Tony Gosgnach
The Interim

The Bank of Montreal has decided to cease a fundraising MasterCard affinity program it had arranged with the Life Canada organization, but the pro-life group’s leaders say the media, more than the bank, are to blame for the development.

Life Canada and its predecessor, Alliance for Life, had taken part in the program with the bank for some 15 years, with no problems. However, for some mysterious reason, elements in Canada’s pro-abortion faction recently decided to launch a campaign of protest against the bank.

An early article on the situation was composed by Sue Montgomery in the Montreal Gazette. She reported that “e-mails of outrage started arriving” suddenly at the BMO after pro-abortion advocates circulated e-mails urging supporters to cut up their MasterCards and boycott the bank. The campaign may have originated by a person associated with the Victoria Midwifery Group in B.C.

The bank has some 160 such affinity cards with organizations that include the New Democratic Party of Ontario and the Ontario Public Service Employees Union. The organizations receive a percentage of all purchases made with the cards. In deciding on whether to issue the cards, the bank considers factors such as how powerful a cause is in attracting cardholders and stipulates that an organization must have a membership list of at least 15,000.

After the pro-abortion effort got underway, it received a boost from allies in the media, including the virulently pro-abortion Heather Mallick in the Globe and Mail, who has in the past written articles urging that Henry Morgentaler be named to the Order of Canada.

Mallick claimed the BMO has organized her money since she was “old enough to get an allowance,” but she “got out the big scissors this week and cut my Bank of Montreal Mosaik card in half.”

Although the bank acknowledged it received only a “small number” of complaints from customers and citizens about Life Canada’s affinity card – and most of those were form letters – it decided “with regret” that it will not renew its contract with the pro-life organization when the current pact expires at the end of July 2006.

In a press release, Life Canada president Joanne Byfield expressed regret over the bank’s decision and charged that the campaign was “orchestrated by radical abortion activists and carried out by supporters in Canadian media.”

“This campaign is one of the best and most blatant examples of collusion between ‘objective’ journalists and abortion advocates. Notice that the media referred to our opponents as ‘pro-choice,’ even as they wrote stories about their attempts to restrict our ability to promote our cause. The only ‘choice’ these people tolerate is their own extreme position favouring abortion.”

Byfield questioned why media stories aren’t being produced on other controversial affinity-type programs, such as between Indigo Chapters and Planned Parenthood. She found it odd that a journalist in Montreal latched onto an effort apparently originating in Victoria, B.C. and vowed that Life Canada will not cave in to “bullies.” It will continue to do its work, she said.

In another bank-related matter, lobbying and boycott efforts against the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce appear to be bearing fruit despite that company’s fervent support for the homosexual cause under its outgoing CEO, John Hunkin.

Elinor Montgomery, chairperson of a Kingston-area group associated with the Christian Heritage Party called Voice of the Kingfisher, called for the CIBC’s board of directors to reconsider Hunkin’s use of funds to support a homosexual agenda.

REAL Women of Canada has quoted Hunkin as boasting that CIBC has “been a major donor to a number of LGBT-related organizations.” He has also expressed pleasure with an employee-led CIBC Pride Network. “This active group of individuals, from all lines of business in the bank, and from among all employee levels, has organized a new forum for all of CIBC’s LGBT employees and I’m told it’s among the first of its kind in the Canadian banking industry,” he has said.

More disturbing is Hunkin’s statement that his bank “also had an opportunity to play a role, albeit a small one, in the legal battle for same-sex marriage.”

Montgomery said the bank’s management appears to have complied with her group’s request, “which has resulted in a clean sweep of Hunkin and his crew … The whole banking system has been undermined by the incompetence of John Hunkin.”

President Gerry McCaughey, who is preparing to take over as CEO in the next year or two, is reported to be determined to change the “culture” of the CIBC. “Mr. McCaughey will have our support all the way, if he changes the culture of the CIBC to take into consideration the views of the majority of the account holders,” said Montgomery.

She added boycott efforts will continue until there are assurances that there are fundamental changes in the CIBC’s funding policies.

A CIBC spokesman had said earlier that his bank “has never actively supported a ‘homosexual agenda;’ we have only striven to provide all of our employees … with a safe, supportive and secure workplace.”

A reminder that coverage of stories like these is provided on a regular basis, though in a more brief form, in The Interim’s occasional Corporate Watch feature.