More than 150 People Call on RBC to End Tar Sands Financing at Shareholder Meeting

For Immediate Release

More than 150 People Call on RBC to End Tar Sands Financing at Shareholder Meeting

Protestors call on top tar sands financier to protect Indigenous rights and climate

TORONTO - More than 150 people gathered outside the RBC Annual General
Shareholder Meeting today to protest the bank’s leading role in funding
the contentious Alberta tar sands. People concerned with the impact of
tar sands projects on First Nations, water quality and the climate came
from every corner of Canada to ensure that the bank heard the message:
‘stop bankrolling the tar sands.’

Outside the shareholder
meeting school children, bank customers of every age, First Nations
community representatives and leading environmental groups rallied with
brightly colored signs and chants. Inside the shareholder meeting,
Chief Al Lameman of Beaver Lake Cree Nation of Alberta, Vice Chief
Terry Teegee of the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council of BC, and Hereditary
Chief Toghestiy (Warner Naziel) of the Wet'suwe'ten First Nation of BC
addressed RBC CEO Gordon Nixon directly about the way tar sands
extraction projects have jeopardized their health and their rights.

 “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,” said Brant Olson of
the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), which has been running a campaign
to clean up RBC since its shareholder meeting last year. “Or they can
lead Canada’s economy toward clean energy and socially responsible
development.”

RBC is clearly feeling the public pressure over
their tar sands financing. 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.”

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.

"It is unacceptable
that RBC is a major financier of the Alberta tar sands, one of the most
environmentally destructive projects in the world," said Maryam
Adrangi, a member of Rainforest Action Network Toronto and a lead
organizer of today’s rally. “We will not stop until RBC adopts a
socially responsible banking policy that includes respect for
Indigenous rights and the phasing out financing for dirty fossil fuels
like the tar sands.”

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
contributor to global warming.

Mining oil from tar sands
requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting
so much clean water with 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.

The
Rainforest Action Network campaign to Clean Up RBC has been demanding
that RBC take responsibility for its lending in the tar sands by
meeting basic standards set by other leading banks on Indigenous
rights, water and habitat impacts, and climate change.

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For more information on RBC and the tar sands, visit: http://understory.ran.org/tag/rbc/

To
see how RBC stacks up to other banks on financing in the tar sands see:
http://understory.ran.org/2010/01/31/banks-ranked-and-spanked-on-tar-sands/

 

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Rainforest Action Network (RAN) is headquarted in San Francisco, California with offices staff in Tokyo, Japan, and Edmonton, Canada, plus thousands of volunteer scientists, teachers, parents, students and other concerned citizens around the world. We believe that a sustainable world can be created in our lifetime, and that aggressive action must be taken immediately to leave a safe and secure world for our children.  

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