Financial services companies have announced donations to help British Columbians impacted by the wildfires currently raging in the province.

BMO Financial Group, CIBC, TD Bank, Scotiabank and RBC have all announced that they are donating $50,000 each to the Canadian Red Cross BC Fires Appeal. They are also accepting donations at their branches to support the appeal.

Financial relief

Banks have also indicated they will provide financial relief for those directly impacted by the fires if needed. For example, CIBC says it will look at ways to offer support, including:

  • Special payment arrangements on mortgages, loans and credit card bills
  • Re-amortizing of mortgages (to result in lower payments)
  • Reversing service fees and non-CIBC ATM withdrawal fees
  • Providing access to funds in term deposits, GICs
  • Customized accommodations for commercial clients

HSBC has pledged a $100,000 donation to the Canadian Red Cross. It is also accepting customer donations for the Canadian Red Cross at all HSBC branches.

"In addition to our support for the Canadian Red Cross, we are focussed on ensuring our employees are safe and working with impacted customers to meet their financial services needs in the days and months to come," said Sandra Stuart, President and Chief Executive Officer, HSBC Bank Canada.

Sun Life donates $25,000

Sun Life Financial announced that it will donate $25,000 to the Canadian Red Cross. The contribution will come from the Sun Life Financial International Response Fund at the Canadian Red Cross, which enables support to be deployed rapidly to areas in need.

"Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the wildfires in British Columbia, in addition to the volunteers on the ground providing immediate relief," said Kevin Dougherty, President, Sun Life Financial Canada. "By working with the Red Cross we hope to help our impacted communities, families and friends recover from this tragedy."

Great-West Life and iA Financial Group have also announced that they are making donations of $25,000 to the Canadian Red Cross.

"The thoughts of all of our employees are with those who are affected by these devastating fires. As partners in our communities and as Canadians, we are compelled to do what we can to help those in need," said Stefan Kristjanson, President and Chief Operating Officer for Great-West Life.

Increasing flexibility

Manulife announced measures to support its customers and communities affected by wildfires in British Columbia. “Along with donating $25,000 to the Canadian Red Cross and matching up to $10,000 for employee donations, Manulife will be increasing flexibility for affected customers,” announced the insurer.

Manulife Bank will help its affected customers by allowing them to defer loan and mortgage payments for a period of time. “If needed, customers can access money invested in a Guaranteed Interest Certificate (GIC) without being charged an early-redemption penalty,” says the announcement. For RRSP accounts, however, it should be noted that a withholding tax may be applied.

Delayed payments on benefit premiums

Manulife Group Benefits plan sponsors may be eligible for delayed payments on benefit premiums and plan members may have refill prescriptions replaced or processed early. Manulife Group Retirement customers in affected areas can make phone withdrawal requests and the withdrawal fees will be waived, where permitted by the plan and legislation allows. Manulife Insurance, Manulife Investments and Manulife Securities customers will receive assistance with expedited access to funds or an extension of payment terms.

Grants to help with immediate needs

Foresters Financial has announced that it is offering assistance to its members impacted by the wildfires. “Eligible members living in the affected area who are experiencing significant personal hardship as a result of the wildfires can receive grants to help with immediate needs. Disaster relief is one payment per household,” stated the company in an announcement.

Foresters may also provide premium relief to members in affected areas who are facing serious financial challenges. Members experiencing such hardship are encouraged to contact the company “to investigate alternative payment arrangements and explore various forms of relief that may best suit their needs.” Members impacted by the wildfires will be given priority handling for loans or withdrawals and Foresters has temporarily amended its processing to handle death claims, “as members may have difficulty obtaining documentation in the disaster areas.” Foresters will accept a copy of the obituary, rather than the death certificate for claim amounts up to $50,000.

“At Foresters, we are deeply saddened by this terrible disaster that has affected so many families in British Columbia,” said Tony Garcia, President and CEO, Foresters Financial. “We sincerely hope that our support of the Canadian Red Cross relief efforts will help families through this difficult time and eventually support them in rebuilding their lives and their community.”

Foresters is also donating $50,000 to the Canadian Red Cross to help families affected by the wildfires.