RBC moves annual general meeting (AGM) to Saskatoon, met with powerful movement demanding bank stop bankrolling Indigenous rights-violations, divest from fossil-fueled climate chaos.
SASKATOON, SK, April 5, 2023 /CNW/ — Indigenous lands of the Ĩyãħé Nakón mąkóce (Stoney), Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, Niitsítpiis-stahkoii, ᖹᐟᒧᐧᐨᑯᐧ ᓴᐦᖾᐟ (Blackfoot / Niitsítapi ᖹᐟᒧᐧᒣᑯ), Michif Piyii (Métis), and Cree Peoples, Treaty 6 territory (so-called Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada) – RBC proved it has no interest in reconciliation, furthering corporate colonialism in how the bank treated the Indigenous delegation who arrived at the bank’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in Saskatoon this morning as hundreds of Indigenous water protectors, young people, and allies rallied outside. RBC’s AGM comes exactly one week after a large force of RCMP C-IRG raided a Gidimt’en village site, and arrested five land and water defenders, mostly Indigenous women.
“CEO Dave McKay is personally responsible for the abuse Indigenous peoples received from RBC. This shows how Canada’s biggest bank has no interest in reconciliation or our human rights by implementing a two-tier rights system in separating Indigenous representatives from the main room,” said Chief Na’Moks, Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief. “RBC is funding corporate colonialism, and displacing Indigenous peoples from our lands at gunpoint for fracked gas pipelines we cannot afford now or in the future. When BC and Canada claim we are committing ‘civil disobedience,’ the truth is we are being Civilly Obedient to our Traditional laws of protecting clean waters, lands and air. As much as RBC, Canada, and British Columbia try to extinguish our rights and title, we will remain the authority on our land.”
Inside the AGM, a majority of the Indigenous delegation including Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership, Wet’suwet’en elders and youth representatives, and Gulf South representatives were barred from entering the AGM’s main room – despite having proper proxies, and threatening their arrest. An Ivey Business School student on behalf of youth-led Banking on a Better Future, as well as West Coast Environmental Law (WCEL) representatives were also barred from entering the main room to offer testimony.
The bank opted to apply a reserve system to its AGM, forcing Indigenous delegates into a second class room, with a colour coded pass.
RBC’s decision is further confirmation of the bank’s commitment to corporate colonialism. RBC is the primary financier of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which lacks consent from Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership, the rightful titleholders of the land.
Outside the shareholder meeting, hundreds of people rallied to urge RBC to stop greenwashing, respect Indigenous sovereignty, and phase out fossil fuel financing. There was drumming, music and statements from local groups, Indigenous delegates from across North America.
Nearly one in three shareholders supported a resolution for Indigenous Free, Prior, and Informed, Consent. While RBC executives recommended rejecting all shareholder resolutions introduced on climate action and Indigenous rights in its proxy book, these resolutions received record and growing support, including preliminary results that did not vote with management (yes and abstentions):
- 28% — representing about CAD$25 billion: Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), introduced a resolution for Free, Prior and Informed Consent;
- 11% — representing about CAD$10 billion: Stand.earth introduced a resolution for no financing for fossil fuel expansion;
- 22% — representing about CAD$22 billion: The New York City Comptroller, manager of the USD$242 billion pension funds, filed a resolution for 2030 absolute emissions reduction targets for oil, gas and utility clients.
Just this week, reports revealed that RBC helped arrange US$5.4B of ‘sustainability-linked’ financing for a coal mine operator in Germany, and traditional owners lodged human rights complaints against 12 banks – including RBC – for involvement in a $4.7 billion gas project in Australia.
This is part of a rising global trend of shareholder resolutions for Indigenous Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC) and climate action. As the shareholder meeting wrapped up, the crowd unfurled banners demanding RBC defund fossil fuels and stop violating Indigenous rights, including one with names of over 40,000 people who took action through petitions, made calls to RBC executives, and more.
“From its AGM to the Yintah, RBC’s financing of projects like the Coastal GasLink pipeline have facilitated armed raids on Wet’suwet’en territory that attack and harm Indigenous women and land defenders. In fact, the RCMP even had a civil address that is under my name. RBC can’t claim to take reconciliation seriously while funding violence against Indigenous women and land defenders on our own territories,” said Auntie Janet, Wet’suwet’en matriarch. “RBC’s funding of fossil fuel projects like Coastal GasLink, endangering our community and Wedzin Kwa, and the subsequent man camps that are built to construct these projects are the reason that we have an epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and children on our lands. We wore red to RBC’s AGM to bring the memories of our loved ones and violence experienced straight to RBC’s executives”
Today’s events come on the heels of cross-country protests on Saturday, April 1 – dubbed RBC Fossil Fool’s Day – thousands of people at over 35 actions rallied at RBC branches in cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Toronto, Montréal, Moncton, Halifax, and more.
“There is absolutely no excuse for the continued brutal violation of Indigenous rights, on the Yintah in Wet’suwet’en territory or anywhere else. Any process which claims to uphold our rights but forces through pipelines at gunpoint makes a cruel mockery of the standard of free, prior, and informed consent,” said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip with the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). “If RBC took our rights seriously there would not be raids happening to clear people from their own land for a project that they finance just days before holding their AGM. This disregard for the rights of Indigenous peoples is unacceptable and must end.”
On Tuesday, Indigenous communities from coast-to-coast held a gathering and feast in so-called Saskatoon to build relationships following last summer’s Strengthening Our Sovereignty tour. The feast was followed by a panel titled “Who is financing the destruction of our lands?,” featuring Wet’suwet’en delegates alongside water and land protectors fighting RBC-financed fossil fuel projects around the world, including the Coastal GasLink and Trans Mountain (TMX) pipelines, Enbridge’s Line 3, LNG in the Gulf of Mexico, and tar sands.
Despite net-zero commitments and public rhetoric, RBC continues to finance fossil fuel expansion, including bankrolling dangerous projects that attack Indigenous sovereignty, like the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline without consent from Wet’suwet’en Hereditary leadership.
“The skyrocketing costs of this unnecessary pipeline, and RBC’s bankrolling of RCMP, are falling on everyday people across so-called Canada. Not only does Coastal GasLink endanger pristine Wedzin Kwa, the pipeline is not — and was never — economically viable,” said Eve Saint, Wet’suwet’en land defender, Gidimt’en Checkpoint Finance Campaigner. “Extraction projects like Coastal GasLink bring grave injustices against Indigenous Peoples, including attempts to take away our rights to move freely on our lands and harassment by RCMP and industry. We’re here to send a clear message for RBC to stop using public money to finance police violence and Indigenous rights violations.”
RBC is currently under investigation by the Competition Bureau of Canada for allegedly misleading consumers with climate-related advertising while continuing to increase financing for coal, oil and gas.
As reported in The Canadian Press, the Royal Bank of Canada financed over CAD $10.8 billion of companies involved in fossil fuel expansion 2022 alone, a 45% increase over 2021 levels. This directly contradicts international climate agreements and RBC’s own public pledges.
“RBC talks about youth empowerment, but in reality RBC is robbing youth of our future. RBC claims it helps kids, yet it is actively financing the destruction of our future through fossil fuel financing and devastation of my land as a Wet’suwet’en youth,” said Shaylee Holland, Wet’suwet’en youth. “We are the ones who will have to live with the impacts of climate change and pollution from projects like Coastal GasLink. This is hypocritical and morally wrong.”
The new IPCC report recently released underscored that we cannot afford any fossil fuel expansion, and must divest from coal, oil and gas now. This comes ahead of the expected release of the 2023 Banking on Climate Chaos report on April 13.
Chief Na’Moks reflects on the words of the late Chief Madeek: “The province of British Columbia and the federal government, they talk about reconciliation. They talk about reconciliation and they undermine their own words by trying to shove pipelines down our throat, or industry down our throat, and it’s just not the way we do business. There will be no pipeline to enter Wet’suwet’en territory.”
Maya Menezes, Senior Climate Finance Organizer, Stand.earth, said: “RBC is putting its proverbial head in the sand and doubling down on fossil fuel expansion, violating Indigenous sovereignty, and enabling climate chaos like fires and floods. If the latest IPCC report is humanity’s survival guide, RBC’s greenwashing is a destruction guide. It’s time for RBC to divest from Coastal GasLink and fossil fuels, and reinvest in climate-safe solutions.”
Vanessa Gray, Divestment Campaign Coordinator, Indigenous Climate Action, said “Major Canadian banks such as RBC are the top investors of fossil fuel projects that continue to violate Indigenous rights. Our sovereignty and traditions have not only proven to be a material risk for companies and their investors, but the threat to our ways of life is also a climate risk for us all. Indigenous rights have the capacity to actually stop projects. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) recognises Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) is the right for Indigenous people to give or withhold consent to a project that may affect them or their territories.”
Roishetta Ozane, Executive Director of The Vessel Project and The Gulf Fossil Finance Coordinator for Texas Campaign for The Environment, said: “It’s time for big banks like RBC to stop funding environmental racism. In the last several years, the US has become the world’s largest exporter of methane gas. In the Lake Charles area where roughly half of the residents are Black, we are literally fighting for our lives on the frontlines of the climate crisis, yet banks like Royal Bank of Canada continue to fund fossil fuel projects. Enough is enough.”
Dani Michie, Digital Campaigner, Banking on a Better Future, said: “RBC relies on students and young people as a key customer demographic and young talent that can be funneled into the banks’ workforce. They try to sell us an image of sustainability through greenwashing efforts, but we’re not buying it. RBC is actively destroying our future by continuing to fund fossil fuel expansion, which fuels the climate crisis. The bank continues to disregard our collective future and perpetuates ongoing violations of Indigenous rights. Young people across the country are demanding RBC divest and respect human rights.”
Gabrielle Willms, Organizer, For Our Kids, said: “RBC claims to be taking action on climate and supporting reconciliation, but their actions tell a different story. As the biggest funder of fossil fuel expansion and projects like Coastal Gaslink that violate Indigenous rights, RBC has shown they value shareholder profits over a safe, equitable future for all of us. Parents and families across the country are taking notice and demanding better – we won’t be fooled by RBC’s greenwashing, and we won’t sit back and watch while RBC violates human rights and puts kids and future generations at risk for their bottom line.”
Laura Ullmann, Head of Climate, Greenpeace Canada, said: “RBC is literally the Oil Bank of Canada. They make a lot of nice sounding promises on Indigenous rights and climate action, but telling investors to vote against Indigenous sovereignty and climate action motions reveals their true intentions. What’s more, they’re the biggest funders of fossil fuels here and fifth globally. Around the world, banks have taken notice of the rising resistance to their bankrolling of destruction. RBC should follow their lead and put its money where its mouth is.”