RBC AGM Tar Sands Protest
Over 170 people gathered outside the Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting on March 3rd to protest the bank’s leading role in funding the Alberta tar sands. People concerned with the impact of tar sands projects on First Nations, water quality and the climate came from all over the country to tell RBC to “stop bankrolling the tar sands.”
Inside the shareholder meeting, 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.
Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake First Nation, Vice Chief Terry Teegee or the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation, and Gitz Crazyboy of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights.
“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.”
“I pleaded with the board of directors,” said Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation about his experience inside the RBC shareholder meeting, “I pleaded with the president, with the CEO and the shareholders to seriously consider looking at exactly what the RBC is doing. And it’s an important message; pay attention to what’s happening with the investments and the lending circles that are created from the RBC – it’s destroying our planet! It’s destroying our planet’s ability to sustain us as human beings. And it will continue to do that. I fear that, if we continue allowing banks like RBC to continue what they’re doing, climate change is going to reach its tipping-point, if it hasn’t already.”
“We completely oppose the entire scope of the whole dig-up project,” said Hereditary Chief Warner Naziel of the Wet’suwe’ten First Nation, “we’re not just opposed to the tar sands, we’re opposed to the proposed tanker traffic on the coast, we’re opposed to pipelines, and we’re opposed to the proposed CN transportation of dirty oil from the tar sands to the coast of BC.”
“People in my community are getting sick, people are dying,” said Gitz Crazyboy from the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, “we can’t drink the water, we used to about 10-15 years ago right out of the Athabasca River, no body wants to do that anymore … too many people are dying.”
“People in my community are getting pissed off,” continued Gitz Crazyboy, “we’re getting tired, we’re getting angry, we’re losing faith in the world around us. All of you people here have a responsibility as Canadian citizens, as human beings even, to try to help us out, for our voice to be heard, we haven’t been heard in the last 400 years!”
According to Bloomberg, since 2007, RBC has backed $16.9 billion in loans to companies operating in the tar sands and has earned more than $132 million in underwriting fees. As a result, RBC has enabled the production of the world’s dirtiest oil.
Oil extraction from the tar sands generates three times the CO2 emissions as conventionally extracted oil, and will soon make Canada the biggest contributer to global warming.
Mining oil from tar sands requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting clean water with so much poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space.
The health impacts to Alberta’s First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency. In addition, communities living near oil refineries face increased air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil.
For more information on RBC and the tar sands, visit: Rainforest Action Network Toronto
Video of the protest coming soon…