FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 2, 2023
BCGEU and UBCIC announce partnership to push corporate Canada to operationalize FPIC
The labour union and Indigenous political organization joined forces with the aim of combining their respective expertise to push financial institutions to operationalize FPIC.
Vancouver, BC, Musqueam Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Territories - The B.C. General Employees' Union (BCGEU) and the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) have partnered to engage Canada's largest public companies on the operationalization of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) when it comes to business decisions that impact the rights of Indigenous peoples. FPIC is an essential principle of international human rights law that recognizes Indigenous peoples' right to make decisions about their lands and territories.
The groups will prioritize efforts to integrate FPIC into the operational policies and practices of financial institutions. The two have filed the only FPIC resolution to go to a vote this year at the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)'s Annual Meeting on April 5, 2023. The BCGEU, the shareholder, and UBCIC note that RBC lags behind other Canadian banks and has much more to do to operationalize FPIC into its corporate policies and activities.
"We have seen a lot of companies talking a lot of talk about the call to action #92. The time for words is over. The time for action is now," said Paul Finch, BCGEU Treasurer. "RBC taking action to operationalize FPIC will make it a better company and will give RBC additional leverage to effect meaningful and necessary change on the path towards reconciliation.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the UBCIC emphasized the importance of operationalizing FPIC in order to uphold Indigenous rights. "RBC needs to go beyond platitudes and performative activities and start implementing FPIC, which is fundamental to any credible reconciliation process," he said. "Canadian banks have treated Indigenous issues as Diversity, Equity and Inclusion matters rather than one intertwined with operations and business decision-making. While 'economic reconciliation' and Indigenous prosperity are important, neither can occur if banks like RBC continue to pour vast funds into projects and companies that do not obtain FPIC."
The shareholder proposal asks RBC to revise its Human Rights Position Statement so RBC can inform itself about how its business clients operationalize FPIC.
"Overlooking the right to FPIC is not only a material risk but will increasingly become a compliance risk as Human Rights Due Diligence legislation gains traction around the world," said Finch.
RBC and other banks often refer to the Equator Principles to address Indigenous rights. "Shareholders should not be persuaded by the banks' reliance on the Equator Principles. EP4 falls short of the minimum standard set out in UNDRIP and will not mitigate the material risks and contingent liability related to failing to meet the standard of Free Prior Informed Consent." said Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.
The groups have reached successful agreements with banks on similar proposals, including Bank of Montreal (BMO) and The Toronto-Dominion Bank. After engagement with BCGEU and UBCIC, BMO agreed to modify its Human Rights statement in addition to enhancing its due diligence for FPIC concerns and FPIC education as first steps towards operationalizing FPIC.
The RBC AGM takes place on April 5, 2023 in Saskatoon. Representatives from BCGEU and UBCIC will present the shareholder proposal in person.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Emma Pullman, BCGEU Capital Stewardship Officer, [email protected]
Ellena Neel, UBCIC Communications Manager, [email protected]
About BCGEU: The B.C. General Employees' Union represents over 85,000 workers in almost every community and economic sector in British Columbia. Under BCGEU's capital stewardship strategy, the union has submitted shareholder proposals at some of Canada's largest companies and has succeeded in achieving strong commitments on ESG issues.
About UBCIC: The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is a political advocacy organization that represents over 120 First Nations in British Columbia. The UBCIC works to uphold Indigenous sovereignty, promote self-determination, and advance Indigenous peoples' rights.
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BCGEU Headquarters is on the unceded and shared traditional territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skxwú7mesh (Squamish) & Səlí̓ lwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.