RBC: Apologize for mistreatment of Indigenous delegates and partners at 2023 AGM

June 15, 2023

Open letter to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)

Mr. McKay, Mr. Stackhouse, and Mr. Boulianne,

We are writing in regards to the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) Annual General Meeting (AGM) on April 5, 2023 in Saskatoon SK, Treaty 6. RBC disrespected a delegation of Indigenous, Black, People of Colour and other climate leaders, all of whom held valid proxies from RBC shareholders, by targeting and segregating them to a separate room, away from the main meeting room. RBC’s use of a reserve system, based on colour-coded passes, clearly discriminated against our delegation of IBPOC and other climate leaders. Aside from this dehumanizing segregation, our delegation was threatened with arrest and met with police violence. This is a clear attempt to prevent other shareholders from exercising their rights and seeing our humanity.

This is unacceptable behaviour. We demand:

  • a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the exclusion of proxy holders into a segregated room
  • an apology
  • commitments from RBC going forward that Indigenous participation will be respected and that respect is demonstrated by:
    • Equitable treatment for Indigenous shareholders and proxy holders
    • Full participation without segregation

Saskatoon police, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and RBC staff intimidated registered shareholders and proxy holders, forcefully excluding them from full participation in a main room that clearly still had capacity. This demonstrates a clear disconnect to RBC’s promises of sustainable and ethical practices. Mr. Stackhouse and Mr. Boulianne, you actively facilitated this segregation on behalf of RBC.

In particular, in the process of actively excluding the delegation that included Wet’suwet’en Hereditary chiefs, from the main room with shareholders and RBC executives and staff, security placed their hands on the regalia of Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, which is a highest form of disrespect for protocol and Wet’suwet’en Law. 

In Wet’suwet’en law, the regalia Chief Na’Moks wore to the AGM, is sacred. When you look at the front, you see four things – land, wind, air, people. The regalia is not to be touched. When the person wearing the regalia speaks, it’s because they’ve listened and are passing on words,  this is called the “head push.” The words are of Wet’suwet’en people, the Matriarchs, house and clan members. The Wet’suwet’en Nation.

The people who wore the blanket before, the more work they did, when they passed it on, the more buttons were added. This reminds the next name carrier of their duties, their responsibility to carry it with honour. Wet’suwet’en Elders say it is more sacred than the Pope’s robes. You don’t touch it, unless you’re invited to.

Annual General Meetings are a moment for all shareholders, including proxy holders, to discuss their concerns about the business practices of banks. This includes significant risks with the ongoing financing of fossil fuel projects including tar sands expansion, the Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline, and expansion on LNG in the Gulf of Mexico. Eve Saint, Wet’suwe’ten land defender, traveled to Saskatoon to attend the AGM and intentionally wore a red dress to speak to the ongoing genocide of Missing and Murdered, Indigenous Women and Two Spirit people, including near ‘man camps,’ used by fossil fuel companies to build infrastructure. This red dress was never seen by anyone in the main AGM room.  

It’s time for Canada’s banks including RBC to respect Indigenous sovereignty and rights to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC), to adopt policies to implement the United Nations Declarations on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to protect what is left of our planet’s biodiversity, and to foster an environment where work can be done to ensure a liveable climate for all. A credible pathway to achieve net-zero in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s most recent synthesis report, which RBC has publicly  committed to, would require a 50% absolute emissions reduction target covering all aspects of your business including scope 1, 2 and scope 3 emissions which includes financed emissions by 2030. These are the messages that RBC attempted to silence at the AGM.

Mr. McKay, at the AGM, you said, “[RBC] fundamentally agree the entire underpinning of free, prior, and informed consent is building relationships […] So we have to build relationships and take time to build those relationships. And those relations are built on dialogue and communication.” RBC’s conduct at its own AGM shows that the company, and its leadership,  has a long way to go to repair and build relationships in order to obtain free prior and informed consent for the projects it funds.

Mr. Stackhouse, you frequently speak of RBC and climate leadership, yet RBC now has the dubious title of the world’s largest financier of fossil fuel projects in 2022 (source).

We, the undersigned, were directly impacted by your actions at the AGM and have written now, two months since the event was held, to call on RBC to apologize and address the above conveyed demands.

Click here to see the updated list of signees.


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