Christin Milloy:

Rise up and seize equality

President’s Choice Financial Discriminates Against Transgender People


UPDATE — TUESDAY MAY 17, 2011, 4:29PM

I was contacted by phone today at 3:41PM by a very courteous representative of PC Financial. We spoke for about 30 minutes about potential strategies PC can apply to resolve this issue, and I made it clear we need to arrive at a solution which prevents anyone from going through what I did, rather than just quickly and quietly fixing my file and moving on.

It’s going to take me a while to fully document the conversation, but I will endeavour to make another post at around midnight tonight or shortly thereafter explaining what was discussed. Update is posted. See: President’s Choice Responds.

In the mean time, I want to thank all of you who’ve taken the time to read, share, and comment this article. Through the power of social media, we can finally start to fix these societal problems, and reclaim services and equality for those who would otherwise suffer due to lack of societal privelege. My heart goes out to everyone who’s supported this effort so far, and my thanks to all who continue to do so. ~Christin

ORIGINAL ARTICLE FOLLOWS — MAY 14, 2011

On Thursday May 12, 2011, I made the arduous journey by public transit to the nearest President’s Choice Financial Services Customer Service Pavilion, located at the Mavis & Brittania Loblaws location at 5970 Mclaughlin Road in Mississauga, Ontario. My goal was simple: after having formally changed my legal name with the Province of Ontario as a part of my gender transition from male to female, I wanted to update my records at PC Financial to reflect my new name.

Imagine my surprise when, despite having no trouble with any of the other banks I do business with, PC Financial outright refused to change the name on my account from my old male name, to my new, legal, female name – despite me showing clear legally-documented proof.

In hand, I had all of the following identification:

  • Legal “Change of Name” certificate, issued to me by the province of Ontario (listing new name and old name)
  • Birth Certificate (new name)
  • Canadian Passport (old name)
  • A Credit Card (new name)
  • A Credit Card (old name)
  • Various Billing Statements (both old and new names)

I was told that their policy about customers’ name changes is that the customer must present, as a minimum, one government issued photo ID bearing the new name, plus at least one other ID card bearing the new name, plus the legal change of name certificate issued by the province. Talk about overkill!

This is a huge problem for me – I have no driver’s licence (I don’t own a car or drive at all), and to aquire a new passport under my new name would mean missing a day of work to run the errand, plus waiting 20 days processing time (plus postage time) to receive it, not to mention paying an $87 fee. Luckily I am fortunate; I am financially stable and can afford to pay this fee. However, many transgender Canadians (particularly youth) are not so fortunate, so this is a significant barrier issue for transgender customers of PC Financial.

As an alternative, if I were to aquire a driver’s license (of which I have no need) under my new name, it would require me to first memorize the Ontario Driver’s handbook to pass a knowledge test, plus pay a fee of $125. There is also a vision test requirement – good thing I’m not blind or otherwise disabled (yet another potential barrier issue for those less fortunate than me).

It occurred to me that I could perhaps pay $30 and get an LCBO-issued “BYID” card, a photographic ID card issued by the Government-run Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The BYID card is intended to be used as a proof-of-age ID card to be used for the purchase of beverage alcohol in Ontario. But, I would apparently be doing so at my own risk, because when I asked a PC Financial Phone rep the question “would this qualify as government-issued photo ID,” I was told they have no official answer to that question, so it “would be up to the individual customer service person in the Pavilion if they wanted to accept that or not.”

Regardless, the standard in Canada for when one is required to present identification following a name change is that old ID should be acceptable, provided it is accompanied by the Change of Name certificate (which itself, by the way, costs $137). That is the entire purpose of having a government-issued Change of Name certificate: it serves as government-certified proof that I’ve changed my legal name. Why is this not good enough for PC Financial?

PC Financial is the only personal banking institution in Canada with such a restrictive and discriminatory policy. Here is a breakdown of the competition, from Best to Worst:

It’s important to understand why President’s Choice Financial’s policy is discriminatory. PC Financial does not directly discriminate against trans people (as far as I know). In other words, it is not a situation of “we don’t take kindly to your type around here;” indeed, their restrictive name-change policy is applied equally to all customers. The problem here is that, while neutral on its face, this policy has a disproportionate negative impact on transgender people.

The end result of this policy is that one is forced to continue maintaining accounts, and receiving mail, under the previous name. For someone who has changed their name for purely aesthetic reasons (to a preferred spelling), or for reasons of convenience (to shorten it, to localize it, or to add on the surname of a second parent), the effects of this policy might at worst be considered a nuisance. To a transgender person on the other hand, a name change represents something much more fundamental, and arguably much more important.

When trans persons change their legal names, they are not making a change for convenience, or aesthetics. They are making a fundamental, corrective change out of utter necessity. In our society, a man should not have to register for a Gym membership and pay with a card that says “Josephine,” if he does not want to. A woman should not have to go bra shopping and pay with a card that says “Peter” on it, if she does not want to. This is a part of our fundamental right to freedom of gender identity and expression, as guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and (in Ontario), by the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Such barriers as those imposed by PC Financial are insulting and degrading to the hard work of trans people who have spent cash, time, blood, sweat and tears redefining their entire lives to match their true internal self-identities.

In fact, some unlucky transgender persons, whose medical practitioners have chosen to forcibly subject them to the much maligned Harry Benjamin Standards of Care process, are even required to change their names legally before they are allowed to access proper medical treatment. Some trans persons can even find themselves in the position of having to explain to their medical gatekeepers why their interac card still says “John” on it, and could potentially have it used against them as evidence they are not serious about transitioning.

It is not a secret that trans people face discrimination at every turn. Here are some further examples of how PC Financial is putting trans people at risk of harm with their discriminatory policy:

  • This policy would automatically out any trans person seeking new employment to their potential employer, if that employer requires banking information for payroll purposes.
  • Trans people receiving statements in their old name potentially outs them to their landlords or neighbours who may see the mail. Trans people could lose their homes over this, or face harassment (or worse: attacks) in their neighborhoods. Perhaps this is of less concern to PC Financial however, given that individuals who rent are much less likely to be Mortgage customers.
  • Let’s not forget that cheques can only be printed bearing the legal name on the account. If a trans customer of PC Financial needs to write a cheque for any reason, they are automatically outed to the payee.
  • For students, this policy outs their trans status to university and college tuition offices, to their student housing office, to financial assistance organizations, and to any potential source of scholarships. This may cost trans students significant academic opportunities.
  • Having accounts in multiple names complicates credit checks and credit applications, so this policy will ultimately block trans people from getting loans, credit cards, financing large purchases, etc. even if the organizations from which they are trying to obtain credit are not themselves discriminatory against trans people.

Even cisgender (non-transgender) women are potentially placed at risk by this policy: fleeing an abusive ex-husband, the last thing you’d want is to have your money (or mortgage) held hostage by a financial institution which insists on calling you by your ex-husband’s name, sending mail bearing his name to your home, potentially creating a trail which he can follow right to your door. A cursory internet search reveals postings of several aggravated customers, newly married or divorced women who have been disadvantaged by this policy.

When I first ran up against this problem, my first thought was to simply cancel my accounts and take my business elsewhere. In fact, many people might respond to this situation by suggesting trans people should simply change banks. Unfortunately, that’s much easier said than done. With PC Financial, I have Chequing and Savings accounts, a host of automatic bill payments, my payroll and health plan deposits, a line of credit, a Mortgage, an RSP, and a credit card. To cancel all of one’s business with a financial provider entails a lot of leg work, which I estimate in my case may take several months to fully achieve. Any trans persons who run up against this policy, and who urgently need financial service under their new name in the short term, are totally screwed by PC Financial.

Even the provincial government recognizes the special risk to trans people of having their old names publicized. Part of the process of changing your name in Ontario requires that an announcement of your name change must be published in the Ontario Gazette: this requirement is waived for all transgender applicants, owing to the sensitivity of the situation. The only other circumstance under which this requirement is waived is if the applicant can show that publication would lead to a risk of significant harm.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission defines two types of discrimination: direct, and indirect (or “systemic” or “adverse-effect”). As set forth in Section 15(2) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, and solidified in two precedent-setting legal cases, employers and service providers have a duty to accommodate individuals who are discriminated against by any policy or practice.

In a nutshell that means if any company has a policy which has a disproportionately negative impact on you as a member of a group such as race, gender identity, religion, or any other of the prohibited grounds of discrimination in Canada, it is equally unacceptable by law as if they were to put up a sign banning that group specifically.

By continuing to enforce this restrictive name change policy against Transgender persons, after it has been brought to their attention, PC Financial is guilty of a human rights violation. President’s Choice Financial therefore has a moral and legal duty to revise this policy immediately, and to issue a public apology for the harm done to their Transgender customers.

I would invite President’s Choice Financial to respond to the points above by presenting a revised name change policy which takes into account the needs of the Transgender community (and of non-transgender women who’ve recently married or divorced). Failing that, this issue should be followed up as a human rights complaint filed with the Ontario Human Rights commission.

Update: Please see the followup post: President’s Choice Responds

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16 Comments

  1. Amanda
    Monday, 2011.05.16 at 19:58

    Sorry to hear that you had a such a rough time! I’m happy to see that you are advocating for the rights of transgendered folks.

    This incident, or policy, doesn’t sound entirely like an issue of discrimination, although I can see how one might attempt to make that connection. It sounds like PCF creates an added and somewhat unnecessary level of bureaucracy (which makes life difficult for anyone to complete a name change on an account). Anyone who wishes to change their name on their account at PCF would go through the same tedious process. The name-change policy extends to anyone getting married or divorced wanted to make a name change, regardless of sex/gender/orientation, people who are changing their name for personal reasons/ family reasons, or people who feel like changing their name just for fun.

    I mean, who is also to say that people, who are not transgendered, and wish to make a name change, aren’t doing it out of “utter necessity” as well? How can one define that phrase anyway? Everyone’s situation is different, and everyone’s NEED to make a name change will vary.

    On another note, I am glad to know that my bank is taking extensive security measures to prevent identity theft.

    Sounds to me that if you provide all of the necessary documentation to the bank, they would be more than happy to change the name on the account. This would resolve any issues with the previous name being printed on cheques, statements or having your employer learn of your previous identity.

    I do see your point, however, in the fact that people of a lower socioeconomic class would have difficulty paying fees to renew their health card, driver’s license, passport, age of majority card etc…

    Just a few thoughts. Good post- there is room for much discussion to be had for sure.

    Cheers

    • Christin
      Monday, 2011.05.16 at 20:25

      Hello Amanda,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply. You are right, it is not direct discrimination, as what you aptly call the “unnecessary level of bureaucracy” is applied evenly across all people. What makes this a clear case of what the Human Rights Commission refers to as indirect discrimination is the disproportionately, overwhelmingly, negative and dangerous effect that this policy has on the lives of PC’s trangender customers.
      Hope you’re doing well, Amanda. Nice to chat with you again.

      Sincerely,

      Christin Scarlett Milloy

  2. Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey
    Monday, 2011.05.16 at 21:51

    Sounds to me like you need to be looking at credit unions rather than these clowns!

    And hell, yes, you should be filing all sorts of discrimination charges.

  3. Corrina
    Monday, 2011.05.16 at 23:53

    Actually, there’s another problem with this policy that you missed. For many credit cards, only the cardholder, the person who signed the back of the card, is supposed to use it, and they are supposed to sign the same name that is printed on the front and signed on the back of the card. As someone who has worked retail, technically cashiers are supposed to check every signature on the credit slip against the signature on the card, in order to precent credit card fraud. Realistically, most cashiers don’t- they don’t have time/don’t care/don’t know they should be doing it.

    However, if the card says John, and you look like a Jane, whether you sign John or Jane a cashier who is paying attention will probably challenge you on it, assuming fraud. At which point, you have to explain the whole situation to a total stranger or else possibly have your purchase turned down and the cashier calls the bank to confirm you are in fact the registered cardholder.

    Possibly this is an extreme hypothetical, but I can see it happening with someone who is a stickler for the rules. Some stores can be very serious about credit card fraud.

  4. Sinead
    Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 00:18

    I agree it is discriminatory. If you don’t mind I might borrow extensively from this post and send them a customer service email tomorrow.

    I do not do as much banking with them as you do, however I have been a customer for over 10 years. I imagine someone somewhere thought this was a security issue on the identity theft side and did not think out the other repercussions.

    I think with two pieces of photo id and a name change certificate there should not be issues.

    Perhaps it is due in part to the lack of branch type equipment. TD or Scotia can photocopy and file your papers as needed . . PC lacks that capability due to the kiosk style. The fact it is echoed at CIBC though causes me to doubt this.

    Thanks for bringing it up as an issue.

    • Christin
      Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 00:24

      Thanks Sinead, feel free to copy whatever you need.

      Please post any responses you get. And thanks for reading.

      Sincerely,

      Christin Scarlett Milloy

  5. Patrick
    Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 01:59

    Heya lovey! I’m wondering how far you’ve escalated this through PCF so far? Was it the one branch? Management? Head office?

    • Christin
      Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 09:38

      Hi Patrick,

      Thank you for asking. I went to one Pavilion (quite a trip, without a car!), and the CSR there had me call in on the phone to “verify” that the information she was giving me was correct. On the call, the man on the phone “asked his supervisor” before coming back on the phone and shooting me down. The supervisor would not come on the phone to talk with me. By the time the call was over, the CSR in the Pavilion had actually gotten up from the desk and walked off, her shift over.

      My goal here, though, is not just to get my accounts fixed by making a big fuss. This policy hurts all trans customers of PC, so I need to see it changed, for the benefit of all people.

      Thanks for reading. Nice to see you again.

      Sincerely,

      Christin Scarlett Milloy

  6. Evan
    Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 11:31

    If they seem unlikely to budge, you should threaten to file the HRC complaint.
    If they know anything, they’ll probably cave in, as nobody ever wins an HRC case filed against them.

    • Christin
      Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 12:18

      Thanks Evan — I hope it doesn’t come to that. I strongly believe we can come to an arrangement with a revision to this policy, without resorting to the HRC process.

      Sincerely,

      Christin Scarlett Milloy

  7. Kal
    Tuesday, 2011.05.17 at 21:36

    How are you,Christin?, It seems hard times continue.
    As I think it’s not a case of discrimination, you can call stupidity lack of profesionalisim or retarded policy.
    any person goes through name change process wihout having a driving license will face the same ugliness of PC financial (no matter his/her sex race)
    I’ve been 5 years with PC ,I have a checking account and a credit card with them.
    Let me tell you a short story about retarded PC,2 years ago I saw a car online and wanted to buy it but the owner wanted cash only,so I didn’t want to miss it so I called PC financial and told them about that and asked if deposit a cheque right now in my account (my visa card cheques ) would you let me withdraw the money right away without waiting afew days to verify the cheque,the CSR gave my account a look then he told me Due to my history with them I can cash any cheque without verifying up to $5000,so I said fair enough ,and I got the cash I was looking for,after a year I tired to do the same thing but they gave me a hard time in the beginning but after that they game me the cash.
    3 months ago a friend of mine needed to borrow cash and it was an emergency,so I tried to cash my balance transfer cheque(visa card cheque),the CSR told Ican authorize that it’s risky,I told him It’s my right and It’s on the system,he told me yes I know but It’s up to the CSR.
    I told him listen if i want to steal the many and I don’t need to spend couple of hours on the phone ,I can deposit the cheque and go to my computer and transfer the money to my credit cardpr paypal before you verify the damn cheque.
    He told me I can’t change the system ,and I can give you the cash even if you can spend the money right away online.
    Do you see how retarded is that? He said it but indirect way that the PC system is stupid (the system allow me to get $5000 but the smart loyal PC CSR sees diffrent thing).
    After afew days ,I talked with the CSR in their kiosk in loblaws (glen erin ) ,She told me You have to file a complain about that CSR ,but what will i get if I win the claim? ,Afrien needed a money and I let him down ,winning the claim is not gonna change,and winning the claim is it gonna guaranteed it not to happen again in the future? ,Sure no , I wasted enough time on the phone and I don’t want to waste more time to file a claim against a stupid financial institution.
    and this is not the only problem with PC.there are others.
    I’m reading online about other banks to find a better one to sign up with and cancel their stupid master card.
    Every PC master card bill I get a few small flyers with,tell you about their stupid auto insurance ,so when I got my G2 licence I had only one master card and unfortunatelly was PC .
    So I thought to give them a call to get a quote,I thought i would get a competitve price cos i’m their customer.
    Unlike all Insurance companies,they didn’t give me a quote and they asked me to print out some papers on their website and fill it out and send it to them then they will give me a quote.
    After 5 years I think all pc financial sevices are pure fail

  8. Ali
    Monday, 2012.01.30 at 20:13

    Although I believe that the documentation you provided should be more than sufficient for the bank to change your name, do be aware that the government of Ontario has a new photo ID card for people who do not have a driver’s licence. It costs $35 and lasts 5 years. I looks exactly like a licence, except it’s purple. This came out only a few months ago, and is obtained in the same offices as drivers licences and health cards.

    http://news.ontario.ca/mto/en/2011/06/ontario-introduces-new-photo-id-card.html

    Spread the word far and wide!

  9. Dave
    Monday, 2012.01.30 at 22:51

    Just close the account and change banks…get them where it hursts….I had a lot of problems with this bank, they charged me for a “stop cheque” and then let it through, then the account was over draft and then charged me with NSF (all their doing)…when I called their head office in Halifax, the guy was so bloody ignorant that I closed the account and reported him to Customer Service. There’s lots of banks to choose from.
    Also, you said that you went all the way to Mississauga on transit, but stated that you don’t have the one hour it takes to get a new passport, the office is right downtown.

  10. Lisa
    Monday, 2012.03.26 at 17:00

    I had a similar situation with pc financial. I recently got married and had asked the customer service representative on the phone how I go about changing my last name to take on my husbands name (mastercard etc). They said to mail or fax them a formal letter with my old and new name, account number, and attach a copy of my marriage certificate.

    Well I did all that and mailed them the package about a month ago. Today I received a phone call from them saying that they received my letter and new signature but they still needed the certificate. *I had stapled the certificate to the back of the letter!!!* So could i mail them again? Well, where did my certificate go? It was right there in the same envelope!! And now they won’t change my last name until they get everything. “But I did it all… its right there! Look again!” “No sorry miss, but we don’t have the letter here.” The crap thing about this whole thing is now I have to do the whole process again with photocopying etc because when applying to anything these days you need 2 pieces of ID.. one usually is the credit card. And now they don’t match. PC Financial needs to get their head on straight.

  11. John
    Friday, 2017.03.03 at 17:37

    An issue with transgender is where does it end? What if I want to identify as 22 years old when I am really 62? By the same right a man has to identify as a woman, do I not have the right to identify as a 22 year old?

    • Christin Scarlett Milloy
      Monday, 2017.03.20 at 19:29

      No, because chronological age is an immutable fact of reality, whereas gender is a sociological phenomenon created by society, experienced diversely by individuals, and wrongly assigned legally based on an arbitrary assessment of physiological sex.

      Hope this helps.

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Christin Milloy