Mrs. Nixon, Please Help us Stop the Tar Sands

29 07 2009

I originally posted this on itsgettinghotinhere. We’re still reeling from our success yesterday.

During rush-hour commute this morning, two Indigenous Canadian women – Eriel Tchekwie Deranger, and Heather Milton-Lightening – scaled flagpoles in front of the main entrance of Royal Bank of Canada’s (RBC’s) headquarters in Toronto, dropping a banner reading “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon.com” – appealing to the bank to pull its massive investments in Alberta tar sands projects. Supported by RAN, the Ruckus Society, and their Indigenous People’s Power Project, they were joined by dozens of Toronto RAN activists, swarming entrances to ensure every RBC employee heard our appeal Mrs. Janet Nixon, the wife of RBC CEO Gordon Nixon, to lend her strong and influential voice to those fighting to protect Canada’s clean water and respect Indigenous rights by pushing RBC to stop bankrolling the tar sands. They handed out flyers, held banners, and even circled the building on bikes with “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon.com” flags.

RBC is the ATM of the Tar Sands.

They are a leading investor in what has been called the dirtiest project on Earth and is one of the greatest social and ecological injustices of our time. Unless they’re stopped by grassroots pressure, oil companies will transform a boreal forest the size of Florida into an industrial sacrifice zone – complete with lakes full of toxic waste that are so big that you can see them from outer space. Tar sands projects poison First Nations Communities, pollute precious water resources, kill wildlife, and are the single biggest contributor to global warming from Canada.

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At the same time as the banner was being unfurled, thousands of RAN supporters and allies began emailing a video to key RBC executives – in which RAN’s Michael Brune appeals to Mrs. Nixon to help RBC offer leadership by withdrawing its funding for the tar sands. (If you haven’t participated in this online action yet, it’s not too late! Click here to view the video and email it to RBC executives.)

You can also view the video on YouTube (be sure to go to PleaseHelpUsMrsNixon.com and take action when you’re done watching):

Check out ongoing news coverage that is just starting, from Bloomberg, CBC, Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Canadian Press, Daily Kos, Financial Post, Canada.com, Brandon Sun, Stockhouse, KBS Radio, New Brunswick Business Journal, AM 1150, Canadian Business, Vancouver Sun, and much more.

See lots of photos of the action here.

The banner was up for over two hours, and a large crowd of people gathered to watch. Several RBC executives also joined us, watching in embarrassment. In the end, the police let the two climbers go without making any arrests; the climbers were given citations.

This action is also the culmination of a month-long guerrilla wheatpasting campaign by RAN Toronto, who have covered the city with hundreds of posters bearing the message “Please Help Us Mrs. Nixon” – leaving people in Toronto wondering what these posters are all about. (But in case Janet Nixon herself was unsure who she was being asked to help, we had a letter from RAN delivered to her home address yesterday.)

While Janet Nixon is the wife of RBC’s CEO, we are appealing her today because she is also a committed environmentalist, and has been instrumental in shaping RBC’s Blue Water Project. But while pledging $50 million to help fight water pollution over the next ten years, RBC has loaned $2.3 billion to tar sands companies in the last two years alone.

We stand at a cross roads. Does RBC want to help lead our country by investing in clean renewable energy? Or continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel of dirty oil at a cost far too high? Tar sands oil expansion is devastating the regional environment, contaminating Canada’s precious water supply, endangering wildlife, threatening First Nations’ health and preventing Canada from meeting its climate commitments. Indigenous First Nations communities downstream have experienced polluted water, water reductions in rivers and aquifers, increased cancer, and declines in wildlife population that threaten to destroy their traditional ways of life.

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RBC has a critical role to play in investing in Canada’s clean energy future. RBC must require clients to provide evidence of free, prior and informed consent from First Nations on projects affecting their communities, as the first step of a phase-out of financing and advisory services to all tar sands projects which have adverse impacts on the environment. The bank must develop an action plan to reduce ‘financed emissions’ related to all lending activities that impact the climate.

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We know that Mrs. Nixon cares deeply about clean water, and so we’re appealing directly to her to help us push RBC to make a meaningful commitment to clean water, by ending its financing of the tar sands – rather than giving fistfuls of cash to Big Oil’s dirtiest project ever, while donating its spare change to clean water projects.

Mrs. Nixon, will you help us? (And Mr. Nixon: if you want to help us stop the tar sands too, there’s no need to wait for your wife to take the lead.)

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