Earlier in the week I blogged about how British banks were under fire for their investment in the tar sands.
But they are not the only ones. There are also home-grown banks investing in the destruction of their own country.
Yesterday, over 170 people rallied outside of the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) Annual General Shareholder meeting in Toronto.
The crowd, made up school children, bank customers and protesters, shouted slogans such as “Cultural Genocide: who do we thank? Dirty investments from Royal Bank!”
Inside, First Nations Chiefs and community representatives from four different Nations demanded that the bank phase out its investment of the tar sands.
“Shareholders are contributing to the ecological disaster of Canada’s natural resources,” said Vice Chief Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of British Columbia.
Ryan Derange, known as Gitz Crazyboy, of the Athabasca First Nations, called the environmental impact from the tar sands an “environmental holocaust.”
He then invited RBC’s CEO Gord Nixon to visit his community to witness the devastation. Nixon tried to defend the bank’s lending policies, arguing that only 2 per cent of the C$300 billion globally are loans to the oil and gas sector. Of this only a “small share” is lent to companies operating in the oil sands.
“We’re a bank, not an oil company, not a government, and we’re not even a leading lender to oil companies,” Nixon said. “We’re not siding with the oil companies, and we believe development has to be done in a responsible way.”
However 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 – more than any other bank.
Brant Olson of the Rainforest Action Network, one of the organisers of the protest said: “RBC has a decision to make. They can continue to align themselves with the tar sands, a project that is single-handedly compromising the climate, drinking water and the health of First Nations. Or they can lead Canada’s economy toward clean energy and socially responsible development.”
Afterward, Indigenous leaders led the crowd in a march to rally outside the bank’s headquarters.
How Nixon can call what is happening in Alberta “responsible” is beyond me.
He needs to visit the tar sands for himself.