First Nations protest tar sands investment at Royal Bank of Scotland AGM

demand in person that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) stops financing the controversial tar sands industry in Alberta, Canada, at the bank’s AGM today. The protest comes 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 pipeline development, £2.2 billion of which was in the last twelve months. The First Nations representatives are expected to arrive at the AGM at RBS’s global head quarters in Gogarburn, Edinburgh, at 1pm. They will take into the AGM a photo petition and motions from UK taxpayers angry that the bank is investing their money in tar sands extraction and use the meeting to call on the board to cease financing tar sands companies. Many First Nations communities are fighting the 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 80 First Nations, all of whom are opposed to it. The tar sands have been described as the most destructive industrial project on the planet. An area larger than England is being excavated by the industry. The Athabasca river delta, once a pristine boreal forest with clean rivers and lakes, has become a devastated ecosystem of deforestation, open pit mines and toxic tailings ponds. Fish in nearby waters regularly exhibit tumours and birds landing on contaminated tailings ponds die. In neighbouring First Nations communities, where local people have hunted and fished for many years, abnormally high rates of cancer and immune system diseases are now being found. Jasmine Thomas from the Yinka Dene Alliance is actively resisting the RBS-financed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. RBS will be the fourth bank warned by the Yinka Dene Alliance over the past two months for their involvement in raising funds for Enbridge’s pipeline and failure to adopt ethical policies that respects 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, is also attending 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 Pipeline corporation and its controversial proposed Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.”

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