Nelson’s Bank of Montreal branch is closed again today after activists demanding the bank divest itself from the Coastal GasLink LNG pipeline staged a sit-in that began Wednesday and has continued over two nights.
A spokesperson for the bank told the Star in an email, “We respect the rights of all to a peaceful protest. We are working with customers on an individual basis. For everyday transactions, we would encourage our customers to look to BMO’s online or mobile banking options.”
On Wednesday, participants crowded the lobby, wrapped themselves around a post and denounced the $6.6-billion pipeline, which is being partially built on Wet’suwet’en territory despite opposition from hereditary chiefs.
Today, a security guard stood inside the entrance, not letting anyone enter. If any of the small group of occupiers sitting in a circle on the floor in the bank lobby leave to get food or use the bathroom, he said, they won’t be let back in.
About 20 others are stationed with signs on the sidewalk outside.
Ali Christie, who is taking part in the demonstration, criticized the bank Wednesday for participating in anti-Indigenous colonialism.
“The reason we’re at Bank of Montreal today is we’re encouraging the bank to divest from its $4 billion worth of money that it’s put into the CGL pipeline, and for everyone who has an account with BMO to divest because this institution is supporting the abuses of Indigenous people,” she said.
The demonstration also shut down the intersection of Kootenay and Baker Streets. Officers from the Nelson Police Department were on hand, but said they wouldn’t remove activists from the bank.
A report last month by the environmental activist organization Rainforest Action Network cited a $4.3-billion loan by BMO to TransCanada Pipelines as part of the pipeline project, which will carry natural gas 670 kilometres from Dawson Creek, B.C. to an LNG facility near Kitimat, B.C.
Scotiabank, CIBC, Toronto Dominion and Royal Bank of Canada were also said to be supporting the project in various ways.
“If it can happen on one territory it’s going to happen time and time again,” said demonstrator Anne Marie Child.
“This is the people uprising and we’re showing our support and solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the Wet’suwet’en people and Indigenous youth.”