A Desjardins customer since the age of 8, a 74-year-old ex-judge goes to the barricades to prevent the closure of a Desjardins service center in his area.
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We are on the banks of the river, in Berthier-sur-Mer, 15 km from Montmagny and 40 km from Quebec.
The Isle of Orleans is visible from this little corner of paradise from 1744 souls who are doing very well, thank you. The population is growing, the vitality is there.
Except that Caisse Desjardins has just closed its service center in the center of town. And that the inhabitants are in good shape.
“Desjardins has lost his soul. Do they close the door? I’m going to close the door,” says Pierre Blais, a 74-year-old man from Berthelais with a full CV.
The former judge was born in Berthier-sur-Mer. He was a local federal MP from 1984 to 1993 and was Canada’s Minister of Justice, among other things.
He also has Desjardins tattooed on his heart. At least he had it. “I opened an account at the National Bank last week. The Caisse is over for me,” said this former secretary of the school fund and former chairman of the board of directors of the Caisse de Berthier-sur- Wednesday
The resistance is organized
The story begins at the beginning of September. The closure of the service center in Berthier-sur-Mer, as well as those in Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-du-Sud and Cap-Saint-Ignace, is announced for November 3, in less than two months.
The Caisse cites a drop in attendance at its counters and cashiers.
“There were six people of a certain age in line when I went last week. People need these services,” argued Judge Blais.
From September, the Berthelais organized themselves. They form a citizen’s committee that will be led by Nathalie Cloutier.
The woman in her fifties who has lived in Berthier-sur-Mer for 30 years has collected 877 signatures against the closure of a possible 1,200 adults in the village.
Petition in hand, she went by bus accompanied by 35 Berthelais to the delegation of Montmagny.
“We were very badly received. They didn’t even let us in, for security reasons. There were 35 elderly people, not very threatening,” she said, still in shock.
At the behest of the municipality, an information session was then organized in the town: 125 Berthelais came to hear the president of the board of directors of the Caisse Desjardins of the MRC de Montmagny.
“He started by saying they wouldn’t go back on their decision. He set the tone. He couldn’t even tell us how much it costs to operate a counter in Berthier-sur-Mer,” says M.me Cloutier.
Judge Blais did his research. “It would cost them peanuts, keep it open”, assures the former Minister of Consumers and Companies.
Before its closing Friday, the service center had only one part-time employee working 15 to 20 hours a week.
“But the building is still there. It will cost them $5,000 a year in electricity,” says Mr. Blais, who adds that Desjardins made a profit of $3 million last year with the Montmagny branch.
“Our only weapon”
The Desjardins Group closes approximately 70 service centers a year in Quebec. From 1,122 in 2015, there were more than 724 in 2022, a drop of 35%.
“When a Fund takes the decision to withdraw an ATM or close a service center, it is because the use that is made no longer justifies its maintenance,” says a spokesperson.
The citizens of Berthier-sur-Mer disagree. They find that Desjardins’ attitude is disrespectful. The lack of transparency towards them makes them angry.
“All we have left as a weapon is to close our accounts and give our money to someone else,” says Nathalie Cloutier.
When she’s passing through town these days, it’s not unusual for someone to call her and tell her they’ve just closed their Desjardins account.
The National Bank will also be making a presentation in the city today (Monday 6 November).
“It’s disheartening to see how Desjardins has changed over the years,” observes local boy Pierre Blais.
Desjardins service centers in Quebec and Ontario
- 2015: 1122
- 2020: 859
- 2021: 790
- 2022: 724