15

According to this CBC article from 2015, some people in Quebec cut bank notes in half, which are then used as two separate notes each worth half the original value. These notes are known as "demi", and are not widely accepted:

"It's money that can only be circulated among these local users," said Patrick DuBois, a demi user from Carleton-sur-Mer, Que.

"No one else will accept it anywhere right now."

However, another person is quoted mentioning tourists:

Martin Zibeau, a demi user from Saint-Siméon, said it's impossible to know how many people are using the quirky local currency, but he personally knows of more than a dozen.

"It's something that's still developing. It's funny --- there are a lot of tourists who have seen it and spread the word across Quebec."

My question is: Is there any risk that I, as a tourist, will be given a demi note in change, which I will then find myself unable to use elsewhere?

Associated side questions (which will probably help answer the main question) are:

  • Does this practice still exist? Is it widespread?

  • Can I refuse any demi notes I am offered and insist on unmutilated currency instead?


As it may influence answers, please note that I am planning on visiting Saint-Siméon, so it's not like "this only applies in obscure places you'll never visit".

  • 13
    Why won’t you be able to refuse getting one if you are being given such a note? I always return any bills which look defected. Being in half is quite a big defect and it should allow you to refuse that bill. – Hanky Panky May 1 '18 at 11:45
  • 5
    I've lived in quebec all my life, never ever seen this, or heard of this. "Saint-Simeon" feels like waaaaaay rural. I've lived all my life in the region of Montreal, with a lot of trips to Quebec City, and this is the first I even hear of this – Patrice May 1 '18 at 13:17
  • 1
    @AndyT oh for sure, I am not trying to dismiss your concern. Maybe just highlighting how infrequent it is. I'd think anyone in that town would be ok giving you coins instead of half-bills. Anyway I can't see the value for most half-bills, as there are real bills that cover what they would need to be (ie: there is a 5 AND a 10$ bill, so I don't see the value of a half-10). The only 2 bills that make sense for it is the 50, and the 5. But Quebec has 2$ coins, so getting half a 5 in change isn't really painful – Patrice May 1 '18 at 14:18
  • 1
    @HankyPanky In the UK (so may or may not apply in Canada), people aren't legally obliged to give change at all. So one could, in principle, end up in a situation where the seller insists that you either accept a "demi", or take no change, or cancel the transaction. – David Richerby May 1 '18 at 15:48
  • 2
    @Patrice: It confused me too. Perhaps they have ATMs that are very aggressive about always spitting out notes of the largest possible denominations that can satisfy the requested amount, so there's a local shortage of smaller notes? – Henning Makholm May 1 '18 at 16:29
18

In short, no

This practice is very localized, all the places mentioned in the article are small towns out east, I've heard of it but I've never seen a half bill yet. Don't forget that Quebec is a huge place so it's definitely not a widespread, province-level practice.

You can always refuse the half-bill if someone gives you one, just say you're going to a big city (Quebec or Montreal) and you're afraid they won't accept it there (which is true, no one here will). If you find yourself with one though, you can always exchange them for (metal coin) change before leaving the area.

3

I live in Quebec. I ever heard about demis, never seen one (even in remote places) and honestly you are 100% allowed to refuse them. Actually, as per the Currency Act article 11 (Canadian law), "it is not allowed to melt, break up or use coin for any other use than as a currency". Tearing or mutilating willingly a bank note is also illegal not advised in Canada and can be punished with a fine of up to 250$ and 12 month of prison with a reimbursement of the fees involved in replacing the notes.

Most banks will accept broken notes to their fractional value (so half a 10$ note will be exchanged free of charge for a 5$ note). It happened twice to me that notes broke in half and they exchanged it even if I had one half and 50 or so small brittle parts (when they changed for the plastic-issh ones that we not heat/cold resistant => this is fixed now). Obviously the teared note will then be discarded. Damaged notes are also replaced and removed from circulation. This replacement rule is applied to the discretion of the bank: some will give you 50%, other will expect both parts, but they must do something with it, because they must make sure that volume of money circulating remains mostly the same as per Bank Of Canada guidelines.

People damaging notes to create demis are actually perpetrating an illegal act passible of having to pay for replacement of the notes and therefore won't can't force you to accept a demi. If they are stupid enough/not knowledgeable enough and insist for you to accept it, tell them about Currency Act consequences of mutilating notes.

  • Article 11 you reference is related to coins not banknotes, in the CBC article the OP posted the BOC says the practice of cutting banknotes isn't illegal – blackbird May 2 '18 at 14:59
  • You are right. Although, the guidelines from BOC says that a person reclaiming money for intentionally mutilated bank notes may be liable to reimburse cost for replacing those bank notes. Therefore you may not be sued/fined, but you might have to pay the BOC, so in the end, you shouldn't do it. – Mishyoshi May 2 '18 at 17:28
2

I've been to Quebec two times specifically (for a week each), and been across to Gatineau from Ottawa a couple of other times, and I've never encountered such a thing.

It may not be of great consequence, though, because in my experience, if you are given a half of a bill, you can take it to any bank in Canada and be reimbursed for half the complete bill's face value. This has been in place to give people some recourse if their currency is damaged by disaster. I confess, though, that I'm unable to find written verification that this is the case.

My strong suspicion is that half-bills would only be given to locals, so unless you specifically request it in a region that does it, I doubt you'll encounter it.

What you can do: simply refuse them if offered. Mutilated currency is not legal tender for debts in Canada, and in fact most purchases are not legally considered to be debts, so you can refuse it if offered.

  • 2
    I don't know the local rules, but I think in the EU you need to have at least 51% of a bill (in order to prevent people from cutting the money in half and exchanging both halves for a new bill.) I'm not sure if, and how, they verify if the bill is at least than 51%, but it sounds like a logical policy – ROIMaison May 1 '18 at 13:26
  • 4
    @blackbird - See this question on skeptics which is what caused my question in the first place. – AndyT May 1 '18 at 13:48
  • 1
    @blackbird - I didn't say there was... Sorry, I should have been much clearer in my comment, especially given how much I hate link-only responses. To be clear: no answerers on skeptics found evidence of a specific policy which agrees with the notable claim. – AndyT May 1 '18 at 13:56
  • 1
    @ROIMaison At one point, it appeared to be the case that the UK rules basically came down to having a complete copy of the serial number, plus some extra digits bankofengland.co.uk/-/media/boe/files/quarterly-bulletin/1963/… – origimbo May 1 '18 at 14:11
  • 1
    @DavidRicherby And if not in payment of a debt, all of the terms are entirely negotiable. – Jim MacKenzie May 1 '18 at 16:07

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.