Who are you and are you involved in any groups?
I am a member of the Revolutionary Student Movement in Guelph, a militant student group that is anti-capitalist, anti-colonial and anti-imperialist.
Can you briefly explain the current struggle going on between the Canadian State and the Wet’suwet’en nation
The Wet’suwet’en nation has been in a struggle with the federal government of so-called Canada and the provincial NDP government of British Columbia since the Indigenous land defenders opposed the construction of a natural gas pipeline by Coastal Gas Link. The greedy capitalists of CGL never bothered to obtain the consent of the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs to destroy their territories. In response to the Wet’suwet’en’s rightful resistance, the BC Supreme Court gave CGL the right to remove land defenders and the obstacles they set up from their own territory. This aggression against indigenous people is being carried out by the RCMP and private security firms, in the regular fashion with which they carry out the dirty work of the businessmen. Just a year ago, the RCMP violently invaded the very same territories in the interest of capital, and now we are seeing threats of a similar situation. A few days ago, an elder was unlawfully detained by these pigs as she tried to enter the territories, so it clear that their current tactic is to prevent access of people, food, and resources, in an attempt to starve out the Indigenous resistance.
What was the action that took place at the RBC bank?
The action that took place in the RBC on January 26th was an occupation of the bank. Around 30 community members took over the bank for around 40 minutes, delivering a statement to the management and speaking to customers who were trying to get in about the involvement of banks, especially RBC, in funding colonialism and violence against the Wet’suwet’en nation. Personally, I had a few good conversations with people going into the bank about the situation. For the time we were inside the bank, organizers spoke to the staff and everyone in the building to get across the message. Despite a shortage of numbers for a full sit-in, there was a clear disruption of business and an interruption of the working hours.
How is RBC involved in the pipeline?
RBC plays a major role in the financial backing of the CGL pipeline project. By acting as a financial advisor to the shareholders of the pipeline, of Wet’suwet’en territory, and colonial violence. Without RBC’s funding and advising, the plans for this pipeline would not have been carried out, and the violations of indigenous sovereignty by the RCMP would not be taking place. The commitment of banks to protect their investments and profits over the people and environment is what allows these projects to keep happening. This is why it’s important to highlight the role of banks like RBC and to target the financial source of the state and capitalist violence.
Are there any other banks involved in the pipeline?
Yes, TD and HSBC are also listed as “financial advisors” to the shareholders of the pipeline project. So really, no one bank is better than the other, as all financial institutions serve the purpose of protecting investments, to ensure their own profit.
What was the purpose of occupying the bank?
The Wet’suwet’en nation has called for disruptive solidarity actions to send a clear message to the Canadian state and the numerous pipeline-backing institutions that Indigenous lands are not for profit, and that their violent investments will be opposed. The purpose was to amplify the message that the business ventures of capitalist settlers will not go unchallenged while Indigenous land rights are violated because of them.
How long did it take before the police arrived? And what happened then?
The police were called multiple times by management and there were present security guards. About 35 minutes after the start of the occupation the police started showing up. I saw 4 come in through the back door and other comrades counted 8 others. So 12 cops in total showed up, refusing to engage in conversation and instead went straight to telling us that we are trespassing on private property, which seemed to be the only thing they cared about. About 10 minutes after their arrival we were being removed from the bank, and then we were told to “move the rally outside”
Do you think this action was successful? Are you prepared to be more diverse in tactics in the future?
I believe the action was temporarily disruptive and got the message to multiple people, including some staff and costumers. For at least the 40 minutes in which we were inside the bank and the 15 minutes afterwards where we were outside the building, there must’ve been a disruption in the normal working operations of the bank. I believe that in the future more militant actions should be used to fully stop all operations by the banks. We know that the RCMP is only getting more aggressive, and talks don’t seem to be stopping them. The targeting of banks and the monetary source of the violence is a great strategy and has the potential to really provide meaningful solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en nation.
Guelph is the occupied territory of Mississaugas of the Credit Nation and Anishinabek Nation