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Toronto groups dub major bank executive Canada's Villain of the Year

It wasn't a can of soup or a plate of mashed potatoes thrown at a priceless work of art, but rather an inflatable flaming effigy that served as a prop during the latest display of climate activism on the streets of downtown Toronto on Thursday.

A group of activists representing a handful of organizations took to the streets with a display outside of the Ivey Business School's presentation to RBC CEO Dave McKay with the 'Business Leader of the Year Award' in an attempt to disrupt the corporate event hosted at the Ritz-Carlton Toronto.

In place of the honour bestowed on McKay by the corporate elite, the activists from the University of Toronto, Banking on a Better Future, Climate Justice TO, and Stand.Earth awarded the executive a very different honour, dubbing the 58-year-old executive as 'Climate Villain of the Year Award.'

According to activists Social Action, McKay won the not-so-desirable award in a near-hands-down fashion, citing RBC's profiting "from climate chaos to the tune of more than $263 billion in fossil fuel investment, including the Coastal GasLink pipeline project that is currently being constructed on the unseeded sacred Indigenous territory of the Wet'suwet'en people."

Though McKay has been vocal in calling for politicians to take action on climate change, the corporation is currently under investigation by the Canadian Competition Bureau over accusations of "greenwashing" investors tabled by environment groups.

Socialist Action didn't mince words in its write-up of Thursday's events, claiming that RBC is "directly facilitating the funding of wide-scale ecological genocide on sovereign First Nations territory."

Speakers at the event included voices from Climate Justice TO and Banking on a Better Future, as well as organizers like Wet'suwet'en Land Defender, Eve Saint, and musical performances from hip-hop artist Lee Reed.

In addition to raising awareness about climate injustice, the organizers seek to rally support for Wet'suwet'en resistance against the controversial drilling of the Wedzin Kwa river that commenced in September, threatening land considered sacred by Indigenous peoples.

A representative of RBC tells blogTO that the company believes "Climate change represents a significant global challenge and the transition will require one of the largest economic transformations in generations."

"We are looking to focus our attention where we will have the biggest impact – helping our clients reduce their emissions and supporting initiatives that bring green solutions to market. This transition will not happen overnight – we still need all forms of energy to power our economy and lives."

"That's why we believe it's essential to drive reductions in emissions on the path to net-zero. All of society will need to play a role including governments, regulators, businesses and individuals."

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