RUEBEN GEORGE SPEAKS AT TD BANK AGM: TSLEIL-WAUTUTH NATION DOES NOT CONSENT TO TMX

Early on Thursday April 14th, Reuben George, Tsleil-Waututh Sacred Trust Initiative spokesperson, attended the TD Bank’s annual general meeting (AGM) to speak in support of a shareholder proposal put forth by SumOfUs for “No New Fossil Fuel Financing”. Here are Rueben’s words from the AGM:

“Good morning. My name is Rueben George, Sxloose, and I am a spokesperson for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative. I’m calling from our homelands also known as Vancouver. Tsleil-Waututh Nation – the People of the Inlet – live at the terminus of TMX.  The Westridge Marine Terminal is not just in our back yard, it is in our bread basket.

I am joining you today because we believe that TD is considering more involvement in financing the Trans Mountain Expansion Project (TMX). After Trans Mountain revealed that the costs had skyrocketed to $21.6 billion dollars, Finance minister Freeland announced that no further public money would be invested in the project. This is misleading because any debt incurred by a crown corporation like Trans Mountain is public debt. However, Trans Mountain now needs to raise at least $10 billion dollars from the private sector, while the fundamentals of TMX are worse than ever and it seems destined to become a stranded asset.

Minister Freeland explicitly named TD Securities as key advisors on TMX. We know that TD also helped to structure the purchase of Trans Mountain by Canada from Kinder Morgan after the pipeline company concluded that TMX was too risky and uncertain. We also know that TD was also a funder of the Dakota Access Pipeline, and that TD conducted an internal study following the events at Standing Rock in 2016 that caused significant reputational harm. TD has financed over $140 billion dollars in the fossil fuel sector since the Paris Accord, the 11th most of all financial institutions in the world.

I am here to tell you, your shareholders, and your customers directly that Tsleil-Waututh Nation does not consent to TMX.  We conducted our own independent assessment under our unextinguished Indigenous laws which applied world-leading oil spill science to reach our final decision to withhold our free, prior and informed consent.

TD talks a good game about Indigenous rights and environmental responsibility, but you continue to walk in the opposite direction by financing fossil fuel projects that violate Indigenous rights.

My questions for you this morning are:

  1. Will you release the full report on Standing Rock to your shareholders so that they can understand TD’s approach to Indigenous Rights?
  2. How do TD’s due diligence and Indigenous people’s policies allow for the continued financing of projects that do not have free prior and informed consent and which will worsen the climate crisis?”

Rueben’s questions identifying the lack of Indigenous consent and continued expansion of fossil fuel investments were not resolved by TB bank. This year most of the Canadian big banks’ AGM had shareholder proposals focused on climate change accountability. The investment in Trans Mountain by these banks goes against their own policies and commitments to protect the environment and uphold indigenous rights. TD Bank is a signatory to the Equator principles, committing to due diligence requirements in respect of climate change and human rights considerations, including the need to seek the “free, prior and informed consent” (FPIC) of Indigenous peoples impacted by proposed projects. Trans Mountain, according to the Equator Principles, would be classified as Category A project: Projects with potential significant adverse environmental and social risks and/or impacts that are diverse, irreversible or unprecedented. Knowing this, Canadian banks cannot in good conscience invest in Trans Mountain.

 

Below is the press release associated for the SumOfUs shareholder resolution:

Indigenous leader and concerned shareholders question TD Bank’s (TSE: TD) plan to address climate change and the financing of TMX.

TD fails to answer how the bank will address the considerable financial and reputational risks of continued financing of fossil fuel expansion projects, and specifically the financing of pipelines which violate Indigenous rights. 

Toronto  — TD Bank shareholders represented by SumOfUs, an international consumer group, presented a shareholder resolution calling on the second biggest Canadian bank to adopt a policy of not financing new fossil fuel supply, including financing of companies exploring or developing undeveloped oil and gas reserves, by the end of 2022. 

VIEW SHAREHOLDER PROPOSAL HERE: https://www.td.com/document/PDF/investor/2022/E-2022-Proxy-Circular.pdf#page=84

TD is also involved in the financing of controversial pipelines that do not have the Free, Prior and Informed Consent from all impacted Indigenous communities such as the Trans Mountain and Coastal GasLink pipelines. 

There were many questions from shareholders at the AGM addressing both TD’s climate financing in fossil fuel projects and in particular TD’s financing of Trans Mountain, all of which were inadequately answered by TD Bank. 

“We came here to tell TD’s management, shareholders and customers directly that Trans Mountain does not have the free, prior and informed consent of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and many other Indigenous communities” said Rueben George, Manager at Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative, “TD dodged our questions with canned answers and continued the pattern of denial that is a common tool of colonization. TD talks a good game about reconciliation and environmental responsibility, but continues to walk in the opposite direction by financing fossil fuel projects that violate Indigenous rights.” 

The Tsleil-Waututh Nation community is situated across from the terminus of TMX on Burrard Inlet, and directly on the oil tanker route. 

The shareholder proposal filed by SumOfUs asks TD to not only to stop financing climate destroying pipelines, but to stop financing all new fossil fuels expansion in line with the International Energy Agency’s (IEA)  path to net-zero by 2050 report. 

“We filed this proposal because the shareholders we represent saw TD’s plans to address climate change and it did not align with IEA’s roadmap to get to net-zero by 2050. We quoted IEA in our supporting statement thinking TD just didn’t see or didn’t agree with IEA’s approach,” said Angus Wong, Senior Campaign Manager at SumOfUs. “So we were shocked when TD’s Board of Directors quoted the IEA in its recommendation for shareholders to vote against our proposal. With this climate disinformation, it’s no wonder our proposal didn’t pass.”

Due to the abrupt cancellation of the RBC AGM 18 hours before the event, likely due to Indigenous leaders flying in to Toronto to speak out at the RBC AGM, none of the speakers attended the TD AGM in person. 

“TD’s plan to address climate change is completely inadequate and their answers today to the many shareholder questions follows the pattern of green washing its way through the climate crisis. Without ending fossil fuel expansion, or setting absolute reduction targets, the bank has shown that it has little commitment to take the bold and immediate actions necessary to prevent catastrophe,” said Amelia Meister, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs. “The only silver lining to TD’s AGM is that TD at least fielded some questions in person, unlike RBC who likely canceled the AGM to avoid being in the spotlight on its record on climate change and indigenous rights.”

 

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