Written by Dave Vasey from RAN Toronto.
On Tuesday, RAN activists disrupted a speech by Gordon Nixon, president of RBC at Ryerson University. Nixon was speaking as part of a business conference on Canadian Manufacturing. RAN activists interrupted the speech four times with banners and comments, as well as once during the question and answer period.
During the event, Nixon admitted that tar sands projects were the largest polluters in Canada, though declined to take responsibility for financing the projects. Instead, Nixon maintained RBC was not an oil company.
“Nixon admits that tar sands projects are the largest polluters in Canada, yet he seemingly fails to understand that these projects cannot go forward without financing. Pretty disturbing given he is the president of Canada’s largest bank” noted RAN activist Maryam Adrangi.
Tar sands oil has serious environmental, climate and human health impacts. Described by the United Nations Environment Program as one of the world’s top “environmental hot spots,” global warming pollution from tar sands production is three times that of conventional crude oil. Unconventional tar sands oil is derived from lower-grade, difficult and expensive-to-access raw materials, which have enormous consequences for air quality, drinking water and the climate. In addition, as this oil spills into the U.S., refinery communities face air and water pollution from tar sands oil, which contains 11 times more sulfur and nickel and five times more lead than conventional oil.
The action continues a series of actions performed by RAN Toronto who are lobbying RBC to divest funding from tar sands projects. RBC is the world’s largest financier of tar sands projects and has invested financed over $20 billion USD over the last 5 years (UPDATE: see details on more recent numbers). To extract tar sands oil requires churning up huge tracts of ancient boreal forest and polluting so much clean water with poisonous chemicals that the resulting waste ponds can be seen from outer space. The health impacts to Alberta’s First Nation communities are severe, with cancer rates up in some communities as much as 400 times its usual frequency.