Bank Closes ATM. But are the (Unspoken) ‘Culprits’ Really to Blame?

We all want a safe experience when we go to the bank. But it seems this isn’t what’s happening at the Royal Bank in Campbell River.

RBC doesn’t say who, but everyone knows who’s being blamed

The Royal Bank in Campbell River has closed its ATM overnights and weekends.

The local RBC branch just announced it will now be closed on weekdays from 5 PM to 7 AM and from Saturday at 4 PM until Monday at 7 AM.

What’s going on to cause this, you might ask. 

What is it called when you blame a group of people without naming them? Not only that, but everyone knows who is being talked about.

The bank’s decision was posted in a letter on the branch door on Jan. 6.

“A level of safety and cleanliness to this location over the past 10 years has been a top priority,” reads the letter. But, unfortunately, their efforts haven’t worked. 

Branch manager Matthijs Bruining says the situation has become so bad that “closure is our only option.”

Who do you think the bank wants you to think about when you read the words “safety and cleanliness”?

A report in the Campbell River Mirror did not say what other efforts RBC or local officials have tried to improve the situation. No specific incidents, crimes or vandalism were mentioned.

So, again, what’s really going on here? 

Well, local residents took to Facebook and Reddit to air their frustrations. But, unlike the bank, they weren’t afraid to place blame.

Some commented they have said they felt unsafe downtown for the past many years. They say loitering and homeless people are the root causes. In addition, some worry about being physically harmed.

The bank’s reasoning is cleanliness and safety. Yet, without stating it clearly, everyone somehow seems to know this means people experiencing homelessness. More specifically, those ‘dirty, scary’ unhoused people.

This tactic was also used several years ago in Ponoka and Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Liquor stores and pawnshops proposed closing early to curb supposed crime and disorder.

Nobody needed to say the decision was made because people from the nearby reserve communities of Maskwacîs were spending too much time in town.

Nobody had to say it out loud or in print. Instead, they could place vague blame because everyone already knew who was being referred to.

The bank is too cowardly to place the blame directly. Others are too quick to name the so-called problem. Both sides miss the point. 

So we have our answer. Or do we?

Do people experiencing homelessness and poverty deserve this cowardly, dog whistle-style blame? Or is it time to look elsewhere?

Whose safety are we talking about here?

More importantly, when was the last time you thought about who gets to be safe?

You probably haven’t had a lot of time to think about that because you are busy working, likely more than one job, to make ends meet. 

Why is that, exactly? Why can’t more people make ends meet on one full-time job? It isn’t because you aren’t working hard. 

And when you are that busy–and perhaps feeling that unsafe yourself–it is easy for others to distract you with blame that doesn’t help anyone. 

Everyone deserves to feel safe, especially at an ATM. But residents who feel unsafe because people are living outside need to get out of their own bubbles.

These are your neighbours, and the sooner you start treating them as such, the safer you will feel. Why should any of our neighbours have to live on the street in one of the wealthiest nations on the planet? 

Think about that because, with the way things are going, you could be next.