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Activists Disrupt Business As Usual In Toronto’s Financial District

Above Photo: Greenpeace media library.

Calling on Canadian banks to stop funding climate chaos and injustice.

Toronto Greenpeace Canada activists blocked entrances to the RBC’s corporate headquarters today by suspending climbers from fifteen foot high tripods as part of a call for Canada’s big five banks to stop funding fossil fuels and to respect Indigenous rights . The protestors said that despite their claims, Canada’s big banks are still amongst the largest funders of fossil fuels in the world and are thus fueling the climate crisis, destroying biodiversity and violating Indigenous rights.

“I’m a middle-aged dad with a mild fear of heights who has been politely asking Canadian banks to stop funding fossil fuels for decades,” said Keith Stewart, senior energy strategist at Greenpeace Canada and one of the climbers. “I’m dangling from a tripod today because the banks’ response has been to continue providing over a hundred billion dollars a year to fossil fuel companies. That money pipeline is fueling the climate crisis, and after what has happened in BC this year we are not going to let bank CEOs ignore the deadly consequences of their actions,” added Stewart.

Prime Minister Trudeau opened his speech at the Glasgow climate summit by making the link between climate change and the tragedy of the town of Lytton, whose infrastructure was destroyed by climate-fueled wildfires this summer and whose former residents are now dealing with the consequences of the devastating floods that hit southern British Columbia last month. The activists called on bank CEOs to come down from their towers and accept charred wood fragments from Lytton homes, with the hope that the fragments would remain on the bankers’ desks to remind them of the life-and-death consequences of all of their investment decisions.

“We are in the heart of Canada’s banking district today to interrupt bankers’ business-as-usual because it is destabilizing the climate, destroying biodiversity and violating Indigenous rights,” said Juan Ortiz, spokesperson & activist at Greenpeace Canada who joined other Greenpeace supporters handing out flyers at the site of the protest. They also urged passers-by to view the video testimonials  from Lytton, Shackan and Kamloops community members on the Greenpeace Canada website. “We call on CEOs like RBC’s Dave McKay to meet face-to-face with communities devastated by climate change and fossil fuel projects, listen to their lived experience and take corrective actions,” added Ortiz.

All of Canada’ big five banks are in the top 25 of global funders of fossil fuels, and Canada’s banks have provided $825 billion to fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate agreement was signed. This is 13 times more than the federal government has spent on its climate plan over the same period.

Ortiz, Stewart and the other activists pointed to RBC’s financing of the Coastal GasLink pipeline as an example of a project whose funding should be stopped immediately due to the violation of Indigenous rights and failure to obtain Free, Prior and Informed Consent from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. According to research commissioned by Greenpeace Canada, RBC Capital Markets is currently providing CAD 390.7 million in loans directly to the Coastal GasLink project and an additional CAD 400.6 million to the project’s parent company TC Energy. TC Energy rents office space in the Royal Bank tower whose entrances were blocked today. Collectively, Canada’s big 5 banks are providing $1.95 billion in project financing to the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

More broadly, Greenpeace is calling on Canadian banks to immediately end all financing of new fossil fuel projects, present a plan to cut financed emissions in half by 2030 and to ensure the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous communities to any projects that they fund.

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