[lg policy] A leading oil sands lender adopts policy language considered the gold standard for protecting rights of indigenous peoples, but is it just rhetoric?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jan 7 17:22:01 UTC 2011

A leading oil sands lender adopts policy language considered the gold
standard for protecting rights of indigenous peoples, but is it just

By Stacy Feldman at SolveClimate

Thu Jan 6, 2011 2:23pm EST

By Stacy Feldman

The Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) — one of the world's biggest financiers
of Canadian oil sands — has expanded its environmental policy to give
more say to indigenous peoples when considering underwriting mining
projects and pipelines blamed for polluting their lands.The decision
to consult First Nations on "high-impact" investments, such as
Alberta's oil sands, was hailed by environmental and indigenous groups
as a sign of how far financial institutions have come in acknowledging
the risks of fossil fuel development to Native Americans — and to
their own bottom lines.

"This is certainly one of the strongest commitments we have seen from
a bank of RBC's size in terms of indigenous rights," said Brant Olson,
campaign director for advocacy group Rainforest Action Network (RAN).
"The bank has made real progress." The decision was disclosed by RBC
on its website on December 22, in a 282-word message from President
and CEO Gordon M. Nixon. Details are thin on the so-called "Policy on
Environmental and Social Risk Management for Capital Markets." But
Geoff Owen, a spokesperson for RBC, confirmed that it "formalizes
consultation with First Nations" for the first time.

First Nations say oil sands extraction and pipelines have polluted
waterways and indigenous villages. "It is a policy that governs when,
where and how we lend, particularly in heavy manufacturing and natural
resources," Owen told SolveClimate News.

More Than Meets the Eye?

RAN and indigenous groups that lobbied RBC for two years to change its
policy insist there is far more to the standards than was disclosed

They say groundbreaking language was approved in official internal
policy that they reviewed, which directs RBC's oil and gas clients to
have "policies and processes consistent with the standard of free,
prior and informed consent" in community relations with First Nations.

That well-known clause, known as FPIC (pronounced eff-pick ), is
considered the international gold standard for protecting the rights
of indigenous peoples.

It comes from the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People
that Canada and the U.S. endorsed in recent months after vetoing it in
2007, along with Australia and New Zealand.

According to Olson: "The Harper administration making that decision
opened up space for the bank to take stronger position on the issue."

Of course, what constitutes "consent" is still a matter of interpretation.

More at: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUS362545447820110106

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