Mark Ruffalo has a long history working as an ally for indigenous communities, including protesting on site at Standing Rock in 2016. Now, the three-time Oscar nominee is among the 65 celebrities who have signed an open letter demanding the Royal Bank of Canada withdraw from its involvement with Coastal GasLink, a 416-mile pipeline that will cut through Wet’suwet’en land without the approval of the hereditary chiefs.
“We have a voice, and our voice reaches the people. And for some reason, we’re trusted,” Ruffalo said of using his celebrity to draw attention to the pipeline controversy. On Wednesday, Ruffalo also took part in a panel session event that was live streamed via YouTube.
“We have this privilege, and we have to use it for the right thing. None of this matters if our children can’t drink the water, they can’t breathe the air, they can’t go outside, the world burns around them. None of this means anything anymore, and we’re all becoming desensitized to this insanity that we’re living in. And governments have got to take action, but we see they’ve stopped, they’re not taking action. Our politicians aren’t doing what needs to be done,” Ruffalo said.
Ruffalo spoke at the event hosted by Indigenous Climate Action, an organization that supports communities of indigenous people in protecting their land. The event was the inaugural kick-off event for Climate Actions’ No More Dirty Banks campaign opposing Royal Bank of Canada’s pipeline construction. RBC has been the focus of the campaign so far although it is one of more than two dozen banks that formed a syndicate to finance construction.
The launch of the campaign included the publication of the letter that was also signed by Hollywood stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Taika Waititi, Scarlett Johansson, Jane Fonda, and Robert Downey Jr., which was published as an advertisement in the current issue of Variety. The protests from celebrities is notable due to the Royal Bank of Canada’s ownership of City National Bank, a bank that is active in the entertainment industry.
Representatives for Royal Bank of Canada declined to comment on the campaign. In a statement shared with Variety, Coastal GasLink stated that “Since the beginning of the Project, Coastal GasLink has sought to engage and consult with the Wet’suwet’en Houses through the Office of the Wet’suwet’en and the elected leadership. We want to listen and seek meaningful ways to address interests and concerns including ensuring the pipeline is built under the Morice River using the safest technology available.”
“Coastal GasLink recognizes that Indigenous reconciliation and addressing climate change are essential to creating a better, more sustainable world. We would encourage everyone interested to take the time to understand all the facts and the important role Indigenous communities have in developing and building the Project,” the statement continued.
Melina Laboucan-Massimo, the cofounder of Indigenous Climate Action, moderated the panel, and opened it by discussing how the proposed pipeline will violate the sovereignty of the people living in Wet’suwet’en land, as the pipeline’s proposed route will cut through the Wedzin Kwa river, a sacred river and the primary source of their water. Laboucan-Massimo also announced additional actions that Indigenous Climate Action will be taking in the following days and weeks. These include actions in Los Angeles this Friday, an online event on Saturday, and youth climate strikes on March 25.
“Our demands are clear,” Laboucan-Massimo said during the conference. “Withdraw support from the Coastal GasLink Pipeline, effective immediately. Uphold, affirm and respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and stop funding fossil fuel expansion, which is exacerbating the climate crisis.
Other speakers at the event included Sleydo’ Molly Wickam, a spokesperson for the Gidimt’en Checkpoint; Eugene Kung, a human rights lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law; and Hereditary Chief Na’Moks, the highest ranking chief of the Tsayu River Beaver Clan. The panelists discussed their experiences advocating against the expansion of the pipline, with Wickam and Na’Moks discussing the militarized violence police have been enacting against defenders of the land. During the discussion, Na’Moks talked about how those opposing the protestors have shown a lack of regard for the Wet’suwet’en people’s humanity.
“When you talk about money it doesn’t have a conscious, humans do, and that’s what we’re calling on, the actual human race to be human,” Na’Moks said. “You can tell, by what the speakers have said, we’re not regarded as humans, we’re simply a number.”
During the panel, Laboucan-Massimo also shared a video that launched on Wednesday promoting the No More Dirty Banks campaign. The video, which is narrated by Ruffalo, gives background on the pipeline and why the builders of the pipeline have no right to make decisions regarding Wet’suwet’en land.