Victoria residents gathered outside of Royal Bank of Canada’s Victoria headquarters today to tell the bank to ‘Get Out of the Tar Sands’.

The action was one of several occuring across Canada, and coincided with RBC’s annual shareholder meeting that was held earlier today in Toronto.

“RBC clients and individual shareholders might be interested to know that their bank is the largest financier of Alberta’s tar sands, the most destructive project on earth,” says Eric Swanson, Dogwood’s Corporate Campaigner. (1)

The massive tar sands projects are holding Canada back from meaningful action on climate change. Pollution from the tar sands is thought to be the cause of increased levels of certain rare types of cancer in downstream communities. Aboriginal communities in Alberta, and along tar sands related pipeline routes, are becoming increasingly aggressive in their opposition to tar sands expansion. 

Concerned Citizens and First Nation representatives attended RBC’s annual shareholder meeting this morning to deliver a message that responsibility for damage caused by the tar sands doesn’t stop with the oil companies; it is shared by the banks and investors that finance the industry.

“$1 held in an RBC bank account does more to fuel climate change than the same dollar in any other Canadian bank,” says Swanson. “We’re encouraging RBC clients to consider switching to a credit union – such as VanCity – that does not invest in the tar sands.”

High resolution images of the demonstration are available here:

A video of the action can be seen by clicking here

Additional Background:

  •  In 2008 RBC put $3 million into their ‘Blue Water Project’, a charitable initiative designed to protect fresh water sources. In the same year RBC financed an estimated minimum of $641 million of capitol used by oil and gas companies operating in the Alberta tar sands, the extraction process for which uses approximately 3 barrels of fresh water for every barrel of oil produced.
  • An estimate of RBC’s total fossil fuel financing based on public records shows over $50 billion financed across all business lines in 2007. The participants in the March 3rd events are emphasizing that RBC has a choice: they can finance renewable, green energy instead of the tar sands.
  • RBC is also the second largest financier of Enbridge Inc., the company proposing a tar sands pipeline and tanker project to BC’s coast. If that project ever made it to the financing stage, RBC would have the choice to provide financing or not. If they were to provide financing, this would directly implicate them in a project opposed by several of BC’s First Nations, and 72% of British Columbians overall (Poll: Synovate 2008).

(1) Research conducted by San Francisco-based Rainforest Action Network.