking their ATMs with them," Russell said as he carried a placard in front of a Scotiabank branch in downtown Fredericton.
The island, off the southwest corner of the province, has a population of just over 2,400 people and its economy relies heavily on fishing and tourism.
In an emailed statement, Scotiabank said the decision was made "after careful consideration," but it did not say why it was necessary. "This decision is final and we did not make it lightly," said Valerie Huang, manager of Canadian banking communications for Scotiabank.
"We understand this will have an impact on the people and community of Grand Manan. Our primary focus at this time is to communicate any changes to all affected customers and work with them to ensure a smooth transition," she added.
In January, Scotiabank made a similar announcement to close three branches in Newfoundland and Labrador, including one on Fogo Island. Like the Grand Manan branch, the changes take effect in August.
Russell said there are two private ATMs on Grand Manan but the owners are uncertain if they will continue because the bank was a source of cash.
Resident Brad Small said that presents a real problem for tourism operators. "When I go to the farmers market, they don't have debit machines. There are so many things that require cash," he said.
Small said the island lost its dentist due to a health issue, while a funeral home operator has retired. He said the loss of the bank is the latest blow. "I'm proud of my community. We deserve a bit of respect," he said.
Russell said the village council has contacted other major banks and credit unions, but so far none has expressed an interest in setting up on Grand Manan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2022.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press