Indigenous Climate Action Rejects $150,000 Award From Aviva Canada Due To Moral Conflict With Aviva Investments

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Indigenous Climate Action Rejects $150,000 Award From Aviva Canada Due To Moral Conflict With Aviva Investments

WASHINGTON - Early last week Indigenous Climate Action (ICA), an Indigenous-led climate justice project, received news they had won the Aviva Canada Community Legacy Award - a $150,000 award through the Aviva Community Fund competition. However, in a major turn of events, ICA made an unconventional decision to reject the award and cash prize because of a ‘direct contradiction’ between Aviva’s financial relationship with oil and gas projects and ICA’s vision, mission, and values.

Shortly after receiving news they were winners in the competition, ICA received information that Aviva plc, Aviva Canada’s parent company, held major passive investments (over half a billion  USD) in corporations operating in Alberta’s tar sands, including: Teck Resource Ltd (Frontier Open pit mine), Encana, Exxon, Imperial, Suncor, Chevron, Cenovus, Kinder Morgan (TransMountain pipeline), TransCanada (Keystone XL pipeline); and Enbridge (Line 3 pipeline)1. These investments, according to ICA, are in direct contradiction with their organizational mandate.

“We cannot in good conscience accept an award from a corporation that is financially associated with fossil fuel energy projects that violate the rights of Indigenous peoples and contribute to global climate change. Our organization is working to support Indigenous rights and address the climate crisis while Aviva is investing in corporations proposing or operating tar sands projects that threaten water, land, the climate and Indigenous rights,” stated Eriel Deranger, Executive Director of Indigenous Climate Action.

Aviva Canada and Aviva plc responded to ICA’s rejection of the award with openness and a willingness to begin discussion on divestment and how to move away from corporate investments in the tar sands. Aviva has already created the AVIVA: An Insurance Company’s Response To Climate Change(2016) and is a part of a move by the global insurance sector toward divesting from fossil fuels.

“There are other insurance companies who are taking the climate risk seriously, such as Swiss Re who recently have limited their underwriting of shale gas, tar sands and Arctic drilling projects. We want to see a major commitment from Aviva to climate action alongside their community fund and scientific research and a broader commitment to finding the mechanisms to divest from tar sands pipelines and projects. We need Aviva to look seriously into their investment in projects that are violating the rights of Indigenous Peoples, furthering the expansion of the Alberta tar sands infrastructure and pipelines which pose a major threat to the stability of the global climate,” stated Suzanne Dhaliwal, Director of the UK Tar Sands Network.

ICA and many Indigenous communities don’t feel there has been true progress to ensure the inclusion and protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples in the climate and divestment discourse, resulting in continued violations of Indigenous rights.

“Aviva invests in projects that are in violation of international human rights and Indigenous rights standards. Right now my people’s traditional food source, the wild sockeye salmon and our very survival is being threatened by the Trans Mountain project, while communities at the source have already faced decades of contamination and devastation.  Aviva needs to ensure they are on the right side of history and to do that, they must divest from projects that violate our rights and threaten our survival,” states Kanahus Manuel, a Secwepemc and Ktunaxa women at the helm of the Tiny House Warrior project - building tiny homes in the path of the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline. 

“As a member of a community actively challenging tar sands expansion, I was shocked to learn Aviva invests in Teck Resources. Teck owns Frontier Mine — one of the largest proposed open pit tar sands mine just 16km from the boundary of a settlement near my community. I hope Aviva will take this opportunity to understand why these corporations should not be included in their investment portfolio,” added Deranger.

ICA hopes their rejection of the prize will move Aviva step up and show real leadership to adopt policies that result in substantive change. This moment could move Aviva, and the divestment conversation, forward to recognize Indigenous rights and cease all underwriting of tar sands corporations and full divestment from fossil fuels.

1 This is reflected in Aviva’s 13F disclosure filed with the Security and Exchange Commission on November 13, 2017 https://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1140022/000114002217000021/xslForm13F_X01/Smart13F_FINAL2.xml

2 Swiss and French re/insurers doing most to avoid coal underwriting, November 15, 2017 Environmental Finance http://bit.ly/2jX8ica

Quotes from Indigenous communities and allies:

“Kinder Morgan’s projects pose unacceptable risks to Tselil-Waututh's culture, spirituality, economy and identity and denied us of our Free Prior and Informed Consent. We are working hard to restore Burrard Inlet and tar sands threatens this important work. We applaud and support ICA's principled decision to reject this award. No amount of money can buy our consent or is worth damaging our waters, lands and people, because our spiritual reciprocal relationship with our lands and waters is unbreakable. We call on Aviva and any other investor of Kinder Morgan to divest from these projects and invest in our future.” -- Rueben George, of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative.

“Our organization is actively fighting TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline from crossing indigenous territories. We do this not only to protect the lands along the route but in solidarity with those struggling to protect their lands in the Tar Sands region. This fight includes divesting from TransCanada and all other fossil fuel development. We must continue to hold the line, physically and economically, against these corporations who wish to assault our Mother Earth for the benefit of the extreme energy regime. Divestment is key. Divestment is needed. We must hold the line.” -- Dallas Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“My community has been challenging the Enbridge Line 3 pipeline, working to protect our water and rights while corporation like Aviva continue to profit off projects that wreak havoc on Indigenous peoples. Corporate greenwashing in an era of extreme destruction and greed is shameful. Canada's petro dollar plan is a shaky one, in the least, and it is time to move on. The Indigenous leaders of our time call for a higher standard. If Aviva wants to support ways to combat climate change and support Indigenous communities they need to divest from all dirty fossil fuels now.” -- Winona LaDuke, Honour the Earth

“Aviva PLC should not be invested in profiting off the climate crisis nor off of indigenous rights violations, many insurance companies are institutional shareholders of many of the world's oil majors. Whats disturbing about Aviva and the circumstances with Indigenous Climate Action being selected for their award, is that their parent company Aviva PLC is invested in most of the major oil extraction and energy transport companies involved in Canada’s controversial tar sands development. This questionable list include Houston based pipeline company, Kinder Morgan and Canadian based mining company, Teck Frontier. Both of these companies and their proposed projects are strongly opposed by Canadian based First Nations in the courts, on the streets and out on the land.” -- Clayton Thomas-Muller, 350.org

"Aviva is guilty of fueling the climate crisis and Indigenous rights abuses by investing in some of the most climate-deadly corporations of our time. To profit from investment in tar sands extraction and pipelines, then turn around and donate funds to Indigenous Climate Action is a gross example of greenwashing, and it won’t be tolerated. We applaud Indigenous Climate Action for taking this bold step to challenge Aviva’s integrity, and challenge Aviva and other insurance companies and investors to divest the tar sands sector." -- Ruth Breech, Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network

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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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