If you ever doubt the power the Big Banks have over shaping climate change policy and practice, consider this: $3.75 billion of the $3.8 billion it will cost to build the Dakota Access pipeline is on credit.
According to a report from Food and Water Watch, an American consumer rights watchdog, at least three Canadian banks -- Scotiabank, TD and RBC -- are helping to bankroll the 1,800 km pipeline that travels directly through the traditional and treatied territories of the Standing Rock Sioux.
TD Securities is directly financing $365 million toward the construction of the DAPL and, additionally, the oil and gas infrastructure projects of one of the pipeline's joint owners, Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners. RBC and Scotiabank are providing $341 million and $100 million respectively toward Energy Transfer Partners and Sunoco Logistics, another joint owner of the DAPL.
Canadian pipeline company Enbridge -- behind the Northern Gateway and Line 9 reversal projects in Canada -- also paid $1.5 billion for a 27.6 per cent stake in the DAPL in August.
On Thursday, 141 unarmed, peaceful Standing Rock land defenders were arrested by armed police from at least seven states with militarized weapons and tactics. As many have pointed out, that same day the white insurrectionists behind the armed occupation at Malheur Wildlife preserve in Oregon were acquitted.
The original pipeline route, which crossed the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota, was rejected because of its potential threat to municipal water sources. Instead, the 570,000 barrel-a-day pipeline will cross the rightful land of the Lakota, Dakota and other Indigenous nations as defined by the 1851 Fort Laramie treaty. As @suntzufuntzu remarked on Twitter, "The Sioux are literally being forced at gunpoint to accept ecological risks that North Dakota's white residents refused."
Thursday's arrests mean that the protestors have been pushed off the construction site and the project is fast-approaching completion, despite the sovereign wishes of the Sioux and their allies. State-sponsored violence has protected the interests of fracked gas and pipeline companies and the investments of the Big Banks.
It's not just Canada's Big Banks that have gotten involved at Standing Rock. Some Black Lives Matter - Toronto activists, including Janaya Khan, visited the Oceti Sakowin Camp in late August as part of a larger BLM solidarity delegation. A small group of Kahnawake Mohawks set up a fire at the base of the Mercier Bridge in Quebec over the weekend in support of the protests in North Dakota.
Canadians also might have been surprised this morning to find that many of their friends had suddenly taken up residence in the Standing Rock Indian Reservation. In fact, reports have surfaced that the local Morton County Sheriff's Department has been using social media to identify and "target" protests. A so-far anonymous call-out requested that allies check-in to the reservation to confuse the police and confound their efforts. (For its part, the Sheriff's Department denies it is monitoring Facebook.)
These efforts are impressive -- and so far keep Indigenous people at the centre of the fight for clean water and air. The camps at Standing Rock -- that have reached as many as 8,000 inhabitants at times -- are certainly inspirational and any allies who put their bodies on the line with the brave land defenders should be lauded.
But as long as billions of dollars in Canadian financing are driving the oil and gas infrastructure criss-crossing this continent in the name of an unsustainable and foolhardy industry, we're going to need more than check-ins to stop it.
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