Courtesy of Richard Bluecloud Castenada / Greenpeace

Commentary  An open letter to TD Bank on their investment in the DAPL

70 TD scholars call on TD to stand with Standing Rock

Bharat Masrani
Group President and Chief Executive Officer
TD Bank Group

Robert Dorrance
Chairman, CEO and President
TD Securities

November 24, 2016

Dear Bharat Masrani and Robert Dorrance,

We are writing as recipients of the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership to ask that TD withdraw its investments from the Dakota Access pipeline (DAPL), an unjust project that violates the sovereignty of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation. From coast to coast across Canada, with representation ranging across the twenty years that this scholarship has been in place, we have come together with our hearts leading forward and our arms wide open to share our concerns about TD Bank’s investment in DAPL.

As recipients of the TD Scholarship for Community Leadership, we value the opportunities and networks we have been able to form through being a part of this family. But as community leaders, we know that actions speak louder than words, and while TD claims to support “responsible energy development” and to be committed to “strengthening the communities where we live and work,” its actions reveal a different reality. We have been recognized by your institution for working toward social and environmental justice in our communities, but we struggle to represent an institution that is invested in a project of the highest injustice.

The DAPL would transport 570,000 barrels of crude oil a day across the Missouri River less than a mile upstream from Standing Rock Sioux territory. The construction of the pipeline would destroy Sioux historical and sacred sites, while the pipeline itself would put the drinking water of 18 million people at risk of contamination. This pipeline was originally routed through Bismarck, a predominantly white community, but due to concerns around drinking water contamination, it was re-routed to travel just upstream of Sioux territory, instead endangering the drinking water of Indigenous people, prompting many to call this an act of environmental racism.

Thousands of Indigenous peoples and allies have gathered at the Oceti Sakowin and Sacred Stone Camps to stop the pipeline’s construction. Although their protest has been peaceful, they have been ruthlessly abused by law enforcement officials. Militarized police have unleashed dogs on peaceful protesters. They have detained protesters in dog kennels, and used tear gas, rubber bullets, and strip searches. On November 21, The Guardian reported that over 300 protesters had been injured after police deployed water cannons in freezing temperatures, with 26 people hospitalized due to bone fractures and hypothermia and one 21-year old woman facing possible arm amputation after police threw a concussion grenade at her. The United Nations and Amnesty International have both condemned the ongoing human rights abuses at Standing Rock.

TD Securities has made one of the largest commitments to DAPL among major banks and financial institutions, contributing over 360 million dollars towards its construction. TD’s investment in DAPL represents almost 10% of the 3.75 billion dollars in total extended by financial institutions internationally to Energy Transfer partners, the parent corporation constructing DAPL.

The 2015 TD and Indigenous Communities in Canada Report states, TD is “building on its long history of partnering with Indigenous peoples, organizations and communities” and “translating commitments into action.” Given the injustices faced by Indigenous peoples in Standing Rock today, it is imperative that it translate its commitments into actions now and show leadership in defending social justice in the international community.

Last week, TD completed a call for high school students from across Canada to apply for the Scholarship for Community Leadership. We cannot reconcile TD’s commitment to empower and celebrate young people for leadership in our communities and our efforts to build justice with TD’s financial support for a project that undermines the sovereignty of Indigenous communities and has proven unjust from its very beginning, as exemplified by the lack of Indigenous consultation and the violent response to protests. We are grateful to have been recognized by TD as leaders in our community and hope that together as a TD community, we can demonstrate our commitment to “advancing Aboriginal prosperity,” as stated in the 2015 report.

Water protectors in Standing Rock have called for peaceful actions in solidarity with their protest. Across Canada, TD clients and community members are answering their call and expressing disappointment with TD’s support for DAPL, only to be denied dialogue. We urge TD to exemplify the same leadership they have celebrated in us by following in the footsteps of DNB, Norway’s largest bank, which recently withdrew its funding from DAPL due to human rights violations. We challenge TD to listen to the demands of the Standing Rock Sioux, issue a public statement to denounce the human rights violations taking place at Standing Rock, and withdraw its investments from the pipeline.

All Our Relations,

Niyousha Bastani (2013)
Selin Jessa (2013)
Aube Giroux (1996)
Dev Aujla (2002)
Daniella Barreto (2009)
Donovan Taplin (2012)
Claire Edwards (2012)
Anne-Lou McNeil-Gauthier (2013)
Innosar Issakiark (2013)
Sarah Brebner (1997)
Celina O’Connor (2001)
Michael Lay (2015)
Joey Loi (2012)
Lucas Walters (2015)
Taylor Gordon (2009)
Emily Pearlman (2000)
Freya Kellet (2014)
Paige Zwicker (2012)
Clement Cheng (2015)
Samantha Manner (2012)
Annaliese Meyer (2015)
Qendresa Sahiti (2016)
Chloé Trépanier (2012)
Madlen Nash (2013)
Mitchell Wootton (2014)
Rachel Garrett (2014)
Dr. Kaija Belfry Munroe (1999)
Jason Apostolopoulos (2006)
Rita Steele (2013)
Kayode Fatoba (2009)
Ashley Wheaton (1998)
Shelby Angalik (2016)
Joanna Bowen (1996)
Hoda Mahdi (2013)
Melissa West Morrison, Namgis First Nation (2012)
Jessica Peters (2013)
Benjamin Jones (2012)
Morgan Hanson-Oliveira (2015)
Privia Randhawa (2010)
Netta Kornberg (2007)
Jaxson Creasey (2015)
Hasina Shain Daya (2010)
Bronté Robinson-Pike (2010)
HyunGu Kang (2016)
Mandy Pipher (2002)
Emily Sinclair (2014)
Dr. Elise Paradis (2002)
David Beisel (2012)
Emily Leeson (2000)
Mahtab Dhaliwal (2015)
Rebecca Hagos (2014)
Sorcha Beirne (2015)
Philippa Adams (2005)
Siobhan Lazenby (2011)
Aimee Richard (1999)
Andrew Angus (1998)
Kali O’Dell (2012)
Ellany Lea (2001)
Shannon Wong (2013)
Derrick Lovell (2008)
Sajjad H. Jaffrey (2012)
Xavier Gordon (2001)
Natalie Chan (2005)
Emma-Cole McCubbin (2014)
Cody Dunne (2010)
Edith Gaudreau-Lebel (2011)
Tiffany Ashoona (2011)
Dr. Latif Murji (2009)
Katie Van Den Berg Gunn (2006)

Niyousha Bastani