Representatives from some of Canada’s First Nations today demanded in person that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) stops financing the controversial tar sands industry in Alberta, Canada, at the bank’s AGM. The protest came as new research, published by a coalition of UK and North American NGOs, shows that since being bailed out with public money in 2008, RBS has raised £5.6 billion in corporate financing to companies involved in Alberta’s tar sands extraction and tar sands pipeline development, including BP and Enbridge.
The First Nations representatives took into the AGM a photo petition and motions from UK taxpayers angry that the bank is investing their money in tar sands extraction, and used the meeting to call on the board to cease financing tar sands companies. Many First Nations communities are fighting extensive tar sands extraction on their tribal lands in Alberta, as well as the proposed 1,170 kilometre long Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbian coast, which will pass through the territories of http://www.youandifilms.com/2011/04/human-cost/.
One of the First Nations representatives attending the AGM was Jasmine Thomas from the Yinka Dene Alliance, which is actively resisting the RBS-financed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. RBS was the fourth bank warned by the Yinka Dene Alliance over the past two months for its involvement in raising funds for Enbridge and its failure to adopt ethical policies that respect the free, prior and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples who may be impacted:
“RBS has provided finance to Enbridge, which wants to build its Northern Gateway tar sands pipelines through our territories, to carry oil through many of our critical salmon-bearing rivers. A spill will happen – Enbridge has over 60 pipeline spills each year. A single spill could destroy our way of life and our culture, so 80 First Nations in British Columbia have said NO to the pipeline. I’m here to warn RBS shareholders of the legal and environmental risks of financing such controversial tar sands companies, and to ask them to withdraw all corporate financing to Enbridge.”
Clayton Thomas-Muller, from Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, representing the Indigenous Environmental Network, also attended the AGM. He said: “Banks in Canada and in the US have been put on notice for their dirty finance of the Canadian tar sands which is resulting in the destruction of First Nations Peoples’ way of life. The UK’s RBS, being a majority publicly-owned bank, should be under the greatest scrutiny for its involvement in financing the Canadian tar sands and more specifically the Enbridge corporation and its controversial proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.”
As shareholders arrived for the AGM they were greeted by a troupe of ‘oily bankers’, already drunk on the black stuff and draped across RBS’s massive logo – who were in fact campaigners from the UK Tar Sands Network, Friends of the Earth Scotland, World Development Movement Scotland and People & Planet.
After the First Nations delegation – which also included Melina Laboucan-Massimo from the Lubicon Cree in Northern Alberta – had asked their questions, got extremely unsatisfactory responses, and other shareholders had vented their spleen at RBS’s lack of profits and enormous executive pay packets, the stormy AGM came to a close. The First Nations were invited into a meeting with RBS’s head of sustainability where they were able to have a more detailed discussion about their concerns face to face with Sandy Crombie, a member of the board.
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