Trouble in Paradise: Canadian Banks in the Caribbean

4 03 2015
I’m involved in a collaborative research project that investigates, among other things, the history of trade between Canada and the British West Indies. I was, therefore, interested an article that recently appeared in the Globe and Mail newspaper.  It’s about how the Canadian banks are losing money in the Caribbean yet again. The article mentions that the economic ties between Canada and the West Indies are very old.  I think that the Globe article underscores the social relevance of our research project.

Canada’s commercial ties to the Caribbean run deep. Starting in 1864, the group that founded Merchant’s Bank in Halifax financed trade with British-owned islands in the Antilles. Ships leaving Canada packed with timber and flour returned home with sugar, rum and cotton.

Scotiabank planted roots in the British West Indies, as they were then known, by opening a branch in Jamaica in 1889. RBC began its Caribbean foray even earlier, in 1882, and CIBC set up shop in Barbados and Jamaica in 1920. Canadians were so enamoured with the region that Prime Minister Robert Borden talked to his British counterpart, David Lloyd George, about taking over some islands in 1919 (or so legend has it).

For all that history, our banks are sometimes still chided for being from afar. “Everybody always talks about these ‘foreign banks,’” says Anya Schnoor, a Jamaican who runs Scotiabank Trinidad. “I always say to everybody: If you’ve been in a region 125 years, we’ve kind of gone beyond” that line of reasoning. 



2 responses

4 03 2015
Jonathan Weisman (@JJWeisman)


I’d be very grateful for a heads-up when the project is complete – quite interested in the results. I might suggest Sir Trevor Carmichael of Chancery Chambers, B’dos as a useful resource if interviews are a component of the research. His insights into the development of offshore vehicles may be of some value.

Best regards,


9 03 2015

Hi Jonathan,

I’ll certainly let you know when the project is complete!
I’ll also check out Sir Trevor Carmichael. Sadly, any interviews I do will be in Bermuda.

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