I wasn’t expecting a red carpet at the Royal Bank of Canada’s 2023 annual general meeting, but I wasn’t expecting to be segregated to a back room, either.

As part of the Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour (IBPOC) delegation to RBC’s 2023 AGM, I was there as a registered proxy holder. Registered proxy holders who also happened to be white settlers were welcomed into the main conference room.

The IBPOC delegation was never allowed to set foot in the AGM conference room. Instead, we were shunted to another room, our only “attendance” at the AGM watching it unfold on a television screen.

It was pretty dehumanizing and degrading.

Unlike other registered proxy holders, we were not allowed to raise questions in person about RBC’s operations or vote in person on resolutions. RBC’s C-suite — CEO Dave McKay, VP John Stackhouse and managing counsel Martin-Pierre Boulianne — did not have to look us in the eye and answer how their “unwavering determination to progress as a bank that stands for Indigenous inclusion” squares up with financing a fossil gas pipeline that destroyed numerous ancient Wet’suwet’en archeological sites and most recently caused an enormous sediment spill into our sacred headwaters, Wedzin Kwa (Morice River), damaging sensitive salmon spawning grounds. That’s on top of the pipeline’s multiple infractions and stop-work orders from the British Columbia government.

RBC is among the top banks providing the Coastal GasLink project with working capital, including $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.

Coastal GasLink has never received free, prior and informed consent from Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, who stand staunchly opposed to the project as they have from Day 1. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized our people’s sovereignty, which RBC repeatedly ignores and dances around.

At the AGM, Canada’s biggest bank (and the world’s worst fossil bank) chose to replicate structures of colonial racism. Reminiscent of the reserve system, supported by the Indian Act, the colour-coded passes given to us at the AGM created a two-tiered system, labelling us second-rate, so we could be sorted into a separate holding room, stopping us from the right to speak and vote directly like the rest of the shareholders. They claimed the main room was full but if that was the case, why the colour-coded system?

RBC also enlisted the help of the Saskatoon police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to enforce this segregation. The cops came bearing arms and the threat of violence, doing exactly what they were historically created to do: force Indigenous Peoples in Canada to fall in line while our land was stolen and our natural environment destroyed. Trying to make your voice heard while facing men with guns — this is not reconciliation. But it is all too familiar: Wet’suwet’en people face ongoing RCMP harassment and intimidation on our own unceded territory.

I’m not the only person who finds the bank’s actions at its AGM atrocious. Over 2,000 signatories (and counting) of both individuals and organizations including lawyers, doctors, businesses and civil society organizations have signed an open letter demanding a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing in the exclusion of Indigenous Peoples into a segregated room, an apology and a commitment going forward that RBC will respect Indigenous participation, demonstrated by equitable treatment for Indigenous shareholders and proxy holders, including full participation without segregation.

@RBC’s tactics to silence and cast aside Indigenous Peoples are not new to us, writes @EveSaint8 #ShareholderShowdown #WetsuwetenStrong #DefundCoastalGasLink

RBC’s tactics to silence and cast aside Indigenous Peoples are not new to us. We’ve been fighting structural racism since the inception of this colonial state, long before RBC was a household name.

Unless RBC changes how it does business, people across our unceded and ancestral lands will see through the bank’s veil of PR spin to what it really is — another racist structure that upholds and profits from a colonial system of oppression of Indigenous Peoples.

Eve Saint is a Wet’suwet’en land defender and mom of two. She is a lead organizer in the campaign calling on RBC to stop financing Coastal GasLink and the continued extraction and expansion of fossil fuels.

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There has been too little coverage of the Wet'suwet'en internal disputes about this issue. All we get are the one side that did not cut a deal with CGL. It leaves me with the suspicion that CGL did indeed engage with a large *majority* of the Wet'suwet'en, who did give consent. It's just that majority are not thereby under any obligation to speak up for CGL, and indeed figure that further protest by the minority might wring out another benefit, or two.

Any journalist that wants to tune me up on that belief just has to cover the Wet'suwet'en entirely, not just those who rush forward for coverage. Perhaps some coverage on that "matralineal coalition" that the Court took notice of, when approving the CGL motion.

In our system both the Parliament and the Senate have to agree to legislation before it can come into force. The Wet’suwet’en also have two groups representing them; surely approval from both should be required for any agreement to take force.

Check out the Delgamuukw-Gisdayʼwa decision or the description of the 2020 railway protests:

Band Councils are colonial constructs that govern reserves; the Hereditary Chiefs governed before settlers arrived and they remain responsible for governing Wet'suwet'en territory.

Your comment is actually irrelevant to the basic facts of the article. These First Nations people were there as proxy shareholders. They were treated differently, and worse, than other proxy shareholders, on the basis that they were First Nations shareholders--and my country's police force backed up this racist behaviour with guns.

Your stuff about whether RBC et al. should be allowed to successfully divide and conquer is rather beside that basic point.

Now that said, I'm sure RBC would have done something similar if it could about white proxy shareholders that it was sure opposed the RBC executives' political priorities, although the cops might not have been so enthusiastic about helping them. But that brings us to an interesting question about corporate governance: Where do the executives get off deciding which shareholders shall and which shall not have a voice? And it's clearly easier for the executives to formulate First Nations shareholders as somehow not "real" shareholders, who need not be listened to the way a shareholder from Bay Street would be--indeed, your own response tacitly assumes this.

You're right; my post was entirely off-topic, not about RBC at all. It's about CNO coverage of the Wet'suwet'en. *Everybody* knows the hereditary/council divide, for years now.

And also, the rules of Britain say that the majority party gets to run the whole dang country. But that does NOT mean that journalists cover only the Tory party and only Boris speaks for all Britain; journalists are allowed to cover the opposition, readers are allowed to know what Keir Starmer thinks, too.

But only Na'moks and Sleydo and friends are EVER covered by the CNO; the Band Council that thought differently, the matralineal coalition that challenges their very claim to be chiefs, are also Wet'suwet'en, also worthy of coverage. I'm sure they would like us to know their views, but they have been, ahem, silenced, by selective coverage. RBC has not divided the Wet'suwet'en, they've been divided since they were offered a deal.

I am irritated on their behalf, and more so as a news reader who wants the whole story. So, I hijack any Wet'suwet'en related story comments are to express my disatisfaction.

You may now return to crapping on RBC.

My understanding is that such discrimination is illegal. Why are the RBC executives not in court being charged for this? What am I missing?

All the foregoing comments raise valid points that require answers from RBC; and this leading global funder of Climate despoiling projects must justify (if it can) its despicable behaviour at its AGM.

Capitalism has totally ignored its historical obligations to its shareholders under the rise of the predatory Executive class. Shareholders, for the good of everyone must rein in these overweening and arrogant people who apparently have no intention of fulfilling their fiduciary duties. Asset stripping hedgefunds may take a serious interest in focusing on these block headed banks.

It is interesting to note that three Canadian banks have now been noticed in the US press and in climate activist circles as members in good standing among the US banking giants and villains who are continuing to prop up the fossil fuel sector. RBC however still ranks as the world leading investor in a "dying industry". Now we are not only the alien source of lethal wildfire smoke, we are infamous for our banking practices. Probably NOT the profile Canada wants to project.

RBC also sends only partial AGM packages to some very small shareholders who have in the past mailed in votes against the corporation's recommendations. Three years now, and counting.
They managed to send other stuff in between the voting deadline and being asked to rectify the non-compliant package.
It wouldn't be surprising to find there are a range of measures geared to getting what the board wants, regardless of shareholders' preferences.
But it's also worth noting that the major banks all hold shares in each others' corporations ... and that executives and directors, themselves, have significant shareholdings (and in some cases see part of their remuneration in the form of shareholdings).
Not to mention that many of them sit on carbon corps' boards as well.
The problem is so very much broader (and bigger) than the article presents.
And in the meantime, there's the matter of pension plans' shareholdings, as well.