Canada’s TD Bank has frozen the assets of several Iranians, in many cases without notice, triggering a wave of criticism from the Iranian community in Canada.
The Canadian Press reports that some Iranian-Canadians were reportedly notified by TD Bank in May that it would no longer provide banking services to them.
Some of these letter cited Ottawa’s economic sanctions against Iran as the reason.
Pooya Sadeghi, an Iranian who moved to Toronto 14 years ago, told the Canadian Press: “I’ve been a Canadian citizen for 10 years and this is the first time I’m feeling that I’ve been treated differently than a Canadian citizen.”
Sadeghi reported that his joint account with his wife was frozen without notice or any explanation from the bank and that he later found out that many other Iranian-Canadians have been getting similar treatment from TD.
Iran is now under severe international sanctions by many countries including Canada. The sanctions are aimed at forcing Iran to comply with international demands regarding its nuclear program. Iran insists, however, that its nuclear program is peaceful and that according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which it is a signatory, it has a right to exploit nuclear power for peaceful purposes.
The vice-president of the Iranian Canadian Congress, Kaveh Shahrooz, has expressed concern that the TD Bank’s treatment of its Iranian-Canadian clients could mark “an erosion” of rights for members of the Iranian community in Canada.
Shahrooz said: “It is one thing to punish the Iranian government and its agents. It’s another to close bank accounts without giving people a chance to explain themselves."
TD has released a statement saying its has to comply with Canadian banking regulations “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 bank claims it had reached out to customers in cases where it had a concern and in many cases there was no response.
Iranian community leaders are set to meet with senior bank officials on July 22.
Sadeghi reportedly waited a month to get a letter from TD about the freezing of his account, and even then it merely indicated that no explanation was available.
Sadeghi says he has begun a Facebook group called “Condemn TD Bank in their Treatment of clients with Iranian Background” which has found significant support, with one recent post saying: “No Canadians should be subject to this. A discrimination and [Charter of Rights and Freedoms] challenge should be in place.”