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VIDEO: UBCO students protest the Royal Bank over pipeline investments

It was a day of student activism at UBCO today.

The students are singling out the Royal Bank of Canada for providing pipeline funding.

They gathered at the same location that RBC staffs to help students with banking issues.

"RBC is the biggest lender of the Coastal GasLink Pipeline," said Erin Delfs, the organizer of the event at UBCO.

While the protests are calling on RBC to stop funding fossil fuel projects, Delfs admits our society isn't ready to walk away from oil completely.

"Obviously, the just transition is not where we hope it would be, however, this pipeline in particular is in complete defiance of the hereditary chiefs of Wet'suwet'en First Nation," she said.

"So it defies reconciliation, it's very colonial, and it's also part of the largest fracking project in Canadian history."

<who> Photo Credit: NowMedia

So the protest is about both oil dependence and it's about respect for First Nations.

The $6-billion pipeline has approval from the provincial government, and 20 First Nations band councils have signed on, including five of the six band councils in Wet'suewet'en nation.

But it's the hereditary chiefs that have the attention of the organizers of this event.

"So when we're thinking of sustainability and climate activism, showing up to support and stand in solidarity with people of Wet'suwet'en is just that," said Delfs.

<who>Photo credit: NowMedia </who> Erin Delfs

Normally RBC has staff at its Student Advice Centre on campus, but no one was there today.

"And also we got news that RBC pulled out of a career fair on campus today, so it seems as though they were trying to avoid our information sharing," she added.

Delfs has no illusions that this event will lead to an about-face by RBC on its pipeline investments, but she believes it can make a difference.

"They're facing more and more reputational risk around young people. The fact that this is a nationwide event, organized by 'banking for a better future' at over 12 campuses, that is so much more than just what we're doing here."

RBC responds by acknowledging that fossil fuels are a problem.

"Climate change represents a significant global challenge", reads the statement, "and the transition will require one of the largest economic transformations in generations."

The statement mentions the bank's goal of achieving net-zero lending by 2050 and says positive relationships with first nations are a priority.

"RBC strives to be the leading financial institution in Canada to work with Indigenous people towards reconciliation, supporting economic development, community endeavours and educational opportunities."

But the bank said it does support energy development, as long as it's "done in an environmentally and socially responsible manner, including meaningful consultation with indigenous peoples."

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