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Land defenders, climate activists rally against RBC in downtown Saskatoon

Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Gisdaywa, centre, stands with drummers during a protest against the Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting at the Delta Bessborough hotel in Saskatoon on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Wet'suwet'en Hereditary Chief Gisdaywa, centre, stands with drummers during a protest against the Royal Bank of Canada’s Annual General Meeting at the Delta Bessborough hotel in Saskatoon on Wednesday, April 5, 2023. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A few blocks in downtown Saskatoon were closed Wednesday while protesters called on the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to stop bankrolling fossil fuel projects.

The protest coincided with RBC's annual shareholders meeting, held this year in Saskatoon at the Delta Bessborough Hotel.

Holding up signs with slogans like "Royal Bank of Contaminators" and "Stop banking on pipelines," protesters chanted, "How do you spell racist? RBC," and "What do we want? Climate justice."

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

The streets were closed with concrete barriers and police monitored the peaceful protest.

About 70 people first gathered down the street from the Bessborough, at Kiwanis Memorial Park, then marched to the hotel where they had a drumming circle, participated in round dances and listened to speakers. There, the crowd grew to around 150 people.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

Cedar George-Parker, a member of the Tulalip and Tsleil Waututh Tribes, travelled from B.C. for the rally. He said Indigenous people have always wanted to protect the lands and water.

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"That's why we're fighting and standing up the oppression of RBC, because we're rich with culture and we're willing to fight for what we believe in," he said.

An Indigenous delegation also attended the shareholders' AGM, but said some were barred from entering the main room despite holding the proper proxies to attend. Instead, they had to participate from a second room.

Shareholders voted on resolutions regarding climate change and Indigenous rights, but all the resolutions failed.

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press

"We didn't even make it inside," said Chief Na'Moks, Hereditary Chief of Wet'suwet'en, in a news conference afterwards.

"Today we came here to address the RBC AGM, tell them to quit funding projects such as Coastal GasLink, the destruction that comes with it, the violence that comes with it, the danger to our women, the danger to our waters, the future of our children."

The Coastal GasLink pipeline, under construction in B.C., is opposed by the Wet'suwet'en hereditary chiefs. RBC is one of the financiers of the project.

The rally in Saskatoon on Wednesday followed a series of protests held on the weekend across Canada to mark "Fossil Fools Day."

RBC has defended its funding of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, noting the project has been extensively reviewed and approved by regulators, and has the support of the 20 elected First Nations along the route.

In an email to CBC earlier this week, RBC said it is "committed to achieving net-zero in its lending by 2050" and has established interim emissions reduction targets "that will help us drive action and measure progress."

Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press
Liam Richards/The Canadian Press