Bank of Montreal calls for due diligence legislation, but funds pipeline companies that criminalize Indigenous water protectors

Published by Brent Patterson on

Greenpeace photo.

The Bank of Montreal (BMO) recently signed a letter that states:

“The process of continuously conducting robust human rights and environmental due diligence (HREDD) is a core requirement for businesses and investors in fulfilling that responsibility, as framed in the recognized international standards of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises.”

It also highlights:

“The European Commission is developing a new law, as part of the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive, mandating HREDD. The UK now has an opportunity to retain its leading role in business and human rights by bringing forward its own legislation.”

And it concludes:

“We renew our call on all governments to develop, implement, and enforce mandatory human rights and environmental due diligence requirements for businesses headquartered or operating within their own jurisdictions or, where appropriate, to further strengthen these regulatory regimes where they already exist.”

BMO and Coastal GasLink, Line 3 pipelines

And yet, as noted in the Banking on Climate Chaos: Fossil Fuel Finance Report 2022, BMO has provided millions of dollars in financing to companies that are building pipelines that have criminalized Indigenous land defenders.

Just two of those companies include the Calgary-based TC Energy Corp and Enbridge Inc.

In 2012, TC Energy Corp was selected by LNG Canada to design, build, own and operate the Coastal GasLink fracked gas pipeline.

That pipeline is currently being built on Wet’suwet’en territory in northern British Columbia without free, prior and informed consent. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has repeatedly called on Canada to stop this megaproject.

The Narwhal recently reported: “To date, RCMP have spent more than $25 million maintaining a constant presence on Wet’suwet’en territory. Most of that supports the force’s Community-Industry Response Group, commonly called C-IRG, a special unit set up in 2017 to police opposition to industrial projects.”

According to the RCMP, 90 arrests have been made involving 80 different people and there are 20 people currently facing charges.

Photo: RCMP raid on Wet’suwet’en territory, November 2021.

And Enbridge Inc recently completed the constructed of the Line 3 tar sands pipeline that crosses Ojibwe territory in Minnesota.

More than 800 water protectors have been arrested or cited in Minnesota for their opposition to Line 3 since November 2020.

Land defender Tara Houska recently tweeted: “I’m facing a year in jail for defending my people’s territory, courtesy of this Enbridge-backed sheriff [Daniel Guida]. Enbridge paid MN law enforcement/DNR $8.5M. Over 1000 of us were arrested. Some were tortured. Many were surveilled, brutalized. For defending the rivers & wild rice.”

Photo: Tara Houska.

Next steps on due diligence            

In May 2021, PBI-Guatemala highlighted at the European Parliament that due diligence legislation must include “strong provisions for the protection of human rights defenders, mainly environmental defenders, as well as very clear mechanisms for meaningful participation prior to investment and environmental impact assessments of major development projects.”

PBI has also recommended that due diligence legislation must ensure that “companies adopt a zero-tolerance approach on reprisals and attacks on defenders not only in their own operations but also when they are linked to such attacks through their value chain, business relationships and private security contractors.”

We have further stated that due diligence legislation should include “effective mechanisms for victims and communities to hold companies to account and access remedy in the context of human rights violations and attacks on human rights defenders.”

Rigorous due diligence?

It should not be possible then, as Export Development Canada (EDC) did, to claim that it carried out “rigorous due diligence” before granting up to $500 million in financing to Coastal GasLink.

EDC says: “[The pipeline] continues to be opposed by a group of hereditary chiefs from the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, who claim to be the legitimate decision-makers of this nation, not to have been duly consulted and not to have consented to the project. [However, EDC believes TC Energy] has demonstrated a great ability to manage environmental and social risks.”

In May 2021, the Canadian Network on Corporate Accountability launched model legislation for due diligence and corporate accountability in Canada.

The model legislation for Canada can be read here.

Photo: Land and indigenous rights defenders continue occupation of BMO in Nelson, British Columbia; February 2020.

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