"... treating us as though our way of life and cultural practices hold no value in comparison to their monetary economic systems." — Johnny Lee, a Cree
By Paula E. Kirman
On Oct. 23, the world's largest banks (92) met in San Paulo, Brazil to vote on a policy that upholds the right of Indigenous peoples to free, prior, and informed consent to allow, or disallow, pipeline projects on their lands.
The banks included Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) financiers such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and J.P. Morgan Chase.
As a result, that day there were a number of Indigenous-led Days of Action across North America to put pressure on banks to divest from pipeline financing.
Divest the Globe, with an associated social media hashtag, was the name of the protests, as was Mazaska Talks. Mazaska is a Lakota word for “money.”
In Edmonton, protesters gathered outside of the main branch of TD Canada Trust on 102 Ave. and 101 St. to demand that TD stop the financing of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Pipeline.
Organized by local Indigenous activists in cooperation with Greenpeace, protesters explained their position to passers-by. They also posted signs and wrote messages to TD on the outside sidewalk in chalk.
One protester explained that TD should invest in renewable energy products instead of pipelines. Clean water being threatened by pipeline projects was named as a serious concern through song by Indigenous singers and drummers.
“The tactics that Kinder Morgan, the tar sands, and other oil producing companies have employed in order to extract Indigenous territorial resources are a prime example of treating us as though our way of life and cultural practices hold no value in comparison to their monetary economic systems. This is only the surface of why I decided to organize,” said Johnny Lee, a Cree organizer of the protest.
“My hope is only that more people will see the destructive effects of not just the burning of fossil fuels, but of the utter disrespect of Indigenous rights all over the world in obtaining these and all resources.”
This is not the first time the TD bank has come under fire from pipeline protesters. TD Securities was a lender in a banking syndicate with 16 other banks providing project financing associated with the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).
In an online response to TD's involvement with DAPL, the company stated, “TD's commitment to the environment is a source of great pride for many employees, customers and shareholders. The bank has set out a goal of being an environmental leader and has succeeded in a number of ways: as North America's first carbon neutral bank, as a global leader in underwriting green bonds, by using 100% green electricity, and through financing green energy businesses.”