The Royal Bank of Canada’s financial support for the Coastal GasLink pipeline is drawing high-level opposition.
More than 65 celebrities, including award-winning actors, directors and musicians, have joined Indigenous climate activists in signing a petition calling on RBC and its subsidiary, Los Angeles-based City National Bank (CNB), to stop funding fossil fuel projects. The petition calls for the immediate defunding of the controversial Coastal GasLink project.
The petition, titled No more dirty banksfeatures Hollywood heavyweight signings Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Ava DuVernay, Robert Downey Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda, Taika Waititi, Michelle Pfeiffer and Edward Norton, among other CNB clients, who has been dubbed the ” Bank at the Stars” for its celebrity clientele.
RBC financed the 670 kilometer long pipeline, owned by TC Energy and cost estimated at over $6.6 billion, which would deliver natural gas from northeastern British Columbia to a port facility in Kitimat, and cross the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation. Activists behind the petition also called other international banks for backing the project and loaning billions of dollars.
The signatories accused RBC of “funding the climate crisis and ignoring the rights of indigenous peoples”. Celebrities have threatened to withdraw their accounts if the bank does not withdraw its support for the project.
Ruffalo is the head of the celebrity charge. During a recent virtual media conference with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chief Na’moks and Sleydo’ Molly Wickham, spokesperson for the Gidimt’en checkpoint, which controls access to part of the territory of the Gidimt’en clan (Gidimt’en is one of the five clans in Wet’suwet’en Nation), the actor and environmental activist said RBC violates the core values of its clients who oppose the pipeline. Ruffalo accused RBC of contradicting its own stated values of working with indigenous peoples and supporting climate action, and said none of the signatories wanted to leave the bank, but did not want to be associated with “brutalization and erasure” of the First Nations.
“At this point, the most effective thing any of us can do is withdraw our money from institutions that continue to fund the fossil fuel industry,” he said. “Today there are options for clean banks. There are places where we could put our money that don’t fund these monstrosities.
RBC has provided $164 billion to fossil fuel companies since the signing of the Paris Agreement, the National observer reports…the best of all Canadian banks. CC contacted RBC representatives via email and the bank declined to comment on the petition.
The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs strongly opposed the pipeline being built under Wedzin Kwa River, or Morice River, in their traditional territory. They say the project is taking place without their consent and infringing on their rights. Hereditary Chiefs and Land Defenders issued multiple declarations on the pipeline in recent years, including issuing eviction notices to Coastal GasLink, and also called on RBC to withdraw its support.
“We have been very clear: RBC must divest from this toxic project, which threatens Wet’suwet’en land, air and water and undermines Indigenous rights,” Wickham said. said in a press release.
Coastal GasLink received an injunction in December 2019 against Wet’suwet’en land defenders who erected blockades to prevent company employees from working along the pipeline route. Ruffalo says calling on RBC to act is even more urgent given the RCMP’s violent enforcement of the injunction. More recently, in November 2021, agents removed activists from the field in at gunpoint and arrested two journalists.
In an email to CC, Coastal GasLink said it was “very concerned that important facts are not being shared with groups and individuals concerned about Indigenous rights and climate change issues.” The company pointed to the benefit agreements it has signed with the 20 elected Indigenous communities as evidence that the pipeline is supported by them. He also noted that he had signed stock option agreements with 16 First Nations along the project corridor earlier this month.
But land defenders say the company only consulted with the elected Wet’suwet’en band council, despite a historic decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in 1997 which recognized hereditary chiefs as the rightful title holders. Ruffalo told the press conference that RBC also didn’t take the time to consult with the hereditary chiefs until earlier this year, and only after a “high profile client” insisted.