So I really like the Winter Olympics – they really put the Summer Olympics to shame. Hockey, luge, figure skating, bobsledding, downhill skiing… and even that sport that combines cross-country skiing and target shooting! (Whose idea was that??)
But this year, a wide variety of activists, in B.C. and beyond, are reminding us that the 2010 Vancouver Olympics aren’t all fun and games. In fact, they’re resulting in huge developments on unceded First Nations land, massive spending on hyper-militarized security, and displacement of poor people and increased homelessness in Vancouver.
And, of course, it’s an opportunity for some good ol’-fashioned corporate PR. Companies from around the world with gruesome environmental and human rights track records – like Dow, Coca-Cola, and General Electric – are lining up to spend millions on funding the Olympics and sprucing up their tarnished images.
And the lead sponsor of the Olympic torch run: Royal Bank of Canada, the ATM for the Alberta tar sands. In fact, their website for the torch run calls on people across Canada to “make a pledge” to “make a better Canada,” and touts RBC’s “Blue Water Pledge” to “support watershed protection” – a little bit hypocritical, given that RBC has pledged $3.8 billion in financing to tar sands companies in the last six months alone.
So a group of folks in Vancouver decided to call RBC on their greenwashing. They issued a callout last week – endorsed by RAN - calling for protests at RBC branches across Canada every Friday at noon, to protest RBC’s attempts to use their Olympic funding to greenwash their role as the world’s biggest financier of the tar sands.
This past Friday – on incredibly short notice – protestors in Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton took their message to their local RBC branches.
In Toronto, the ever-amazing RAN Toronto set up a tar sands cafe: they served up delicious tar sands tailing ponds “tea” to customers and passers-by outside RBC’s Yonge St. branch. They also went inside and offered “tea” to the branch employees, who politely declined.
In Vancouver, a group of concerned people went to RBC’s Vancouver headquarters, and passed out a brand-new flyer about RBC’s role in funding the Olympics and destroying the tar sands. (You can download the flyer here.)
And our reports indicate that there was a protest at an RBC branch in Edmonton, too! (Of course, the coolest part about decentralized days of action like this is that it’s entirely possible that actions happened that we didn’t even know about.)
This was a great start to the campaign – three protests across Canada, only three days after the callout was issued! But this is only the beginning – after all, if RBC is raking in millions in profits from its financing of tar sands companies, then we’re going to have to make a lot of noise before they start to listen.
So email 2010corporatecampaign [at] gmail.com to find out if there’s a protest happening soon near you – and if there isn’t, you can go ahead and organize one! (And it doesn’t have to be on a Friday at noon, either – and if you’d like help organizing a protest, you can email us at answers [at] ran.org.)
RBC: MAKE A PLEDGE: STOP FUNDING THE TAR SANDS!