Extinction Rebellion Quebec’s #QuitRBC campaign launched on Wednesday
On Wednesday, a handful of protestors stood outside the Royal Bank of Canada on Mont-Royal Ave.asking the public to remove their money from the bank. Meanwhile, other protestors threw fake petroleum at an RBC branch on Sherbrooke St.
“Mess up our ca$h, we’ll mess with you,” states the Facebook post by Extinction Rebellion Quebec (XRQC), showcasing photos of their actions.
The environmental activism organization,notorious for its civil disobedience actions, famously scaled the Jacques Cartier bridge in October 2019 to pressure the government into enacting climate policies. This time around, the group is trying to pressure banks into divesting from fossil fuels.
Divestment as an active tool
Universities have often been the centre of fossil fuel divestment debates, but XRQC is inviting the public to scrutinize banks’ investments as well. According to Gregory Mikkelson, who resigned from teaching at McGill after the university repeatedly refused to divest from fossil fuels in spite of its pupils’ demands, banks are similar to those educational institutions in the symbolic value of their investments. However, banks ‟have a much more immediate and practical effect on whether fossil fuel production is being expanded or not,’’ said Mikkelson.
Mikkelson cited a paper from the Rainforest Action Network to support XRQC’s statement that RBC is the greatest investor in fossil fuels among Canadian banks, hence being the primary target of the protest.
Concordia has committed to divesting from coal, oil and gas by 2025.
Relaxed demonstration, invested demonstrators
Outside of the Mont-Royal Ave. branch, a protester used a megaphone to list the reasons why RBC is Canada’s most “disgusting” bank. They said, for example, that “[RBC is] the first bank in the world to finance tar sands.”
Some passersby expressed disapproval of the protest, while others stopped to learn more about the cause. A man on a bike stopped to shout his approval of the demonstration, saying, “I’m sick of [banks] exploiting the planet!” He was the most aggressive presence on the premises, as both police and protesters stood quietly in place while RBC customers shyly slipped through the protest line to enter the arch-windowed building.
When asked about their presence at the protest, one individual, who asked to stay anonymous, confessed that “[they are] against investment in fossil fuels, and banks invest in fossil fuels, so that is why [they] are here.”
“The future is not petroleum,” they added.
While the Royal Bank of Canada justifies their investments in fossil fuels as a means to achieve a green economy, both protestors and Mikkelson argue that there are better ways to invest our money.
“There’s a whole local economy that is developing without fossil fuels … It exists, we can do it,” explained a protestor. Mikkelson expressed a similar idea, saying, “not only are RBC’s fossil fuel investments killing the planet, they are also killing jobs.”
While XRQC encourages patrons to move their money from RBC to better institutions, they will not provide financial advice. However, they offer information on their newly launched website so the public can make informed decisions on the matter.
Upon being asked about the #QuitRBC campaign and learning about its message, some RBC customers are reconsidering their business with the banking giant. Zachari Réhel, a University of Montreal cognitive neuroscience student, responded that if he had to make a decision now, he would switch banks. However, Réhel specifies that since doing so is a long process, he would conduct research on other banks to avoid settling for the “lesser evil.” Alexandre Binette, a resident of Montreal, admits to receiving “excellent service” from RBC, although having done research on XRQC’s actions and demands, he feels compelled to question himself on ‟what [he] does with his money and where it goes.”
The Royal Bank of Canada declined to comment.
Photos by Christine Beaudoin