Move your money: Students protest fossil fuel investments from big banks


“Youth deserve a better chance. Stop your fossil fuel finance,” was one of the chants heard at the “Move Your Money March” in Uptown Waterloo on March 25, as participants gathered to protest big bank investment in fossil fuels. 

“The event was focused on the big five banks who are the largest funders of the fossil fuel industry, not just in Canada but also globally. Banks are some of the biggest supporters of oil and gas companies, the main objective of the event was to raise awareness,” said Michelle Angkasa, a member of Fossil Free UW. 

The march was organized by Fossil Free UW, Waterloo Region Climate Initiatives, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Waterloo Region, and Seniors for Climate Action Now. Participants gathered in Waterloo Square where several speeches were given. 

Then, they marched to Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC), Bank of Montreal (BMO), Toronto Dominion Bank (TD), Scotiabank, and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC).

“Our mission is to build the political will for a livable planet,” said Caterina Lindman, leader of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby Waterloo Region. 

“If you are disappointed with your bank for investing in fossil fuel infrastructure, you can do a few things. Your presence here today sends a message. You could also call your bank, and let them know that you disagree with their investment policy. You may also want to consider moving your money out of the banking system, and instead, use a Credit Union,” Lindman shared these calls to action during the march. 

Credit Unions are cooperatively owned, non-profit alternatives to banks that allow every member equal vote in board elections. 

At each bank, participants put up posters outlining how much the bank has invested in fossil fuels and delivered letters to branch managers about divestment.  

“Fossil Free UW is focused on divestment at the institutional level but also climate justice more broadly — this is a cause that we have been putting efforts toward in the past couple years since we have technically achieved divestment at Waterloo. We’re expanding our scope and looking at other institutions with so-called dirty money. I’m thinking about our responsibility as students, as consumers, as people who use banks and also just concerned citizens,” Angkasa said. 

One concern is the University of Waterloo’s partnership with RBC. Most recently, the university  received two-million dollars from RBC for  the bachelor of sustainability and financial management program. Student reaction to the donation has been mixed. 

“The hypocrisy of investing youth while funding climate change is infuriating,” stated Fossil Free UW in a letter sent to the UW President and Board of Directors in December 2022 after the funding was accepted. 

On March 9, Fossil Free UW “addressed the elephant in the room” via an on-campus interpretive dance performance. A group of students in pink elephant masks were seen across campus dancing and sharing information about how banks contribute to the climate crisis. It was part of a larger, cross-Canada action coordinated by Banking on a Better Future, an organization focused on institutional fossil fuel divestment. 

Angkasa said, “I think there’s a lot of momentum building there around this issue [divestment]. Expect similar actions around bank divestment and other climate justice causes in general.”