SFU350 calls on SFU to divest from RBC

RBC invests in the coastal gas pipeline directly, violating Indigenous land rights and title

This is a collage of photos from SFU350’s campaign. Stickers are seen plastered in various spots around campus. The stickers read, “RBC OFF CAMPUS” and “Scotiabank funds trans mountain pipeline.”
PHOTO: Courtesty of SFU350

By: Eden Chipperfield, News Writer

A coalition between SFU350, Climate Justice UBC Vancouver, and independent UBC Okanagan students has rallied to cease RBC’s presence on campus. They are collaborating with Change Course, a movement aiming to end mass financing of the fossil fuel industry. 

The Banking on Climate Chaos report was published in April and outlines various global banks that finance large fossil fuel companies in 2022. RBC sits at the top of the lengthy list, and is culpable for $38.1 billion USD in fossil fuels investments from last year. Even more funds were funnelled to oil sands projects and fracking. RBC’s assets correlate with Indigenous rights violations and biodiversity loss. One particular violation carried out through RBC’s investments is tar sands. According to experts from Undark, tar sands are the “most climate-polluting sources of oil,” and are frequently built near Indigenous communities.  Tar sands industrial development sites have deep impacts on Indigenous Peoples by “stripping away boreal forest and muskeg and rerouting waterways [and] sprawling waste ponds that leach heavy metals into groundwater, and processing plants that spew nitrogen and sulfur oxides into the air, sending a sour stench for miles.”

The RBC presence on SFU campuses includes the ATM located in the AQ on the 3000 level on Lhuḵw’lhuḵw’áyten (Burnaby Mountain). 

SFU350 is a club dedicated to engaging the SFU community in intervening in climate change and finding solutions for a greener world on and off campuses. In response to the Banking on Climate Chaos report, SFU350 began protesting the partnership between RBC and SFU by decorating the campus with spooky posters for Halloween, informing campus-goers on RBC’s ethical and environmental burdens. 

To discuss the Halloween campaign, The Peak connected with Natasha Ivkov, an organizer with SFU350’s divestment and community reinvestment working group. 

“The climate crisis is driven by the world’s reliance on fossil fuels. Most countries have committed to meeting climate goals set in the Paris Agreement in 2015, but the 2023 Banking on Climate Chaos report finds that banks are continuously investing trillions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry worldwide,” expressed Ivkov. “The newly completed Coastal GasLink (CGL) pipeline [ . . . ] stretches across northern British Columbia is intended to carry fracked natural gas, and is funded largely by RBC.” 

Readers may be familiar with the CGL invasion of Wet’suwet’en traditional territory. Ivkov explained that the pipeline was not presented to Indigenous communities in a fashion that involves free, prior, and informed consent, and violated the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Land defenders have protested, and continue to protest their Indigenous rights and title to their territory. The Wet’suwet’en Chiefs declared, “They have not consented to the pipelines according to their laws and customs.” 

#BanksOffCampus is the hashtag for raising awareness around RBC’s malpractices. Change Course runs the campaign with support from many climate action organizations across Canada, such as SFU350. “#BanksOffCampus, as the name suggests, strives to kick Canada’s big five banks (RBC, TD, Scotiabank, CIBC, and BMO) off university campuses due to their involvement in the fossil fuel industry,” said Ivkov. 

The Halloween posters SFU350 members placed around SFU are meant to turn individuals’ heads and inspire deeper thought about who they may be banking with. If the petition succeeds “in getting student unions to end their banking relationships with the big five banks, [we] will be sending a firm message of disapproval to its targets,” said Ivkov. “With wins having been announced at the University of Toronto, the University of Ottawa, and York University, the campaign is already sending a strong message to fossil funders; students do not stand for their blatant disregard for human rights and climate action.” 

SFU350 and the SFSS have been working together on a list of demands regarding the future of banking at SFU: 

  1. “Publicly and formally commit to not establishing an RBC On Campus Branch and to advocating against the university from entering into a contract for such a branch;
  2. End their banking relationship with Scotiabank, one of Canada’s big five banks, which invests massively in fossil fuels, and move to a financial institution that is rooted in the local community and invests in people, like a credit union;
  3. Stop allowing RBC or any of Canada’s big five banks from hosting, co-hosting or sponsoring student union events.”

The Peak reached out to SFU for a statement regarding the protests against RBC and banks on campus involved in fossil fuel investments: “SFU is committed to sustainability and reducing the carbon footprint of its operations and investments, and is targeting full divestment of all endowed and non-endowed funds by 2025. To support the banking needs of our community, SFU has 10 ATMs across the Burnaby campus from the leading banks and credit unions. One of the 10 ATMs is for RBC.”

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