A growing protest movement against a controversial oil pipeline in the United States has reached Newfoundland.
On Saturday a small group visited a Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) branch in St. John’s to protest the bank’s ties to the Dakota Access Pipeline currently under construction in the midwestern United States.
If constructed the $3.8 billion pipeline will carry nearly a half million barrels of fracked crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota more than 1,800 kilometres through multiples states and across rivers and Indigenous lands to Illinois.
In recent months the pipeline has become a ground zero in North America for Indigenous Nations’ fight against colonialism and for the broader struggle against corporate power that prioritizes profits over human health and the environment.
Thousands of Indigenous people and allies from across the United States, Canada and the world have descended on two camps near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to join local Sioux tribes’ fight against Dakota Access LLC, the company building the pipeline, which intends to run the pipeline across the Missouri River and sacred Indigenous burial grounds.
St. John’s resident Dave Mundy told The Independent he and his family a few others entered the RBC branch on Freshwater Road in St. John’s Saturday morning to “raise awareness” by standing in the bank’s lobby with a sign that read “Stop funding criminals of human rights abuse” and “No to Dakota Access Pipeline,” while handing out flowers to those who took the time to read their message.
In September an investigation by Food and Water Watch revealed 17 financial institutions are providing “project-level loans” to Dakota Access LCC to build the pipeline, while 38 in total are “directly supporting the companies” involved building the pipeline, with approximately $10.25 billion in loans and credit facilities.
Among the banks are three from Canada. TD Securities, a subsidiary of TD Bank Group, was found to be providing project-level loans to Dakota Access LLC, while RBC, Scotiabank and TD are all financing Energy Transfer Family of companies “so it can build out more oil and gas infrastructure,” Jo Miles and Hugh MacMillan of Food and Water Watch wrote on Sept. 6.
“RBC is one of the larger [banks] to invest with $340 million going to three different corporations involved with the development of this pipeline,” said Mundy, who does his personal banking with RBC.
Mundy organized the protest and attended with his partner and their four-year-old son.
“I think this is an important lesson to start [teaching children], especially in these times: how to use your voice, and how to understand that just because a place is big and has thick walls and heavy doors, that doesn’t mean that they can tell you what to do,” he said, explaining those who do business with a bank have a direct financial connection to that bank’s investments.
“You have just as much a right to voice your opinion instead of feeling you just have to follow what they tell you.”
On Nov. 7 several hundred people marched through the streets of Montreal demanding the Canadian banks withdraw their support from companies that are building or will profit from the pipeline.
A few days prior thousands took to the streets in Toronto in a show of solidarity for Indigenous land and water protectors and others on the frontlines in North Dakota, where riot police have cracked down violently on the peaceful protests, using sound and water canons, rubber bullets, pepper spray and tear gas in an attempt to disperse those opposing the pipeline.
Last week it was reported that DNB, Norway’s largest bank, sold its assets in the companies associated with the DAP and is considering terminating loans it has made in helping fund the project.
This is the same fight as Muskrat Falls. — Dave Mundy
Mundy said DNB “set a precedent,” and that he’s hoping RBC and the Canadian banks with connections to the project will do the same.
“We’ve seen so many environmental tragedies from pipelines built this year alone,” Mundy explained, adding the DAP would run “through the very beginning of the largest watershed in North America, the Mississippi Basin,” which, in the event of an oil spill could affect up to a third of the U.S. population. “That’s how much fresh water is at stake.”
The battles against oil pipelines in the U.S. and Canada are part of a wider movement that recognizes extractive industries as impediments to climate justice, and Indigenous rights and decolonization as necessary components to a successful global effort to avert catastrophic and irreversible climate change.
Many in the movement also recognize the current global economic system, capitalism, due to its need for constant growth, as the driver of growing social inequality, ecological destruction, and dispossession of Indigenous Peoples from their traditional lands.
“This is the same fight as Muskrat Falls,” said Mundy. “This is the same fight as a lot of the environmental and Native issues in Canada. This is about listening to people over corporate interests.
“I can’t stress enough to the people who live around here and are looking to the future and really hoping that things will change, and that we’ll start making decisions that are pro-people in the sense that our environment will continue to thrive—in order for that to happen this is a battle we have to win.”