Racism and cowardice at RBC 2023 AGM

April 12, 2023

On April 5 Indigenous delegates, a Black Gulf Coast protector, an Ivey business student and allies traveled to Treaty 6 territory to confront the Royal Bank of Canada at their AGM. They were met with racist segregation and cowardice. Read a firsthand account from Eve Saint in the National Observer and watch Grand Chief Stuart Phillips detail the events on CBCs Power and Politics. 

Indigenous delegates and allies traveled from across Turtle Island to confront RBC at their AGM in so-called Saskatoon last week. Despite having completed all the necessary paperwork and gone through all the colonial and inaccessible barriers and checks put in place by RBC to gain access to the AGM space, hereditary chiefs, matriarchs, land defenders and other dignitaries were denied entrance to the main room.

RBC put in place a coloured pass system, giving delegate members a different colour name tag when they registered for the AGM and segregating them into a second room.

RBC executives, namely John Stackhouse, lied to the chiefs’ face, claiming there was no space in the main room. While Indigenous folks were met by security and police who laid their hands on them in an effort to bar them from even seeing inside the main room, a few white men within our group were able to sneak right past them and into the AGM space, where they saw numerous empty seats.

Members of our delegation were given a yellow pass, while all other proxies and attendees had blue passes. 

The group included Indigenous delegates as well as a Black Gulf Coast organizer and an Ivey business student. Their names are: Eve Saint, Vanessa Gray, Auntie Janet, Jocey Shadows, Shaylee Holland, Kolin Sutherland-Wilson, Roishetta Ozane, Chief Gisdaywa, Chief Na’Moks, Grand Chief Stewart Philip, Eugene Kung, Richard Brooks and Chris Mohan.

“We were registered, we had proxies. We had every right to be there. We were there with honour and respect. We came to give a message. We’re not dangerous people. We’re truthful people.” -Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Na’Moks

Despite RBCs attempts to silence Black, Indigenous and youth voices, calls for climate justice and Indigenous sovereignty dominated the meeting. 

Shareholder proposals were raised calling for Free, Prior and Informed Consent, for absolute GHG emissions reductions, for the bank to divest from fossil fuels, for worker justice and more transparency around wages, and for defunding the Coastal Gaslink pipeline.

Chief Na’Moks was eventually permitted to enter the main AGM space. He called out RBCs continued dismissal of Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. They are the rightful title owners as asserted by the Supreme Court of Canada and RBC does not have consent from the Wet’suwet’en hereditary governance for the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. Chief Na’Moks called out the segregation of Indigenous people, the way security laid hands on regalia and refused to look him in the eye.

From the segregated space, Roishetta Ozane, a Black woman and Gulf Coast protector from Louisiana spoke, called out RBCs anti-Black racism. RBC security called police on Roishetta and Jocey Shadows, threatening them with arrest for mischief. All they did was stand calmly at the door and asked to be let into the room which they had a valid proxy and badge to enter. Jocey was live streaming while this went down. Roishetta said she traveled to Canada because she is fighting for her children’s lives. She lives in so-called cancer valley, a majority Black community in Louisiana surrounded by LNG projects funded by RBC. Her children have asthma, eczema, and she lost a baby at birth.

During the Q&A portion Dave McKay greenwashed and gaslight. He called FPIC “complicated.” He said elected leaders of 20 Indigenous communities approved CGL (none of these communities are on the pipeline route.) He said as the sole financier, RBC is not responsible for Coastal Gaslink. 

Wet’suwet’en Elder Auntie Janet asked a question related to the safety of Indigenous women and the connection between the MMIWG2S crisis and pipeline man-camps. Dave responded that the project “has received consent to proceed” (FALSE.)

Eve Saint spoke to her lived experience as a Wet’suwet’en land defender, and the violence RBC is funding. They have experienced 4 militarized raids by the RCMP, forcing Indigenous people off their land at gunpoint. Eve asked if RBC will stop funding violence against Indigenous people. Dave said RBC isn’t responsible and he refused any more questions on CGL. 

Jocey Shadows, another Wet’suwet’en woman, who was present at Gidim’ten camp during the most recent violent raid, began to ask a question but Dave interrupted her saying “It’s not our project, we are not accountable for it.” RBC ended the Q&A early, like the cowards they are.

In the end, RBC could not silence us. One in four shareholders supported a resolution for Indigenous Free, Prior, and Informed, Consent. While RBC executives recommended rejecting all shareholder resolutions introduced on climate action and Indigenous rights in its proxy book, these resolutions received record and growing support, including preliminary results that did not vote with management (yes and abstentions):

  • 28% – representing about CAD$25 billion: a resolution for Free, Prior and Informed Consent
  • 11% – representing about CAD$10 billion: a resolution for no financing for fossil fuel expansion
  • 22% – representing about CAD$22 billion: a resolution for 2030 absolute emissions reduction targets for oil, gas and utility clients

As the meeting came to an end, drumming and chanting could be heard from the rally outside. We closed with a round dance and prayer for the land, for the water, for our animal kin and for our collective future.


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