Divest from the Coastal GasLink pipeline or Hollywood will divest from you was the message for the Royal Bank of Canada, delivered last week by Office of the Wet’suwet’en spokesperson Sleydo’ Molly Wickham and climate activist and actor Mark Ruffalo.
Five months after the RCMP stormed a Wet’suwet’en protest camp established to protect the community’s ancestral lands, waters, and rights, Ruffalo and Sleydo’ have taken to the pages of Rolling Stone, urging RBC to stop bankrolling the 670-kilometre pipeline through the heart of Wet’suwet’en territory.
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The co-authored commentary comes a few weeks after Ruffalo, together with activist actors Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., and Taika Waititi, wrote to RBC urging it to dump the project. The Hollywood heavyweights warned that if that divestment does not take place, RBC “won’t just be known for providing financial services to Hollywood, it will be known for steamrolling Indigenous rights.”
RBC is the parent company of Hollywood’s top banking heavy: City National Bank (CNB).
Sleydo’ and Ruffalo said RBC has provided Coastal GasLink with “$275 million in project finance, a co-financed $6.5-billion loan, a $40-million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital, while serving as financial adviser for the fracked gas pipeline.”
The Canadian bank has faced an onslaught of criticism for its support of the pipeline, including repeated condemnation from the United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.
Central to the argument is that Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs were not consulted at all on the project until very recently, despite RBC’s claims to the contrary. That elected leaders were a part of the discussion hardly makes up for this failure, Sleydo’ and Ruffalo explained, as elected band councils only have authority over reserve lands that make up 0.2% of Canada’s land mass, whereas hereditary leaders are responsible for all of Wet’suwet’en territory.
TC Energy, Coastal GasLink’s parent company, “didn’t ask hereditary chiefs because the company knew the answer would be ‘no’,” they added.
Behaving as if hereditary chiefs do not exist “is a prime example of erasure of First Nations people,” Sleydo’ and Ruffalo wrote, but “it’s never too late to do the right thing.” They called on RBC to “immediately divest from Coastal GasLink,” because otherwise, “Hollywood and many others will just divest from them.”
In its reply to Wickham and Ruffalo, RBC stated only that the project “has agreements with all 20 elected First Nations councils along the pipeline route, and 16 councils have signed an equity option agreement to take an ownership position in the project.” The bank alluded to Indigenous dissent only in passing: “We respect there are differing opinions within Indigenous communities, and as we’ve sought input from many members, they’ve told us that these differences are best resolved within their own communities.”