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Protests across Canada against RBC and Coastal GasLink

On Friday Oct 29, people across the country protested against the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in response to its investments in the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which is being built on Wet’suwet’en Land.

Over 60 Montrealers gathered in front of RBCs main office in the downtown area, where black paint representing oil was thrown at the steps of the building.

Coastal GasLink is a gas pipeline in northern B.C. In 2020 the pipeline gained international awareness and protests across Canada as the Hereditary Chiefs of Wet’suwet’en stated that no pipeline will be built on their land.

The pipeline runs from Dawson Creek to Kitimat, directly through Wet’suwet’en territory. The point of conflict between Wet’suwet’en members and police is along a service road, which is the only way for construction workers to reach working on the pipeline.

A report called Banking on Climate Chaos placed RBC as the worst bank in Canada for sustainable investments, with over $160 billion invested in fossil fuels since 2016. RBC, alongside other Canadian and international banks have invested over $6.8 billion in the Coastal GasLink, according to the Understory, a climate action and forest preservation blog.

Emily Hardie, a member of Divest McGill and a speaker at the protest, said that she believes if RBC didn’t invest in Coastal GasLink, the company wouldn’t have the funds to build a pipeline through Wet’suwet’en territory.

The Wet’suwet’en territory is made up of 13 hereditary house groups. In 2020 several hereditary chiefs spoke up against the Coastal GasLink pipeline, which spiked international awareness and discussion on Indigenous sovereignty.

Yet the construction of the pipeline continues. According to a CBC News article, 140 km of the pipeline has been laid, marking one-third of the project being finished.

The pipeline, “will incentivise fossil fuel companies to extract more from the land,” said Hardie, who explained that the area the pipeline is being built through Wet’suwet’en territory has potential fossil fuel deposits.

“If you choose to invest money in a project that is commiting genocide on Indigenous people, you will lose,” said Sleydo’ Molly Wickham in a video posted by the Gidimt’en Clan checkpoint.

Wickham is one of the supporting hereditary chiefs of the Cas Yikh in the Gidimt’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en nation.

RBC’s media relations refused to comment on why they invest in the Coast GasLink pipeline, instead of investing in sustainable projects.

“They’re the worst,” said Jacob Pirro, a Mcgill student who has been a member of Extinction Rebellion for two years. “What’s not profitable? Do you know what isn’t profitable: dying. I want to have children, and I want my children to have children. Most children born today will live through the worst of the climate crisis.”

Pirro said that the best way to make an impact is for people who use RBC to go to a different bank, and while most banks invest in un-sustainable projects, there are lesser evils.

The website Quit RBC, created by Extinction Rebellion, states that “RBC will finance climate destruction for as long as it can make money doing so.” Quit RBC has a step-by-step explanation on how to leave RBC and ways to pick a more sustainable bank.

“I don’t think it’s something people think about,” said Pirro, who explained that he believes most people pick a bank when they are young and never change it. “If you are with RBC, you should care, and you should switch.”

Hardie said that while it is important for people to do their part in individual changes, it is also important to remember the importance of systemic change.

The Guardian reported that 100 companies are responsible for 71 per cent of all global fossil fuel emission. Canadian Natural Resources Limited, one of the largest independent crude oil and natural gas producers in the world, ranks 67 on the list.

In a 2016 article by the Financial Post, Canadian Natural Resources Ltd is one of RBCs top energy stocks, giving investors “the best of all worlds.”

 

Photos by Lou Neveux-Pardijon

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Climate activists join hands in promoting a long-awaited political action

“When an unstoppable force like Greta [Thunberg] meets an immovable clunk of politicians, my bet is on Greta. That’s why, inspired by her and by youth, I am amazingly against all odds, defiantly filled with hope.”

That’s what Stephen Lewis, Canada’s former ambassador at the United Nations, said in his speech during the Climate First Tour on Oct. 1 in Montreal.

Alongside Lewis was scientist, broadcaster, author and environmentalist, Dr. David Suzuki. Guest speaker, Ellen Gabriel, a famous Indigenous militant and feminist, also joined the event.

The event was launched a month ago as an opportunity for Suzuki and Lewis to speak directly to Canadians on the importance of climate change. Highlighting the urgency of the problem comes at an opportune time for Canadians to affect change with their votes.

“Our message tonight is that for the sake of the future of our children we must make climate change the top priority for every candidate running for office,” said Suzuki.

Over the last decades, governments and lobby groups have been ignoring and sleeping on the climate situation to advance economic growth, according to Lewis.

“The responsible perfidious government resembling political dinosaurs drunk on fossil fuel, they know exactly what’s required but there is some kind of self-inflicted paralysis,” said Lewis. “They have known for more than 30 years what’s afoot and they are criminally inert.”

Lewis also pointed at energy multinationals that have been sharing disinformation about the reality of climate change, while simultaneously investing $4.5 billion on new oil and gas exploration and development since last year.

The panelists did not cut it short for Canada’s inaction.

“How do you embrace the principles of the Paris Conference on Climate Change and then come home and buying a pipeline?” Lewis asked.

Trudeau’s acquisition of a $4.5 billion pipeline, after campaigning in 2015 on making Canada a leader in the fight against climate change, was harshly reprimanded.

All this state’s hypocrisy was a common theme in the three panelist’s speeches. Gabriel followed with the ongoing reconciliation attempts with Indigenous communities.

“Canada has broken all its promises,” said Gabriel. “Justin Trudeau did not fulfill a single promise to Indigenous people in Canada. He bought pipelines.”

Her testimony denounced a multitude of dangers intertwined with climate change – as simple as maple syrup, which needs cold weather to form, to the deterrence of the wildlife by the tar sands.

Climate change goes against and destroys all principles of the Indigenous tenets. According to these principles, everything in nature is interconnected. From the insect pollinating the root that feeds the animal hunters hunt, climate change is breaking a natural cycle.

But the issue is not only a governmental concern, Gabriel added.

“We are effing up the environment, and we are all responsible for it,” Gabriel said. “It’s up to every single individual in this room and beyond to be the solution to climate change.”

While the march for climate on Sept. 27 was highly honoured during the event, the experts stressed the importance of actively promoting and informing peers on the impact of climate change, especially with federal elections around the corner.

Lewis finished his speech by mentioning a collection of previous attempts at fostering political climate activism and the consequences it would have prevented.

“If we had taken the carbon reduction target seriously, instead of consigning it to oblivion, and had we begun the implementation of all the other interventions, this would be a different planet,” Lewis said. “We would not be discussing self-emulation. We would not have a generation of youth growing up with critical mental health symptoms of ecoanxiety.”

But hidden between reprimands, Lewis shared his hope in the youth movement that could highly influence the Canadian political arena.

 

Photo courtesy of Climate First Tour

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