By Binny Paul
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
More than 65 Hollywood celebrities and Indigenous climate activists have signed a petition asking Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) and its subsidiary City National Bank (CNB) to stop financing fossil fuel projects and defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline in northern B.C.
The petition called `No More Dirty Banks’ includes high profile signatories such as Mark Ruffalo, Leonardo DiCaprio, Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Jane Fonda, Brandon Boyd, Edward Norton, Ben Stiller, Patti Smith among others who are allegedly CNB’s clients.
“It has come to the undersigned’s attention that our industry’s premier `bank to the stars’, City National Bank (CNB), has a problem,” read the statement.
“Its parent company, Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), is financing the climate crisis and disregarding the rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
The campaign has called on RBC to withdraw support from the Coastal GasLink pipeline “effective immediately.”
The call to action by Hollywood A-listers also comes a day after RBC snubbed a March 11 deadline issued by Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs for the same demand made last month after they met with several high ranking members from the bank.
Earlier today, Gidimt’em Checkpoint’s key leader Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) spoke at a virtual conference, which was organized to reiterate the demands to RBC.
Sleydo’ was joined by actor Mark Ruffalo who also called for public pressure on the banks to stop funding fossil fuel energy.
“The signatories in this letter have core values that the RBC is violating,” Ruffalo said, adding, that while they do not wish to leave their bank, they do not want their money in any way associated with the “brutalization and erasure of any First Nations people.”
“At this point, the most effective thing any of us can do is pull our money out of institutions that continue to fund the fossil fuel industry,” Ruffalo added.
RBC’s financing of the Coastal GasLink pipeline has been the subject of scrutiny since last December when Greenpeace Canada activists protested outside the bank’s corporate headquarters in Toronto for funding fossil fuel projects. Activists claimed back then that Canada’s top five banks are providing 1.95 billion in financing for the CGL project.
Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Woos and Sleydo’ had also called on TD Bank and international shareholders such as the National Australia Bank to divest from the $6.6 billion natural gas pipeline project, without any luck.
In an email statement, RBC spokesperson Rafael Ruffolo said the bank will not be commenting on this issue at the moment.
This is not the first time celebrities expressed solidarity with the CGL pipeline opposition in northwest B.C. which saw the RCMP arrest almost 30 people between November and Dec. 2021, while enforcing a court-ordered injunction.
Skeena B.C. MLA Ellis Ross called out American actor Leonardo DiCaprio for his “misinformed” polemical comment about the issue in November last year.
“By encouraging illegal activity in the name of `conservation” you are, in reality, harming the hard-working people, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are leading the way on providing environmentally sustainable solutions for my province,” Ross, a former chief councillor for the Haisla First Nation, had told DiCaprio in an open letter back then.
The 670-kilometre-long CGL pipeline in northwestern B.C. by TC Energy is being built to deliver natural gas from the Dawson Creek area to an LNG Canada facility under construction in Kitimat.
Pipeline opponents have repeatedly stressed environmental concerns of the pipeline being built under the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), without consent from hereditary chiefs.
However, 20 elected First Nation councils along the pipeline corridor had signed off on the project since its inception.
Last week, 16 out of those 20 First Nations, also signed an option-agreement with CGL’s parent company TC Energy to become stakeholders. The list includes Witset First Nation (formerly Moricetown), the Skin Tyee, the Wet’suwet’en First Nation (formerly the Broman Lake Band), the Burns Lake Band and the Cheslatta First Nation among others.
As part of this agreement, the First Nations are poised to take a 10 per cent ownership stake in the CGL project once the pipeline goes into operation.
Binny Paul is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the TERRACE STANDARD . The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.