Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Iranian Canadians react to TD severing ties

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TORONTO -- The Iranian-born wife of Defence Minister Peter MacKay said she is shocked at TD Canada Trust's decision to close a number of accounts belonging to Iranian Canadians without offering them a proper explanation.

TD (TSX:TD) began notifying some Iranian-Canadian clients in May it would no longer provide them with banking services -- in some cases referring to Ottawa's economic sanctions against the Tehran regime.

Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a dedicated human rights activist, said she believes the bank "unintentionally misinterpreted" the broad application of the sanctions, aimed at cracking down on Iran's nuclear program.

"I think they should have done more investigation rather than harming innocent Iranian Canadians," she said in an interview from her home in New Glasgow, N.S.

Members of the Iranian-Canadian community have expressed outrage at the bank's action, saying they're being treated as second-class citizens.

TD has not publicly revealed how many accounts belonging to Iranian Canadians have been closed, but community leaders said they've received complaints from across the country.

In a statement released Thursday, TD said it is required to comply with Canadian bank laws, "including economic sanctions, which prohibit us from providing financial services to or for the benefit of certain countries, or any person in those countries."

The emailed statement said decisions to end customer relationships are not taken lightly but said it could not comment on "specific customer situations." Senior TD officials promised to meet with community leaders on July 22 to discuss the matter.

Afshin-Jam said the reason other Canadian banks aren't joining TD is because they are properly interpreting the government's intended sanctions, whereas TD, she said, has "overreacted."

"Until they come out with another statement I don't think Iranian Canadians will be satisfied," she said.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 B8

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