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Canada: Access to Cash in Remote Communities

Categories : Cash does not require a technology infrastructure
June 28, 2022
Tags : Access to cash, Canada, Remote communities
A Bank of Canada report evaluates access to cash amongst remote First Nation reserves. On average, the travel distance to the closest bank branch is 24 km, while the nearest white label ATM is 4.5 km away.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

The population of First Nations is just under one million people, a third of which live on reserve, according to a 2016 census. There are 637 ‘bands’, defined as “a body of First Nations people who have lands or other resources set aside by the Crown for their collective use or who have been declared to be a band for the purposes of the Indian Act.” These bands gather 334,385 people or less than 1% of the Canadian population.

The Canadian government does not guarantee these communities access to telecommunications or the internet. In the absence of banks, people rely essentially on white-label ATMs to transact. The cost of transactions is significantly higher, which raises the question of the role of the central bank in maintaining an equitable payment system.

The discussion paper explores access to cash for First Nations reserves located across Canada for three reasons:

The report geolocates the First Nation reserves and crosses the data with cash points, including financial institution branches and ATMs – or ABMs as they are called in Canada – and white label ATMs – which are owned and operated by organizations which are not financial institutions.

The main findings of the report are:

The authors emphasize the critical role of the North West Company (NWCo), an essential retailer for communities in Northern Canada. Through roughly 130 Northern and Northmart stores, NWCo provides a range of retail products and various services, including post offices and financial services. The financial subsidiary, We Financial, offers tax, cheque-cashing and money-transfer services, direct deposit solution commercial credit, and a network of ATMs.

This post is also available in: Spanish