I Couldn’t Access my Own Bank Account for a Few Days, Because Canada is a Monopoly

Wednesday Journal Entry, Week 12

Karina Lafayette – July 13th 2022

In pop culture, from Stranger Things to The Matrix, you often hear the villain bragging about how humans are a virus, that we like to spread ourselves here and there, causing damage wherever we go. We’ll I’ve got news, it’s not people who are the virus, it’s the system we created that’s the real virus. We forget our humanity. We think we’re better than everything. In relationships, it’s not about what you bring to the table, it’s about how much there is to eat. In families, it’s not about nurturing our kids, it’s about keeping some kind of legacy. We don’t work to live, we live to work. Take a day off and you’re lazy. Make yourself sick for others, you’re praised for being humble. You’re allowed to make money, but for someone else’s business- it’s selfish to work for your own needs to be met.

I like money and wealth and success as much as the next person, but capitalism is like the balloon that keeps getting bigger and bigger, to the point where you know it’s going to burst one day. We can never seem to buy enough, work enough, be pretty enough, or successful enough. People only matter when they have something to contribute and your value is based on how much others benefit from you. In consumerism, there’s the idea of choice, and yet the same handful of corporations have us on shuffle. And on July 9th 2022, Canadians found out just how limited those choices really are.

To get those outside Canada into the loop, last week there was an incident with the corporation Rogers, where their network was down due to a supposed system failure during an upgrade. For almost five days, many people across the country didn’t have access to Internet, cellphone coverage, and even some banks were on hold- people like myself couldn’t even withdraw money from our accounts due to the system failure. Some businesses even had to close for that period. Why? Because Rogers essentially owns many assets- including Rogers Cable, Rogers Internet, Rogers Wireless (phone company), Chatr and Fido (phone companies), a list of television stations, radio stations, several sports stadiums and even a variety of sports teams, like the Toronto Raptors. Not to mention Canadians on average pay more for their phones than other parts of the world. Because of the failure, a handful of banks weren’t accessible. As I type this, people have been making posts on social media pointing out how they’re still without proper service. Most recently, a Quebec man filed a class-action lawsuit against the conglomerate for negligence.

In Canada, a handful of corporations own everything from media, to phone services and more. While there are many resources using a variety of names, it’s important to keep in mind that a corporation acts as an umbrella, meaning two companies that are seemingly at competition can in fact be owned by the same corporation. Even if they each have their own rules, bosses, and employees, the lack of real options puts people in a spot where they’re likely to make choices out of desperation, instead of making the choice that’s right for them. So not being able to access the atm or make emergency calls anytime one of these companies has a system issue, should be a huge red flag.

Canadian media alone is run by Bell, Corus, Telus, Rogers, CBC and Quebecor. Similar to Rogers, Bell also happens to own a variety of internet, phone services, and more, not just media.

And this system failure happens to coincide in a time where Rogers has been trying to merge with yet other company, Shaw , which also provides phone, internet and television services. Starting to see a pattern here?

It’s not the corporations getting bigger that’s the problem necessarily. If a corporation has an overall good reputation, decent services, takes part in some philanthropy, and shows good values, then it wouldn’t be as much of a problem. However, the reality is that Rogers was founded like many corporations are, through greed. A recent Facebook post written by Douglas Hicton, former creative director at CHFI/680 News went viral. In the post, he describes his experience in meeting Ted Rogers, the founder of Rogers Communications (original post can be found here):

I think it goes without saying that Rogers’ view toward people less privileged is a testament to how the corporation operates today. It’s not about selling services that people need, it’s all about the profit. Another more insidious reason why having a handful of corporations is problematic, has to do with media and political bias. If only a few get to decide what information to consume, people are less able to pick what works for them, and less able to make up their own minds. It also makes it that much more difficult for smaller corporations to compete that otherwise may have people’s best interests at heart, since advertisements are already more likely to promote the bigger fish.

Now in a lot of ways, Canada has it better than other places, but we’re far from perfect. Sure, we have free Healthcare, accessible education, and there’s no threat of war that we know of. Still, lots of indigenous people don’t have clean drinking water and are still waiting for real reconciliation from the government. Almost every street corner of Toronto has at least one homeless person, most who can’t collect change anymore because people don’t carry it since the pandemic began. As for shelters, they’re mostly at capacity regardless of what the mayor has to say. For those who have their own homes, their made to be renting indefinitely even though a mortgage is cheaper, and don’t even get me started on our public transit. Aside from slow service, several women within the past few months have been attacked at Toronto subways, and in front of the Eaton Centre, you can always find Pick Up Artists waiting to prey on any woman that would so much as look at them.

Toronto in general has a lot good things going for it, but making people’s lives easier isn’t exactly one of them. As someone who’s lived here for almost six years, what makes the city great are the people- we constantly look out for each other. We have community spaces, libraries, a booming film industry, festivals, and food banks for anyone who needs. But when it comes to those in charge, you’d swear they don’t even exist. Our politicians put a Band-aid on every issue, and most people are skating by juggling two, sometimes even three jobs. Still apparently I’m not allowed to complain, even though I’m still grateful for the good. How about you stop telling others that it could be worse, when you haven’t done anything to make it better either. Like I mentioned earlier, not being able to access your own bank account just because of a system failure is a huge red flag.

Just the other day I donated a few goods to a community fridge in my area. On my way to cross the street, an elderly woman who was just looking in there had noticed me, and came back in order to collect whatever I donated. It made me happy, but it also upset me that she’d even have to rely on that in the first place. No one should be hungry, especially in Canada, that’s supposedly a rich country.

It’s only a matter of time before people get fed up and start finding their own way to thrive, and we’re already seeing this with different programs aimed at supporting people for housing, school grants, and other things. A few years ago, I was lucky enough to join a three-month program at Rotman’s School of Business called RISE, in order to learn how to write a business plan. None of these programs would exist if it weren’t for the beautiful community effort. Someone isn’t doing their job and it’s not the people. Most people work hard enough, we work too much sometimes. Some work multiple jobs. Others work to care for their kids. Then you have artists like me who are trying to build a brand in a world that doesn’t believe in our vision. Regardless of our differences, I’m sure we all have one thing in common: we want better.

The idea that for a few days I couldn’t access my own funds just because of a monopoly that runs this country, goes to show how much of a failure the whole system really is. While carrying cash is a safer bet, it doesn’t change anything. Sometimes when something is broken, instead of fixing it, it’s best to create something better, something that actually benefits everyone. And that’s worth more than my two cents.

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