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Resilience and resources: How TD helps support refugee newcomers to Canada
• Jun. 19, 2024

Each year on June 20, TD recognizes World Refugee Day, an international day designated by the United Nations to honour refugees around the globe. It is a day to celebrate the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution.

Launched in 2019, TD’s Refugee Task Force, was created to help support refugees integration and success, as well as help build awareness and education of the refugee experience.

To mark World Refugee Day, TD Stories has collected three stories to explore what newcomers to Canada need to access opportunities to thrive, grow businesses and feel a sense of belonging.

Sajad Naderi proudly holds up his phone. On the screen there’s a photo of him, dressed in a suit and tie, posing with his parents in the family kitchen. Everyone is beaming.

The photo was taken before Naderi’s first day of work as a Customer Experience Associate at a TD Branch in Mississauga.

“I was really proud,” says Naderi, who came to Canada as a refugee from Afghanistan. "I do everything because of my dad and my mom. ”

When the Afghan government collapsed in 2021, Naderi, his parents and his sister settled in the Greater Toronto Area.

The job hunt came soon after. Naderi came to Canada with an MBA and seven years of experience working in banking in Afghanistan. Back home, he had a paid-off house and a car. But settling and looking for a job in Canada was challenging, he says.

“I was so frustrated. I was so demotivated,” Naderi says. “Every position I applied for—they said I was overqualified. Or that I didn’t have Canadian experience.”

The pressure to find employment was enormous, Naderi says, because he’s the only son and the financial provider for his parents.

Naderi was introduced to Jumpstart Refugee Talent, a charitable organization that helps refugees, refugee claimants and forcibly displaced individuals find work and start businesses.

Through Jumpstart, he got advice on the job search. He was also selected to attend the Jumpstart 2023 Toronto Hiring Event, where he interviewed with TD.

“I told them, just give me a chance. I’ll be the best candidate,” says Naderi, who knew hundreds of other applicants were in line behind him.

Naderi received the call that he’d been selected while visiting Quebec City with his cousin.

“I was so appreciative,” he says.

A self-proclaimed people person, Naderi says he’s thriving in his job. There’s lots to learn, but he regularly gets to help Afghan and Iranian people when they come into his branch because he speaks Farsi.

“I enjoy helping others,” he says. “That’s the beauty of TD — the diversity.”

Naderi has already been named as one of the top performers at his branch for the customer experiences he delivers. In the future, he hopes he can grow his career at TD in human resources or marketing.

The simple power of a shawarma recommendation

When it comes to building a sense of community and belonging for refugee newcomers as they adjust to life in Canada, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Support can look like helping someone navigate the complexities and headaches of filing a Canadian tax return, says Ahmed Barbour, the Ontario Programs Lead at the Together Project, a charitable initiative of MakeWay that connects volunteers with refugee newcomers who need social and integration support.

But sometimes support looks like sharing shawarma restaurant recommendations over WhatsApp. Or hunting down baseball tickets so a newcomer can attend their first-ever Toronto Blue Jays game.

“We take the unique needs and circumstances of the newcomers that are referred to our program by our partners into account [with] every single match we make,” says Barbour.

TD was an early supporter of the Together Project's work as its first official corporate sponsor, Barbour said.

“It’s incredibly validating and encouraging to see an organization as huge as TD take refugee integration seriously,” says Together Project co-director Andrew Lusztyk.

Through the TD Ready Commitment, the Bank’s global corporate citizenship platform, the Bank has supported the Together Project since 2019, committing $360,000 to date to support the organization's Welcome Group program. After they’re matched together, volunteers and newcomers can share meals, practice English language skills, navigate complicated paperwork or get comfortable using public transportation.

TD volunteers who join the program often say they want to help because they interact with newcomers at their branches, Barbour says.

“They do what they can to help them with their requests at the time [in the branch],” he says.

“But our volunteers always have this feeling that if [they] were able to connect with them outside of work, they’d have more informal time to teach them how to use the bus or [offer help] with other important things.”

As of February 2024, the Welcome Group Program had supported 1331 refugees, protected persons, and refugee claimants.

“Since the start of this relationship, nearly 200 TD employees have volunteered with the Welcome Group Program. We've had teams from TD from across Canada come together to form groups in support of households,” Barbour says.

Some of the relationships between volunteers and households last years. One particular TD volunteer matched with a household from Syria to support the family’s eldest son, who needed mentorship as well as opportunities to practice his English.

“[The TD volunteer] mentioned that they now have regular monthly check-ins,” Barbour says.

“The son is in university and doesn’t need as much support, but he loves to stay connected. We love seeing these kinds of relationships form.”

Breaking down barriers for refugee-owned businesses

“No one wants to be forced to leave their home,” says John Prato, Deputy Chair, Corporate and Investment Banking, TD Securities and Chair of TD’s Executive Refugee Task Force.

"Many refugees are highly educated, had a great job back home and now are forced to start over. At TD, we value diversity, equity and inclusion, and this task force has taken a thoughtful approach to develop a deeper understanding of the challenges facing refugees today, and drive a strategy that accelerates refugee integration and success in their new home.”

When a refugee newcomer wants to start a business in Canada, the list of obstacles to overcome can often feel daunting

These business owners might have run businesses in the home countries they left, but when they came to Canada, they may have lost access to important markets and customers.

“I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to settle into a new country where you may not know your way around ... there might also be a fear of failure," says Cheryl Cryer, Head of Responsible Sourcing and Supplier Diversity, Strategic Sourcing Group, at TD Bank Group.

A TD-sponsored certification program for businesses owned by entrepreneurs who recently came to Canada as refugees aims to give them better access to the business market.

The Refugee Entrepreneur Supplier Diversity Certification Program, is a business arrangement between the Tent Partnerships for Refugees and the Canadian Aboriginal and Minority Supplier Council (CAMSC), to help connect refugee-owned business with more than 150 corporate and government members in CAMSC’s database.

These members spend more than $1B annually on procurement.

“Certification gives refugee-owned businesses the opportunity to meet with corporate and government buyers, as well as other diverse-owned businesses, to help build that network back up and create opportunities,” Cryer says.

To help encourage an inclusive supply chain and remove financial barriers, the Bank is covering the certification fees for refugee-owned, for-profit businesses until Oct. 31, 2025.

Entrepreneurs who get certified through the program receive access to mentoring and training that can help them learn how to negotiate contracts, respond to requests for proposals and effectively market their businesses.

One of the first entrepreneurs to sign up for the program was Tareq Hadhad, the CEO of Peace by Chocolate.

Displaced by the conflict in Syria, Hadhad and his family came to Canada via Lebanon, where they initially fled as refugees. In Syria, Hadhad and his family were chocolate-makers, with customers all over the Middle East and Europe. But their factory was destroyed during the war.

They rebuilt their business in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, in 2016. Stores across Canada now carry their chocolate.

“Any organization can support refugees. Canada is a country built on the passions of people building a bright future for themselves and their communities,” Hadhad said in an interview with TD in 2022.

Ultimately, refugee entrepreneurs bring unique skills to their businesses and help Canada create a more diverse, equitable supply chain, Cryer says.

“Overall, it makes our communities better and enables all of us to thrive,” she says.

For more information on the program, please visit

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