Indigenous proxy holders that RBC segregated with racist colour-coded pass system at April AGM demand apology and action
June 7, 2023
Indigenous, Black, People of Colour delegates and climate leaders have penned an open letter calling out the mistreatment they faced at RBC’s AGM in Saskatoon, despite having valid proxies from shareholders. Delegates were segregated from the main meeting space and given different coloured passes, which police and security physically enforced. They are demanding RBC take action to acknowledge the harm done, apologize, and commit to doing better in the future.
On April 5, a delegation of IBPOC and other climate leaders, all of whom held valid proxies from RBC shareholders, were met with aggression and force when they attempted to enter the main meeting room of the RBC AGM in Saskatoon. RBC used a colour coded pass system to segregate Indigenous and racialized delegates into a separate meeting room, refusing them access to the main room where the RBC board and other shareholders were gathered. RBC security and police aggressively enforced this segregation, threatening members of the delegation with arrest, and laying hands on Indigenous Elders. CEO Dave Mckay, John Stackhouse and Martin-Pierre Boulianne actively facilitated this segregation on behalf of RBC.
Now the delegation is calling on RBC to take responsibility for this mistreatment with an open letter, delivered to RBC on Monday, two months after the event took place.
The letter calls on RBC leadership to formally acknowledge their wrongdoing, apologize, and commit to respecting Indigenous participants and all valid proxy holders through equitable treatment and full participation without segregation in the future. People and organizations representing over two million people are adding their support to the delegation’s demand and sharing outrage at the treatment they received.
Security laid hands on Hereditary Chief Na’Moks’ regalia, which is the highest form of disrespect in Wet’suwet’en culture. In a subsequent press conference Na’Moks called out RBC CEO directly saying, “You have offended a high chief. I hold you personally accountable Dave McKay.”
The Wet’suwet’en Nation is currently resisting the Coastal Gaslink Pipeline, of which RBC is the primary funder. The pipeline, the building of which recently resulted in a significant spill of sediment in the Wedzin Kwa (Morice River) does not have the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of the Dinï ze’ (chiefs) and Tsako ze’ (matriarchs), who are the true title holders of Wet’suwet’en territory. The letter highlights RBC’s complicity in intersecting injustices, including anti-Black racism in the Gulf Coast, and the MMIWG2S crisis. Eve Saint, a Wet’suwet’en land defender, says she went to the AGM wearing a red dress to highlight the complicity of RBC in the MMIW2GS crisis, which is directly tied to man camps from pipelines and resource extraction.
“The violence of RBC cannot be ignored any longer. What happened to me happens to our lands everyday. RBC is funding the genocide of our lands and people and it has to stop,” says Eve Saint, Gidim’ten Checkpoint Finance Campaigner and Wet’suwe’ten land defender.
Video of RBC’s segregation and aggression against Indigenous delegates on April 5 in Saskatoon can be found here and here.
Members of the delegation are available for interviews.
“When I put that [regalia] on, I automatically think of Granny. I think of my great, great uncle, my great, great, great, great grandmother because they wore that [before me] and they did it with honour and pride. I didn’t go to the AGM to pick a fight, I went there wearing regalia to tell the truth. RBC was the way they were because they didn’t want to hear the truth,” Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, John Ridsdale, Na’Moks and Kweese Houses, T’sayu Clan, Wet’suwet’en
“When they wouldn’t let us in the boardroom, that was the second time they did that to us. Because the land is ours, we should have been the first ones in that boardroom,” Hereditary Chief Gisdaywa, Fred Tom, Kaiyexweniits House, Gidimt’en Clan, Wet’suwet’en
“RBC’s conduct at this meeting was a real disappointment and a lost opportunity on the part of the bank to look toward relationship-building with Indigenous Peoples. We will continue this campaign with Royal Bank and other major banks until Free, Prior, and Informed Consent becomes institutionalized in the banking and investment community, so that Indigenous representatives no longer need to come to a business meeting to demand that our rights be recognized in your operations and investments,” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs
“The actions of the Royal Bank of Canada speak louder than their words, and their denial of access to a Black woman and Indigenous delegation shows their true colors of racism. It is unacceptable to belittle, segregate, or physically intimidate individuals based on their race. An apology is not only necessary, but it is the bare minimum that can be done to address this injustice,” Roishetta Ozane, The Vessel Project and The Gulf Fossil Finance Coordinator for Texas Campaign for The Environment
“I had a proxy from a shareholder to attend the RBC AGM, when I tried to enter the room where the CEO, executives, and shareholders were, I had a cop grab and hurt my wrist. My message to RBC: we are not leaving our Yintah, we will continue to fight for our beautiful Widzin Kwa as long as we are here,” Janet Bazil, Wet’suwet’en Elder
“The day of the RBC AGM meeting in Saskatchewan was quite the experience, as we had proxies to enter the meeting where the RBC shareholders were represented. Our intention was to peacefully share our voices and explain our experiences of the impacts of colonial violence at the hands of the RCMP, the police force being used to protect Coastal Gas Link’s industrial project, and therefore the interests of RBC shareholders.Our attempts to enter the meeting with the proxies we were given were completely denied and we were segregated. I was personally threatened with arrest and a charge of mischief along with my friend Roishetta. As we were put in separate rooms we voiced our stories of the conflict being funded directly by RBC. The response was not respectful listening but instead getting cut off and ignored,” Jocelyn Alec, Wet’suwet’en Youth Delegate
“As a youth, I’m super disappointed having been met with violence and threatened with arrests almost immediately. The mic was cut before I had the chance to make my statement and ask my question. Instead of getting annoyed with our struggles and questions, it might help to address it rather than cutting us off and ignoring the issues,” Shaylee Holland, Wet’suwet’en Youth Delegate
“As Hooxi’i of the Gitxsan nation, I am appalled and deeply disheartened by the Royal Bank of Canada’s disrespectful and discriminatory conduct towards Black and Indigenous leaders, notably Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, during the recent AGM. This contemptuous act of silencing voices earnestly seeking to address the detrimental impacts of fossil fuel projects on our lands and livelihoods is nothing short of corporate colonialism. I strongly urge RBC to not only issue a formal apology, but also to reassess their policies and actions, aligning them towards respect for Indigenous sovereignty, and responsible stewardship of our shared environment,” Kolin Sutherland Wilson, Gitxsan Land and Water Protector
“RBC is financing the companies currently poisoning my community, Aamjiwnaang First Nation. Generations are still being impacted by continuous chemical exposure, RBC holds the responsibility for how these companies are impacting our communities, our environment, and future. I attended RBC’s AGM in solidarity with our Indigenous leaders, elders, women, and youth, and I witnessed the security goons brutishly grab Chief Na’Moks’s regalia and perpetuate violence against Indigenous women by intimidating elder Janet and shove Eve Saint. It was clear RBC never intended to allow us to participate in the AGM, RBC’s barbaric actions are not only extremely racist behavior but should reflect the company’s priorities,” Vanessa Gray, Divestment Campaign Coordinator, Indigenous Climate Action
“RBC’s attempt to intimidate and segregate duly appointed proxy holders from their AGM to avoid accountability for their business decisions backfired, by shining a spotlight on how far they have to go to achieve their commitments to reconciliation and climate action. The fact that there were unused seats in the main room, with RBC staff taking up many spots that could have been used for proxy holders made their behaviour even more insulting. As a result of this horrible experience, I closed the RBC account I’d held since childhood,” Eugene Kung, Counsel for UBCIC
“Royal Bank of Canada’s behavior at its shareholder meeting was racist and abhorrent, yet not shocking coming from the world’s #1 fossil fuel financing bank, and given the toxic and environmentally racist projects it funds. At the very least, an apology to the Indigenous and Black frontline leaders is a crucial first step to take. We deserve more from Canada’s largest bank,” Richard Brooks, Stand.earth, Climate Finance Director
“People’s lives are routinely changed forever, with little to no democratic representation, by the decisions of RBC executives. It is wrong to deny them an opportunity to speak their truth in such a callous manner. For the love of God, apologize,” Louis Ramirez, Decolonial Solidarity
“It is clear that the bank has no interest in hearing from the Indigenous peoples most impacted by its investments in oil and gas infrastructure. This is not reconciliation nor is it climate leadership; young people across the country can see this very clearly. RBC cannot continue to pretend that the Wet’suwet’en people do not exist. Accountability must be taken for the violence the bank continues to enable,” Chris Mohan, Ivey Business School Student, Banking on a Better Future