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Protests at RBC Shareholder Meeting Highlight Poor Record on Water, Tar Sands

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Nation’s Largest Bank and Premier Olympic Sponsor Under Fire from First Nations and Rainforest Action Network
Thursday, February 26, 2009

VANCOUVER – Activists with the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) and First Nations representatives spoke out against RBC’s record on tar sands both inside and outside the bank’s Annual General Meeting today. Protests provided a stark contrast between the Olympic sponsor’s status as the top financier of the Alberta tar sands, one of the fastest growing sources of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and RBC’s PR promises to promote clean water.

“If RBC is serious about supporting clean water,” said Melina Laboucan-Massimo, member of Lubicon Cree Nation, a community fighting a TransCanada pipeline to the tar sands through their territory; “Why are they financing projects that are contaminating the lakes and rivers around my community?”

While three representatives challenged Gordon Nixon, RBC CEO within the meeting, over a dozen activists and a costumed RBC mascot “Arbie” held a rally outside the meeting, holding banners reading: “Fund the Future, Not Fossil Fuels.” Concurrent protests were held in Toronto outside of RBC’s national headquarters to express nationwide discontent with RBC’s policies.

“RBC’s investments in tar sands are having serious consequences for people living in nearby communities through elevated rates of cancer and polluted water supplies,” said Lionel Lepine, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, a community directly downstream from tar sands developments. “RBC needs to start considering the price of their investments in human suffering, not just in dollars spent.”

RBC last year launched a new Blue Water Project, a PR initiative “committed to donating $50 million toward global fresh water initiatives over the next ten years.” In contrast to the $3 million dollars actually released in water quality improvement donations under the program in the first year, RBC financed an estimated minimum of $641 million for oil and gas companies operating in the Alberta tar sands, one of Canada’s largest sources of water pollution.

“RBC touts its commitment to clean water, but leads financing in Canada’s most polluting industries,” said Brant Olson, Director of RAN’s Clean-up RBC Campaign. “RBC should put its money where its mouth is by phasing out financing for the Oil Sands and other threats to water quality in Canada.”

Extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands is also a major threat to climate change, resulting in three times more global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. Tar sands development is turning once pristine stretches of forest into desolate, post-apocalyptic landscapes and producing toxic pollution that is harmful to the health and quality of life of the region’s First Nations and other frontline communities.

More information can be on RBC’s tar sands investments and RAN’s campaign at www.climatefriendlybanking.org or www.ran.org/tarsands

 

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Rainforest Action Network runs hard-hitting campaigns to break North America’s fossil fuels addiction, protect endangered forests and Indigenous rights, and stop destructive investments around the world through education, grassroots organizing, and non-violent direct action. For more information, please visit: www.ran.org

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