RBC doesn’t care about Indigenous reconciliation or the climate crisis. The money proves it.


The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) may claim to care about the climate crisis and Indigenous reconciliation, but the institution’s actions have proven performative—and the CEO seems dismissive of those RBC stands to harm.

On Nov. 5, the Queen’s Finance Association (QFA) hosted RBC’s CEO David McKay at an event on campus. Outside the event, a small group of protesters from Kingston Youth and Climate Action gathered to showcase their concerns with RBC’s financing of fossil fuels, particularly its support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline being built on Wet’suwet’en land.

In the last two weeks, protests have erupted across Canada demanding RBC be held accountable for its investments in oil and the controversial pipeline.

The Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in is set to cut through Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs’ land in Northern British Columbia—Gidimt’en clan territory—against their consent.

Some speculate that without RBC’s funding, the pipeline couldn’t be built.

The bank holds the financial power to make real change. RBC could choose to invest in a portfolio that backs solely sustainable and renewable energy and economies. Instead, the institution has chosen to turn a blind eye to the harm its investments are causing.

Last week, McKay told The Journal “[the pipeline] was approved by all 40 nations […] while there is only one dispute, it’s between the elders of one nation and the elected officials. So it has prior informed consent and approval under Canadian law.”

In fact, McKay said he’s “disappointed” in Canadians protesting against the pipeline because he feels they’re uninformed on the issue.

If anyone is uniformed, it’s McKay.

The protesters gathered outside of Grant Hall on Nov. 5 were calling attention to an important issue—to call them uninformed is ignorant and privileged.

Tokenizing the Indigenous nations which agreed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline to justify RBC’s investment disregards the many Indigenous folks—including those whose land is directly threatened by the project—who are vehemently against the project.

It’s also deeply insensitive towards the violence Wet’suwet’en land defenders have faced from the RCMP as they’ve stood their ground against the construction.

Furthermore, young people have reason to be concerned about the climate crisis—we’re the ones poised to inherit the environmental catastrophe. RBC may purport to care about the climate crisis, but it’s obvious from where it puts its money the institution’s priority is profits.

RBC boasts a modest $10-million pool of capital for investment in businesses “that tackle social and environmental challenges, while generating a financial return”. In turn, RBC is the world’s fifth biggest fossil fuel funder.

McKay, you aren’t fooling anyone—RBC’s commitments to the environment and reconciliation are performative at best and hugely disrespectful and damaging at worst.

—Journal Editorial Board

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