An Alberta man with cognitive impairments racked up $8,000 in credit card debt, leaving his friend and advocate to ask how he was given the card in the first place.
Henry Herbst, who goes by the nickname Tigger, has an IQ of below 70. He lives independently in Whitecourt, Alta., with some supports from a non-profit society in the town.
For years, the arrangement seemed to work well and Herbst, 54, was able to keep on top of his rent payments and other bills. He receives about $1600 every month from the province's Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped program.
"I think with Mr. Herbst's cognitive abilities he should never have got a credit card. He would never willingly have got it if he understood the ramifications," said Dennis Watson, a long-time family friend and advocate.
"I don't even think his reading ability is such that he could fill in the form by himself. I was mortified."
Herbst also understands his debt had got out of hand.
"It's gone kaplooey. Now my card is way too high."
Debts build up
According to Herbst, he went to the local Canadian Tire store a few years ago and was asked if he was interested in a credit card. Herbst said he provided identification to a saleswoman who filled out the application form. He signed it.
"Then I had to wait one...two...three...Three weeks. Then it was in the mail," he said.
Herbst bought groceries, and booked his first trip, to see friends in Nova Scotia. He spent money on gifts and souvenirs, and a fresh cod dinner. He also started to borrow money on the credit card.
As time went on, the bills started to add up. And, according to Watson, Herbst's limit was increased.
Initially, the company would not budge.
"Obviously he got some benefit out of this. And so we're looking to cut the interest and give him payments that he can afford to make on his very limited government disability. They were not willing to do anything," Watson said last week.
One day after an inquiry from CBC News, Watson said Canadian Tire had agreed to a payment plan that Herbst could afford, with no interest.
In a short email to CBC News, a spokesman for Canadian Tire Corporation wrote that "this issue has been resolved."
Re-payment plan established
In Alberta, people with intellectual disabilities sometimes have friends or relatives who formally oversee and manage their finances. But not always.
A trustee is someone with authority to manage a person's investments and bills. But it can take up to six months for a trustee to be appointed by the courts. In the case of Watson and Herbst, their friendship has been enough for almost 40 years.
Herbst considers Watson to be his uncle, even though there is no official guardian or trustee relationship between them. Herbst has no biological family with whom he is in contact.
But without a formal trusteeship in place, neither Watson nor the worker from the social service agency who helps him with basic bill payments has direct oversight over his money and what he does with it.
"If there's nothing in place, the advocate can't make him do anything. He can talk to him, based on the relationship, the individual might listen — he might not," said Meloney Patterson, executive director of Voice of Albertans with Disabilities.
Watson said Herbst's credit card is now destroyed. He called the settlement "extremely fair."
Still, Watson thinks people took advantage of his friend — from the saleswoman who signed him up for the credit card, to whoever approved credit increases.
"For someone to purposely give him a credit card and then up the limit when he meets the [first] limit -- knowing he's on a disability pension — is predatory, in no uncertain terms in my world, that's exactly what that is."
Latest USA News
- Mental illness cited in deaths of Steinbach father and son
- Brrrrr-utal! Spring temperatures likely weeks away
- Wheeler, muckers lead way to victory
- Civil trials moving at brisker pace
- Taking a stand against harassment
- City eyes traffic lights at site of fatal collision
- Winnipeg has love affair with horror
- Waste not, want not
- A valuable space, lost in litigation
- Free Press Head Start for April 3
- Secret life of plants making music
- Ex-Hydro chairman refutes premier
- Wire-to-wire world champ
- Optimism shines bright at upbeat Juno Awards show in Vancouver
- Canada joins U.S., Europe in expelling Russian spies for British poison attack
- Feds ease restrictions on prescription heroin to address opioid epidemic
- Mexico official: Iowa family died from water heater gas leak
- White House: Trump thinks Stormy Daniels lied about threat
- Developer to alter Pembina Highway apartment plans
- It's a great time to be a sports fan in Winnipeg
- He has the answers
- Manitoba announces operators of legal cannabis stores
- Feds to help Churchill residents pay high cost of gas
- Journalism still necessary in Canada: survey
- Getting into the weeds
- A call for justice
- Family, friends gather to protest reduced sentences for young offenders convicted of killing Serena McKay
- Two people dead in fatal trailer fire in Grand Rapids
- 200 mourners attend funeral for boy killed at crosswalk
- Jets penalty killing third-best in the league
- New lease on life for Boyd Building
- Environment Canada issues extreme cold weather warnings for much of the country
- Film festival will promote black film makers
- Manitoba Theatre reports surplus
- Frigid temperature doesn't stop shoppers
- Thief nabs $30,000 worth of veal in stolen trailer on Christmas Day
- On a cold winter's night... their last Noel
- Quiet change to free downtown parking called deceitful
- Local shelters ensure everyone gets a warm bed during cold snap
- Thieves not idle: police warn drivers about increase in car thefts