Skat’sin te Secwepemc-Neskonlith Kukpi7 Judy Wilson challenges RBC, upholds land defenders resisting climate change

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Kukpi7 Judy Wilson.

CBC recently reported on Kukpi7 (which means Chief in the Secwepemc language) Judy Wilson’s visit to Montreal (on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehà:ka).

The article by Jaela Bernstien notes: “Wilson, based in south central British Columbia, is the chief of the Skat’sin te Secwepemc-Neskonlith Indian Band and the secretary-treasurer for the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs (UBCIC). She’s also one of six applicants who filed a complaint to Canada’s Competition Bureau, accusing RBC of greenwashing — something that prompted the regulator to open an inquiry into whether Canada’s biggest bank misled customers about its climate action.”

The Toronto Star adds: “Investigations into false or misleading representations or deceptive marketing practices can lead to criminal charges or a civil lawsuit. The maximum penalty for corporations in civil cases is $10 million.”

RBC and the Coastal GasLink (CGL) fracked gas pipeline

In RBC’s three-page Climate Blueprint document, RBC CEO Dave McKay says: “Global plans to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050 require the largest change to our economies in our lifetime, and one that the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC®) is fully committed to supporting.”

RBC Climate Blueprint video: “With a commitment to reach net-zero emissions in our lending by 2050 aligning with the international goals of the Paris Agreement.”

And yet has documented: “RBC is among top commercial banks providing the CGL project with working capital, including CAD $275 million in project finance, a co-financed $6.5 billion loan, a $40 million corporate loan, and $200 million in co-financed working capital – while acting as financial advisor for the pipeline.”

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Oil Change International report Indigenous Resistance Against Carbon (page 16) has also noted the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline could produce 125 million metric tons of CO2 pollution annually.

Construction on the pipeline is scheduled to be completed in 2023 and would be in service for a minimum of 25 years (to 2048). Given gas pipelines can have a lifespan of 50 years, Coastal GasLink could be operational through to 2073. 

Campaign telling RBC to stop financing Coastal GasLink is leading the campaign calling on RBC to defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline.

On October 6, they tweeted: “Last week, we launched a call tool with the direct lines of RBC execs to demand RBC defund the Coastal GasLink pipeline before CGL drilled under Wedzin Kwa. In response, RBC blocked us. We’re doubling down. Here’s the direct lines of @RBC execs, & a sample script.”

By October 16, Decolonial Solidarity highlighted: “More than 800 people made 2200 calls to RBC execs…1st they hung up, then turned their voicemails on and recorded grumpy messages…They even complained to the telecom carriers…Pressure is working.”

RCMP arrests Wet’suwet’en land defenders

The RCMP has launched three militarized raids (January 8, 2019; February 6-10, 2020; November 18-19, 2021) on Wet’suwet’en territory to enable construction of this fracked gas pipeline to continue without free, prior and informed consent.

Photo: RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, January 2019. Photo by Michael Toledano.

After the first militarized RCMP raid on the territory in 2019, Wilson stated: “Canadians, I think what they need to realize is that the land defenders are doing this for everybody. They’re doing it to protect the water, they’re doing it to protect the land, because with dirty oil and gas, we have to change, and it has to be immediate.”

She added: “The other thing is that the land defenders are doing this because of climate change and global warming. We can see it in the weather, we can see it in the emergency flooding and fires that we’re going through. We go right from flooding to fires in our territory. Last year a lot of this was burnt up, a lot of our communities that were affected are still struggling. Our animals were affected, our plants, our medicines, our water.”

Wilson has also commented: “The use of military force and violence against Indigenous people on the ground, and it’s not just happening at Wet’suwet’en. It’s happening everywhere … We really do need to get to that issue.”

Wilson at COP27 in Egypt

The CBC article also notes: “Wilson, who will be attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Egypt next month, said she’s learned issues must be tackled holistically.”

The United Nations Conference of Parties (COP) 27 talks will be taking place this coming November 6-18 in Egypt.

The UN Human Rights Council has affirmed that “human rights defenders, including environmental human rights defenders, must be ensured a safe and enabling environment to undertake their work free from hindrance and insecurity, in recognition of their important role in supporting States to fulfil their obligations under the Paris Agreement.”

But at COP26 in Scotland last year, Global Witness highlighted that 1,005 land and environmental rights defenders had been killed since the Paris Agreement was reached at the COP21 summit in December 2015.

Many others on the frontlines of the climate crisis, like the Wet’suwet’en land defenders and water protectors arrested by the RCMP in 2019, 2020 and 2021, have been criminalized and judicialized for their defence of land, water and territory.

We continue to follow this.

Photo by Decolonial Solidarity at Bank Street and First/ Ottawa.

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