A week of bank action in Toronto!

After RBC’s annual general meeting wrapped up on April 11, Chief Na’moks of the Wet’suwet’en spoke eloquently about why he and 21 other Photo credit: Chris Chung land defenders and climate activists had come to Toronto to confront the bank. “We often tell banks: just listen, be human, take the future into consideration, not the bottom line. What’s most important to us? Our children and grandchildren, your children and grandchildren.” He explained further that RBC is “only looking at the bottom line, but that bottom line is killing us,” and that “reconciliation can’t happen at the barrel of a gun,” referring to the heavy policing of the Wet’suwet’en by RCMP forces on their territory.

Chief Na’moks is one of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who have been resisting the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline on their unceded territory for several years, a project that’s being funded by RBC. The Wet’suwet’en were joined by an incredible delegation of Indigenous and Black land defenders from across Turtle Island, including activists fighting Mountain Valley Pipeline, Line 3 pipeline and toxic petrochemical industries along the Gulf Coast, and students fighting to kick RBC off campuses. This year’s delegation was a testament to the growing power of frontline communities fighting for their lands, waters and fundamental rights, and how this power only grows in coalition and solidarity.  

At the AGM, the land defender delegates used the forum to demand accountability, with questions about RBC’s financing for colonial and environmentally racist projects that contribute to the climate crisis, despite RBC setting 1-minute time limits on questions. While CEO Dave McKay failed to provide any meaningful responses, he was obviously flustered and the meeting seemed to be an embarrassment for the bank. The media testified to this reputational damage, running stories about how RBC “faced a steady stream of questions about the bank's climate and Indigenous rights track record.” Meanwhile, grassroots supporters rallied outside the venue and welcomed the delegation as they left the AGM. Read and watch more here, here and here.

I was honoured to be part of this event and support the delegation on behalf of For Our Kids. We know that solidarity with frontline struggles is important to our network, and I was inspired by the ways parents are part of and stand with these struggles.

Earlier in the week, For Our Kids parents also led an action to call for accountability from Canada’s second biggest fossil fuel  funder, TD bank.
Network parents Mika Gang (and her 3-month old son!), Lella Blumer and I met with TD’s head of environment, Nicole Vadori, and two high-level executives working on Environmental, Social, Governance strategy to demand they take urgent climate action and communicate transparently with customers. We brought forward the demands and concerns of parents, as well as over 150 signatures and testimonials from customers across the country (thanks to all who signed!). During the meeting, TD shared their strategy with us, which involves working with oil and gas clients to “decarbonize,” rather than ending relationships with clients that are main drivers of the climate crisis. We pushed back, saying this approach is not good enough, and customers no longer trust them to meet their climate goals – goals that are not even ambitious enough for the crisis we face. We also asked them how they’re considering increasing risks of climate change in their financial models, and how they plan to incorporate free, prior and informed consent into funding decisions. Their answer: they’re working on it. Overall, it seemed to us that they’re falling behind on tackling the climate crisis with the pace and urgency needed.

One of the most striking things Nicole Vadori said was that she was surprised we were so passionate about this issue, because they don’t often get this feedback from clients. This was surprising to us. We know that people across the country care deeply about climate change and want to see action now. If anything, this comment made us realize we need to keep pushing TD (and the rest of Canada’s big banks) and make sure they’re hearing from regular people like us. We asked TD for a follow-up meeting and we’ll report back about any progress. 

We’re grateful for everyone who took time to sign the petition and come out to a bank action this month – know that your voice, and these small actions have a cumulative impact, and together, we’re planting the seeds for a more just and climate safe future. Because at the end of the day, as Chief Na’moks of the Wet’suwet’en said, “What’s most important to us? Our children and grandchildren, your children and grandchildren.”

Photo Credits:

Chief Na'moks of Wet'suwet'en - Photo by Chris Chung

Land defender delegation - Photo by Joshua Best

Members of the Wet'suwet'en nation at the AGM rally - Photo by Joshua Best

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