Not only are Canada’s banks among the biggest fossil fuel funders in the world, they also invest in many projects on Indigenous territories that lack free, prior and informed consent.
While banks like RBC talk about their commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, their actions tell a different story. Banks have poor policies for ensuring respect for Indigenous rights, and they consistently prioritize profits over the rights of Indigenous communities affected by fossil fuel development.
RBC, for example, is the top financier of Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, a pipeline under construction in unceded Wet’suwet’en territory without consent from Hereditary Chiefs, violating their legal sovereignty. The project is having significant impacts on the sensitive ecosystem, with erosion and sediment issues clogging waterways and affecting critical salmon populations. There have been dozens of environmental infractions since construction began in 2019.
At the same time, Wet’suwet’en have faced violent policing by the RCMP for peacefully occupying their own territory. Nearly 100 people have been arrested on the territory over the last four years. Find out more about the Wet’suwet’en fight to stop CGL here.
Canada’s big banks are also the top funders of the Trans Mountain Pipeline, which runs through multiple unceded Indigenous territories, including the Secwepemc and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Two thirds of the impacted First Nations have not given consent for the project, with some resisting through legal action or land defense movements, such as the Tiny House Warriors.
Trans Mountain recently ballooned to over $30 B in cost, up from an estimated $5.4 billion in 2013. Its cost overruns were quietly financed by Canada’s six biggest banks in May with a $10 billion loan, one of the larger loans to a fossil fuel company in recent years.
Indigenous land defenders and communities are pushing for accountability from banks. For the last two years, Indigenous activists have confronted RBC at its Annual General Meeting, calling for respect for their sovereignty and bringing this issue to the attention of shareholders. RBC has responded with disrespect and exclusion, but shareholder votes show the message is slowly being heard – nearly a third of RBC shareholders supported a resolution for free, prior and informed consent in 2023, a record show of support.
What can we do?
We need to push banks to enshrine Indigenous rights in their lending policies so they can’t provide funding for projects like CGL and TMX. We also need to pressure our governments to withdraw support for projects that undermine reconciliation and have no place in a climate-safe future.
Most importantly, we need to show up and support Indigenous-led movements, who are fighting on behalf of all of us. A recent report reveals just how impactful these struggles are – over the past decade, “Indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one-quarter of annual U.S. and Canadian emissions.”
- Send a letter to your bank demanding they implement a policy to respect free, prior and informed consent for all projects they fund. You can drop it off to your bank manager or email it to one of these executives.
- Follow and amplify the work of Indigenous land defense and bank accountability movements.
- Join a Decolonial Solidarity action in your city or town! Find out more about DS’s work to support Wet’suwet’en and how you can get connected here.