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Indigenous Leaders, Land Defenders Censored At RBC’s Annual Meeting

Above photo: Wet’suwet’un Hereditary Chief Na’Moks and land defenders join the rally outside of RBC’s 2024 AGM. Joshua Best.

RBC implemented exclusionary and censorship practices to silence Indigenous leaders and demonstrators.

An ongoing pattern of the bank’s annual general meetings.

Indigenous leaders and land defenders attended Royal Bank of Canada’s 2024 Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 11 to send the bank their message: put an end to fossil fuel financing.

Delegates from across North America travelled to Toronto, O to criticize RBC’s ongoing funding of fossil fuel projects and their violations of Indigenous and human rights. But RBC’s efforts to listen to Indigenous and frontline land defenders were shallow to say the least.

During the questioning period, a mere 60 seconds were allotted to delegates, some of which were interrupted by RBC’s board, executives and shareholders.

Vanessa Gray, divestment campaign coordinator at Indigenous Climate Action (ICA), who attended the AGM recalled delegates given a device to submit their request to speak. If they were chosen to speak, a giant screen counted down a speaker’s time—some people who did have an opportunity to speak criticized this as a form of censorship under the given time limit.

Then there was the presence of police and security at the AGM.

“Police in full gear just standing around with their body cameras on us the whole time … they lined up from the second we walked into the building until the very end when we were trying to get our coats from coat check,” said Gray in an interview with

“There was a very hollow feeling leaving the AGM because it felt like there was an abusive undertone. It felt like the security guards didn’t have to put their hands on us. It was embedded in the whole event that we were meant to feel like we weren’t supposed to be there,” Gray added.

RBC’s exclusionary practices are nothing new. In past AGM meetings, there were heightened police presence and surveillance, and intentional segregation of Indigenous delegates from stakeholders. Last year, RBC refused entry to Indigenous leaders from First Nations in Canada and Black community leaders from the US Gulf Coast—they were also subjected to wearing a colour-coded badge to identify and segregate them.

“The RBC Annual General Meeting has been very exclusionary … This is a general pattern of RBC to not even allow us the time and space which are what these meetings are for,” said Gray.

ICA held press conference, after company’s efforts to silence them

Indigenous and Black voices were stifled at the AGM, prompting ICA to hold their own press conference called RBC Revealed. Speakers who were denied their voice at RBC’s AGM, traded an ambiguous black device for an eagle feather—whoever held the feather was given a chance to speak.

Among the speakers at the ICA press conference were Wet’suwet’un Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, Grand Chief Stewart Philip from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), Celine Isimbi from Change Course Campaign and Richard Brooks of Stand.Earth.

One of the speakers that was interrupted at RBC’s AGM was Chief Na’Moks—his speech was cut short when organizers took away his microphone.

“When you come to the RBC AGM and again, get treated in this manner, it’s hard to keep focused on who you are, what you want, and knowing you’re doing the right thing when they don’t have the humanity to address you properly, to let you speak [and] to listen to you,” said Chief Na’Moks in the RBC Revealed press conference.

Wet’suwet’un First Nation are on the frontlines of a long battle against development of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, a TC Energy project. The Wet’suwet’un land defenders have faced the RCMP, resulting in numerous arrests and violence.

“When our people are getting arrested, removed from the land for simply protecting clean water [and] who we are. And [RBC] know that they are assisting in taking away the power of the people, taking away the hearts and voices with their money,” said Chief Na’Moks.

Coastal GasLink pipeline is just one of the many fossil fuel projects that RBC has supported—and there are more frontline stories.

According to the 2023 report Banking on Climate Chaos, the top 60 global banks invested USD $5.5 trillion into the fossil fuel industry. In Canada, the top five banks including the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, TD Financial, Bank of Montreal, Scotiabank and RBC have invested over CAD $1.1 trillion—RBC is Canada’s top fossil fuel financer and globally, it ranks fifth.

“I am tired of going there and having Dave MacKay, [president of RBC], look at us and tell us that they’re doing the best thing for everybody—when 2050 is so far away, when 2030 is so far away—when what they’ve already done to this planet is happening now,” said Chief Na’Moks.

“When we come here as Indigenous leaders, as humans to address them and get 60 seconds to address what they do with their billions and trillions of dollars—that is not the way that any bank should operate,” they added.

Nationwide multi-day campaign to end RBC’s funding of fossil fuels

Since the beginning of April, the IAC initiated a multi-day campaign against RBC’s funding of the fossil fuel industry and record human rights violations.

The ongoing digital campaign, which was aptly named Fossil Fool’s Day, was launched on April 1 to flood RBC’s social media platforms. ICA encourages demonstrators to comment and highlight the bank’s continued failures and to put pressure on the company to change.

Then on April 6, thousands of demonstrators from over 40 different cities and towns across Canada set up outside of the bank locations to protest RBC investments into fossil fuel projects.

“It makes it harder for RBC to live and speak in their own realities that separate them from the impact that they have on our communities—RBC shares responsibility for financing these companies in the first place. That’s how they’re able to poison our water and make communities feel unsafe for our children. They’re looking more and more delusional,” said Gray.

Witnessing the mobilization of people across different movements and spanning generations, Gray said that this speaks volumes—and these voices will speak louder than any corporate marketing or messaging that RBC will put out there.

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