RBC meets with University of Ottawa Students

November 30, 2023

A group of student leaders from Climate Justice University of Ottawa, the University of Ottawa Indigenous Student Association and the University of Ottawa Student’s Union met with RBC leadership to discuss the student body’s demands for #RBCOffCampus. We broke down some of the key conversations and takeaways.

RBC OnCampus Branches and use of student space:

The RBC OnCampus branch is a clever ploy by RBC to attract more student customers under the guise of “supporting financial literacy.” Before the presence of RBC OnCampus at UOttawa, the space was a 24hr student lounge. The branch has displaced students and encroached on highly-demanded student study space The OnCampus branch does not provide the kind of financial literacy the support the bank claims. It is sparsely populated and often empty. RBC claims the OnCampus branch at UOttawa was in demand and approved by student leaders. The SU president at the time made public statements against the branch. Shana, a member of CJCUO asked, “Which student leaders were consulted?” No response from RBC.

RBC Emissions Intensity Targets vs Absolute Emissions Targets

RBC has set targets on the intensity of their emissions, meaning they can continue to fund just as many fossil fuel projects (or more) than they currently do, and as long as fossil fuel investments equal a smaller percentage of their total funding, they can claim to have reduced their emissions. RBC maintains they are meeting industry standards.

Students re-affirmed that, “This isn’t about industry standards, it’s about our futures. […] Climate change is the number one concern for the most part for our generation. […] RBC shouldn’t be aiming for industry standard. RBC should be going beyond [industry standards.]” – Maisy Elspeth, UOSU

Violations of Indigenous Sovereignty and Free, Prior and Informed Consent

RBC funds projects that violate Indigenous sovereignty, including the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, which does not have the free, prior and informed consent of the Wet’suwet’en. RBC continues to scapegoat Indigenous elected chiefs and leaders who are in favour of the pipeline, while ignoring the traditional leadership of the Wet’suwet’en, the hereditary chiefs. Despite the historic Delgamuukw Supreme Court decision, which affirmed that the Canadian government has no jurisdiction over the sovereign and unceded territory of the Wet’suwet’en, RBC continues to rely on colonial courts in BC to affirm the existance of Coastal Gaslink.

“You can’t have both. You can’t say you contribute to reconciliation and then not respect traditional Indigenous laws, cultures, and lands. […] Your actions are contradictory. You don’t have unanimous consent from [the Wet’suwet’en.] And by going against that and recognizing the Indian Act over traditional law you are actively working against reconciliation.” – Quanah Traviss, University of Ottawa Indigenous Students Association

RBC Calling Police on Student Protestors

Students at the university of Ottawa have faced escalation from staff at the branch, with Ottawa police being called on them for pamphleting outside the OnCampus branch. This directly contradicts University policy wherein campus security should be contacted before Ottawa police. RBC says they bring in the police because they are a “neutral body.” 

“Police are not people that we feel comfortable with. [T]he university’s policy is that you call campus security first, and that’s not what’s been happening on campus. It’s been straight to the police, it’s been threatening. So you can say police are a neutral body, but if what RBC is telling us is we’re gonna get you arrested, that doesn’t make us feel as if the police are a neutral body. ” -James Adair, UOSU

“I know my rights on campus. I know how to protest. We have a whole policy on student rights and conduct. […] And I informed this to someone at the branch, […] and I was still threatened, [and told] no, they will arrest you. They will arrest you. That is the language that was used. That is intimidation. That is antagonistic. And that is, frankly, violent. ” -Maisy Elspeth, UOSU

“This thing of police being called and campus security and frankly, violent and uncalled for reactions to student demonstrations is not isolated to this campus. We communicate with groups from every major university in Canada and pretty much all of them tell us the exact same things.” -Quanah Traviss, University of Ottawa Indigenous Students Association

RBC Calling Police on Student Protestors

At RBCs AGM last April, Indigenous delegates were segregated into a separate space, given colour coded passes. A chief’s regalia was touched, police threatened land defenders with arrest, and John Stackhouse was present and witnessed these things. A letter was sent to RBC demanding an apology months ago, RBC has not acknowledged it.

“In your meeting with CJUofT, students asked Andrew Block if he knew about the letter from the Indigenous delegation and he stated that he was aware but was unsure if RBC would be apologizing. So I will ask again, why did you close the door on Indigenous voices, and will you be apologizing for your blatant act of racial discrimination?” -Angel Geneau, Indigenous Students Association

John Stackhouse responded by saying that Wet’suwet’en chiefs and land defenders had “I would say a disproportionate share of mic time, and of meeting time. When the meeting went well over the allocated time for it, so that those people were heard. I’m sorry they felt discriminated against through this practice.” Shame on John Stackhouse for this response. 

“Actions on campus are not gonna stop. [The UOSU] are in the process of switching banks. Actions are not going to stop until, the demands [from] campuses [from] coast to coast [are met.] Students do not want RBC branches on campus. It is not an effective use of space, nor does it reflect the values of those who are walking the halls daily.”  – Maisy Elspeth, UOSU

Join our mailing list

Stay up to date on trainings, actions and updates from Change Course

Join List