Toronto activists award RBC “fossil fool of the year” for Tar Sands financing

Five actions in one day in downtown Toronto? No foolin!

Today Rainforest Action Network activists kicked Fossil Fools Day off with a bang, dropping banners off of a highway, greeting over 4,000 cars (we counted) stuck in deadlock traffic over a period of two hours. From bridges, we broadcast messages about Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)’s financing of the Canadian Tar Sands from our makeshift Pirate Radio station. Our banners read “Pirate Radio 89.9 FM Tune in now” and “Royal Bank creates climate chaos. Renewables not tar sands.” The pouring rain didn’t block our view of car after car reaching for the radio dial as they drove under us. Listen to the audio broadcast we played here!

We moved on to RBC’s headquarters downtown, and throughout the day were joined by over 30 activists filtering in and out for the festivities.

We began by dressing up and impersonated bank employees. About 16 of us rode elevators for up to two more hours, chatting up other RBC personnel – “Hey, on my way to work today I heard about how RBC is financing the destruction of Native territories in Alberta, causing people cancer and polluting the water! Tar Sands are the world’s dirtiest oil. Did you know that? I had no idea! I’m telling my manager right away!”

Meanwhile, outside the HQ, several more of us leafleted and held banners reading “RBC Creates poisoned water in our community,” “Renewables not tar sands” and “RBC: financing cancer and toxic sludge.”

Back inside, a lone Torontan walked inside the main office with a beautiful bouquet of balloons. I don’t know where he got the idea to release them in the atrium, or how a banner reading “ROYAL BANK CREATES CLIMATE CHAOS” got attached….I also don’t know how they’re gonna get it down. We have undercover footage of the prank here:

Later that evening, dozens of activists reconvened outside RBC headquarters alongside “Tarbie,” an oil-soaked version of RBC’s prized mascot “Arbie” who explained to passersby that he and RBC are helping finance one of the fastest growing sources of water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions on the planet, and how they conflict with the financial giant’s PR promises to promote clean water.

With more than $1 trillion in assets, the financing decisions of RBC greatly impact Canada’s $1.3 trillion economy. When RBC finances tar sands expansion, it locks in a polluting infrastructure that will have permanent negative impacts on regional water and air quality and accelerate global warming. RBC last year launched a new Blue Water Project, a PR initiative “committed to donating $50 million toward global fresh water initiatives over the next ten years.” In contrast to the $3 million dollars actually released in water quality improvement donations under the program in the first year, RBC financed an estimated minimum of $641 million for oil and gas companies operating in the Alberta tar sands, one of Canada’s largest sources of water pollution.

“If RBC is serious about supporting clean water,” said Melina Laboucan-Massimo earlier this year, member of Lubicon Cree Nation, a community fighting a TransCanada pipeline to the tar sands through their territory; “Why are they financing projects that are contaminating the lakes and rivers around my community?”

Extraction of oil from the Alberta tar sands is also a major threat to climate change, resulting in three times more global warming-causing greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil. Tar sands development is turning once pristine stretches of forest into desolate, post-apocalyptic landscapes and producing toxic pollution that is harmful to the health and quality of life of the region’s First Nations and other frontline communities.

“RBC’s investments in tar sands are having serious consequences for people living in nearby communities through elevated rates of cancer and polluted water supplies,” said Lionel Lapine at RBC’s Annual General Shareholders meeting, member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, a community directly downstream from tar sands developments. “RBC needs to start considering the price of their investments in human suffering, not just in dollars spent.”

RBC has been greeted with similar protest today in five other Canadian cities, expressing nationwide discontent with RBC’s policies.

Check out more photos here.

8 Responses to “Toronto activists award RBC “fossil fool of the year” for Tar Sands financing”

  1. 1 admacisaac Apr 1st, 2009 at 7:42 pm

    Great job Josh and many others with getting more education out there for Canadians to know what is happening with RBC and the Tar Sands.

  2. 2 andrew g Apr 1st, 2009 at 9:22 pm

    glad to see all the “fossil fuel” fools out there protesting. how many of you idiots got there by car, train , subway or bus?? the same banners you are holding, how much “fossil fuel” did they take to make?? because everything uses fossil fuel to make ( except love)
    get real, rbc investing will hopefully make it more eficent(sp) but it will never go away.
    you just added more by making usless posters, banners and traveling unnessarly for a stupid protest– dosen’t anybody WORK any more on a wednesday?? instead of trying to stop it figgure out a way to make it cleaner, because even if you ride a bicycle- it takes fossil fuels to make the same bicycle.
    if the idiots that do all this protesting actually spent their time doing something productive, mabe we could go forward in this world

  3. 3 Chad S Apr 1st, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    I agree with andrew g

  4. 4 stan Apr 2nd, 2009 at 12:11 am

    i disagree . . .andrew is obviously ill informed about the immense damage done by the tar sands to the air,water,forests, farmland and health of nearby people and also the harm done to the earth itself by huge greenhouse gas emissions. . .royal bank,as well as other banks care only about the return on investment,which is pretty shallow thinking and ignores the destruction caused by this tar sands industry.

  5. 5 Madeline Gardner Apr 2nd, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    Awesome action. Way to go everyone. We will only get a green and just future when seek collective solutions and systematically stop the polluters from destroying our planet and our future. Calling out RBC is some of the most noble work anyone could be doing on a Wed. Thanks!

  6. 6 Werner Apr 2nd, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Chad and Andrew… boys, get is together. We already know that most of the world is built around the idea that fossil fuels will last forever… that’s the first problem. The world is running out of fossil fuels and the sooner the world converts to renewable energy, the sooner we can build a clean, productive world. April first is actually Fossil Fools Day – and Canada’s Fossil Fools of the year is the Royal Bank of Canada. I hope you both managed to pick up a copy of the flyer – read it please. It’s got the information you need to understand why a protest of such a nature is necessary – the bank is not behing held accountable for its public promises. This is actually really simple stuff boys. Take a break from your anger and try to understand the problem. See for yourselves what is right and what is wrong. Everything, including the food we eat to fuel sex is based upon the use of fossil fuels. Get the story right and then come back and make your comments.

  1. 1 The Understory » Fossil Fool’s Day Round Up Trackback on Apr 2nd, 2009 at 1:06 pm
  2. 2 Fossil Fool’s Day Round Up « It’s Getting Hot In Here Trackback on Apr 2nd, 2009 at 1:19 pm
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About Joshua Kahn

Joshua Kahn Russell is an organizer serving movements for social justice and ecological balance. He is an action coordinator, facilitator, & trainer with the Ruckus Society, and has trained thousands of activists. He has helped win campaigns against banks, oil companies, logging corporations, and coal barons; worked with a wide variety of groups in a breadth of arenas, from local resiliency projects, to national coalitions, to the United Nations Climate Negotiations. He has authored chapters for numerous books, most recently The Next Eco-Warriors. His articles have appeared in Yes! magazine, Left Turn, PeaceWork magazine, Upping the Anti, and Z Magazine. His blog is and you can follow him on Twitter at @joshkahnrussell For a full bio see:

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