Advocates deploy mobile billboards, print newspaper ads as Fairfax holds annual shareholders meeting in Toronto

April 21, 2022 11:45 am

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April 21, 2022

Contact: Elsa Rainey,

TORONTO — Today, Color Of Change and the American Civil Liberties Union deployed a series of mobile billboard advertisements in Toronto to demand that Fairfax Financial Holdings CEO Prem Watsa divest from for-profit bail businesses. The mobile billboards, which are viewable, will circle Roy Thomson Hall, where Fairfax Financial shareholders are scheduled to meet today for their annual shareholders meeting. The billboards are part of a broader campaign urging Watsa to stop investing in the for-profit bail industry. Earlier this week, Color Of Change and the ACLU bought a full-page ad in The Globe and Mail to call attention to Watsa’s ties to the bail industry.

As chairman and chief executive officer at Fairfax Financial Holdings, Watsa oversees the largest financial backer for the for-profit bail industry in America and knowingly profits from the mass incarceration of Black people. Last month, Color Of Change and the ACLU issued a letter to the BlackNorth Initiative (BNI), a group of Canadian business leaders focused on advancing racial justice for Black Canadians, exposing the conflict of interest between Watsa’s roles as CEO of Fairfax Financial and co-chair of the BlackNorth Initiative.

“The for-profit bail industry is an inherently racist and exploitative system that Prem Watsa continues to bankroll and profit from,” said Scott Roberts, senior director of criminal justice and democracy campaigns at Color Of Change. “Under Watsa’s leadership, Fairfax Financial has become the biggest insurer profiting from predatory bail practices that force Black people trapped in the criminal legal system to choose between paying for freedom or being locked in a cage. Watsa must take immediate steps to divest from the for-profit bail industry and encourage others in the business community to divest, as well.”

“For-profit bail creates a system in which freedom is purchased by those who can afford it while those who cannot are kept locked away from their families, their jobs, their communities, and their homes based only on how much money they have in their bank account,” said Udi Ofer, deputy national political director at the ACLU. “Prem Watsa has the opportunity to make a difference in this cycle of exploitation by directing Fairfax Financial to divest from its for-profit bail businesses. The ACLU encourages him to do so immediately.”

Toronto-based insurance conglomerate Fairfax Financial Holdings represents the largest remaining financial backer of the for-profit bail industry in America. While for-profit bail has been outlawed in Canada, Fairfax Financial has provided significant financial backing for the for-profit bail system in the U.S. through its subsidiary, Crum & Forster. Crum & Forster has also provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions to defeat or roll back bail reform measures in California and other parts of the U.S.

This ad campaign is part of a broader effort by the ACLU and Color Of Change to encourage the business community to divest from the racist for-profit bail industry. The organizations previously exposed the deep ties between Fairfax Financial and the racist for-profit bail industry, pressing for Fairfax to divest from its subsidiary companies that drive the over-incarceration of Black people. In addition, Tokio Marine Holdings, R&Q, and Endeavour Capital have exited the bail industry in recent years as a result of advocacy from the ACLU and Color Of Change.

Related Content:

The ACLU’s 2019 letter to Fairfax is online here:

The ACLU and Color Of Change’s 2020 letter to Fairfax is online here:

The ACLU and Color Of Change’s 2017 report on the for-profit bail industry is here:

This release is available online here:

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