Oil Sands Truth: Shut Down the Tar Sands

ACFN member climbs flagpole to protest tar sands

ACFN member climbs flagpole to protest oilsands
Activists call on wife of RBC CEO to help protect communities

By SHAWN BELL, SRJ Reporter 05.AUG.09

An Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation member climbed a 50-foot flagpole in downtown Toronto on July 29 to protest the Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC) involvement in financing the oilsands.
Eriel Deranger was one of two Rainforest Action Network (RAN) protesters who hung a 30-foot high banner in front of RBC’s Canadian headquarters, calling on the wife of RBC’s CEO to encourage her husband to withdraw financing for new oilsands projects.
Deranger, who grew up in northern Saskatchewan on her family’s trapline and has many family members in Fort Chipewyan, said her action was a way of telling bank executives the projects they fund are devastating her community and the surrounding environment.
“The tar sands are basically destroying the Athabasca River,” Deranger said.
RAN has geared its action at financial institutions since last year’s release of a report identifying the main financers of oilsands projects. The report, Financing Global Warming, found that Canada’s top five banks – RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC and BMO – invested more than $55 billion in direct corporate loans and investments in securities for coal, gas and oil production. The report states those five banks also contribute another $100 billion to the fossil fuel sector by providing investment banking services and allocating assets placed under their management.
Of the top five Canadian banks, RBC is the biggest investor in fossil fuel development.
Deranger’s Toronto protest appealed to Nancy Nixon, wife of RBC’s CEO. The ACFN member said Mrs. Dixon is well-known as an environmental supporter, and the intent was to encourage her to influence her husband’s actions.
“Most people do not realize that banks take our money to do stuff like this,” Deranger said. “Considering one-quarter of all Canadians have an account with RBC, the bank has a corporate social responsibility to protect our communities.”
The young woman, who will protest at the Council of the Federation meeting in Regina this week, said her actions targeting financial institutions complement the work being done to target industry and government around Fort Chipewyan.
“There are many different tactics being deployed, and all of them are extremely important,” Deranger said. “The tar sands can not be stopped by a single method.”
Deranger spent two hours on the flag pole, before police ordered her down. No charges were laid, but the protesters were fined $65 for failure to climb down immediately when asked.


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