Indigenous And Hundreds More Challenge RBC On Tar Sands

Written by joshua kahn russell

Topics: Oil

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Today more than 170 people rallied outside of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) Annual General Shareholder meeting (AGM) in Toronto after a series of creative non-violent actions all morning. Inside, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded RBC phase out of its Tar Sands financing and to recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities. Afterward, Indigenous leaders lead the crowd in a march to rally outside both RBC Headquarters buildings.

Other cities across Canada supported the First Nations voices inside the AGM as well with solidarity actions from (click on a city for pictures) London, Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton, Victoria and more. Check out photos from those and our events in Toronto.

And see some preliminary media coverage from the Wall Street Journal and Yahoo.

See beautiful photos from Allan Lissner here.

Since 2007 RBC has backed more than $16.7 billion (USD) in loans to companies operating in the tar sands—more than any other bank. Called, ‘the most destructive project on Earth,’ Alberta’s tar sands projects will eventually transform a Boreal forest the size of England into an industrial sacrifice zone complete with lakes full of toxic waste and man-made volcanoes spewing out clouds of global warming emissions.

Outside the shareholder meeting school children, bank customers of every age, First Nations community representatives joined Rainforest Action Network, Indigenous Environmental Network, No One Is Illegal, and Council of Canadians made their outrage at RBC’s investments heard – to the thumping beats of street Samba band, the crowd shouted “Cultural Genocide: who do we thank? Dirty investments from Royal Bank!

Inside the shareholder meeting, Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Alberta,Vice Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of BC, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation of BC, and Gitz Crazyboy of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights.

Downstream communities have experienced polluted water, water reductions in rivers and aquifers, declines in wildlife populations such as moose and muskrat, and significant declines in fish populations. Tar sands has all but destroyed the traditional livelihood of First Nations in the northern Athabasca watershed.

RBC is clearly feeling the public pressure over their tar sands financing. They spent half their shareholder meeting addressing the issue. Recently, the bank convened a high-level meeting with more than a dozen international banks for a “day of learning” about the reputational risks associated with the tar sands. In addition, according to information the bank provided to RAN during a February meeting in San Francisco, RBC is currently evaluating new lending criteria that would apply to the oil and gas sector, in particular to the tar sands. However, the bank has been reticent to include Free, Prior and Informed Consent in its policy, which would ensure that First Nations communities are respected in lending practices.

“RBC’s significant financial relationship with companies pursuing tar sands development activities within our traditional territory and without consent warrants close attention,” said Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation. “RBC should update their policies to include a recognition of Free, Prior and Informed consent for Indigenous communities; this globally recognized concept was adopted by TD Bank Financial Group in 2007 and is endorsed by Indigenous communities across the political spectrum.”

activists disrupt the RBC shareholder meeting inside

Internationally, tar sands financing is gaining tremendous negative attention. An increasingly vocal group of shareholders and environmentalists turned last month’s BP, Shell and Royal Bank of Scotland annual meetings into a referendum on the oil extraction projects.

Today’s marches, rallies, and actions were a triumphant roar of grassroots power from across the spectrum. The day concluded with an apt chant to RBC Headquarters, foreshadowing the growing flame of tar sands resistance across Canada, “Native communities under attack! We won’t stop until you act!”

9 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. T. B. says:

    Activists from London, Ontario and Lindsay, Ontario came out to join the March 3rd protesting in Toronto. I was there with a delegation from London, Ontario.

    Two of the three activists who went in to disrupt the shareholder meeting were there from London. The photos and video at that action also were taken by two others (including me) who had come out from London.

    The action in the shareholder AGM space started around a corner, at the bottom of the escalator. The activists were shoved and otherwise brought over to the escalator; and there were chanting and yelling, all along.

  2. Notsoaccurate says:

    There was no AGM disruption. Your ‘activists’ weren’t within 150 feet of the room the AGM was in, and they did this after the meeting wass over. The gathering of appproximately 100 protesters took place 2 hours after the meeting was over. Your message would have greater credibility if you actually reported facts as opposed to exaggerating what actually happpens. We see actions against the lenders but not the companies doing the extraction? Isn’t that like blaming the passenger in a cab for the driver running a red light, just because they paid the cabbie?

  3. Marie Lloyd says:

    I went solo at 2:00 P.M. on March 3 in Kingston, Ontario ,in front of the local main RBC branch with a sign that read: ROYAL BANK CUSTOMER? YOU DESERVE TO KNOW, and three info fliers. I met an Ojibway guy, a Cree guy who gave me a big hug, and several sympathetic passersby!! A great day, one of my best on earth.

  4. T. B. says:

    The alias of “Notsoaccurate” is fitting.

    I’ll correct part of what they had said -
    In Toronto, the activists unfurled a banner and chanted directly in front of the AGM room doors, inside the Convention Centre.
    I’ve already described what happened after that.

  5. Hi Notsoaccurate,

    To build on what Toben said above in regards to the disruption – actually we did a count of over 170 people in attendance at the rally. We’re happy to verify this with sign-in sheets if you like. You’re right that the rally happened about 2 hours after the meeting ended. It was unfortunate timing; last year the meeting went about that late, and were going off that. Luckily, the decision to march to both headquarters meant that we were directly on the radar of even more RBC employees. And yes, targeting financing is a legitimate strategy that fits in with a host of other strategies that groups are employing, including point-source struggles against extraction. We see ourselves as one part of a larger movement that is engaging in a number of creative ways. And no, your taxi metaphor does not add up, since the passenger isnt paying the cabbie to intentionally do the job of running red lights as a business model. Its more like paying an assassin to murder someone. Just because you didnt pull the trigger yourself doesnt mean you arent held accountable.

  6. beaver video says:

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  7. Taxpayer says:

    Start fighting for your lives because that’s exactly what your fighting for!
    Take a good look at the root of the problem.

    Ultimate Insider Trading …

    The Queen appears to have substantial investments in Rio Tinto,
    the BIGGEST mining company in the world.
    RBC – TARSANDS. BP – WORLDS WORST OIL DISASTER!

    SAVE THE WALES! Agencies like Prince Philip’s WWF and other Brotherhood organizations such as the
    International Union for the Conservation of Nature,
    the UN Food and Agriculture Organization,
    and the UN Development Programme.

    “Imagine the power you have to control events when you control all these companies and the governments making decisions affecting those companies. Add to that the control of the media via organizations like the BBC, the Reuters news agency, Hollinger Inc., Thomson, News Corporation, Pearson, Reed Elsevier, The Washington Post,
    New York Times, NBC, CBS, ABC, etc, etc… and you control the world.

    More than that, the people don’t know this is happening and
    therefore you can continue indefinitely without challenge or exposure.”

    Also the biggest slumlord in NYC.
    And MUCH More…

    If you have ever wondered why
    injustice, environmental disasters, & poverty
    still happen in the year 2010, this is one damn good reason.

  8. Daeran Gall says:

    Saskatchewan is at a cross-roads. There are serious risks and impacts associated with oil sands development

    Saskatchewan is already being affected by oil sands development in Alberta. Up to 70% of the sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted by the Alberta oil sands are deposited over Saskatchewan. These pollutants contribute to acid rain, which places northern Saskatchewan’s lakes and forests at risk.

    IF oil sands development is sought by the people of Saskatchewan, we need to know what it that we are getting into

    There is a plan to use nuclear energy to product the steam needed.

    http://daerangall.ca/2011/11/04/tar-sands-plume-from-alberta-falls-on-saskatchewan-lakes/

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