Mark Ruffalo and more than six dozen others in the entertainment industry signed an open letter urging the Canadian bank to drop its financial support

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Actor Mark Ruffalo is leading a constellation of Hollywood stars calling for the Royal Bank of Canada to divest from the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline through northern British Columbia.

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Ruffalo and more than six dozen actors, musicians and others in the entertainment industry signed an open letter to RBC urging them to drop their financial support for the project, which they say infringes the rights of the Wet’suwet’en people.

“The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs never consented to this pipeline construction through their territories, which would risk the sacred headwaters of the Wedzin Kwa,” said Ruffalo in a video to launch the No More Dirty Banks campaign. The Wedzin Kwa is also known as the Morice River.

He said the hereditary chiefs have been ignored, while corporations deal exclusively with elected Wet’suwet’en leaders “put in place by the colonial government, and not the rightful titleholders.”

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Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo with Indigenous lawyer Tara Houska at a pipeline protest in North Dakota in 2016.
Actor and activist Mark Ruffalo with Indigenous lawyer Tara Houska at a pipeline protest in North Dakota in 2016.

Elected leaders are chosen by members of the community under provisions of the Indian Act.

Ruffalo has a history of support for Indigenous groups opposed to fossil fuel development, including an ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the Dakota Access pipeline in 2016.

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In the video, Sleydo’ (Molly Wickham) — a spokesperson for the pipeline protesters who has been arrested at the Indigenous-led blockades — says Coastal GasLink “is racing to complete drilling to micro-tunnel under the Wedzin Kwa without the consent of the hereditary chiefs.

“RBC’s financial ties to this project make them responsible for endangering our drinking water, our salmon, and criminalizing us as Wet’suwet’en people on our own land.”

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She equaled Royal Bank’s support of the project to “funding genocide.”

The federal and provincial governments tried to arrange a meeting with the hereditary chiefs late last year to discuss rights and title. But the chiefs refused to attend after police arrested 29 people during two separate incidents.

“That was the end of it,” said hereditary Chief Na’Moks, also known as John Ridsdale. “How can you have any kind of a discussion when our people are staring down the barrel of a gun?”

The letter to RBC signed by Ruffalo and others says the chiefs and their supporters have been subjected to violence and harassment by the RCMP.

“For over a decade, the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs, members of the nation and their supporters, have protested this pipeline — at significant risk to their own lives,” it reads. “In the past three years, they have suffered multiple police raids, the burning of their cabins by suspected arsonists, extreme police harassment, and armed violence.”

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A petition to the bank calls for it to “stop funding fossil fuel expansion… RBC must end the funding of extreme fossil fuel expansion projects, specifically fracking and oilsands.”

Among the No More Dirty Banks signatories are Scarlett Johansson, Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert Downey Jr., Jane Fonda, Taika Waititi and Mariska Hargitay.

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Postmedia News has reached out to Royal Bank for a response.

—With a file from Prince George Post

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