Climate activists in Toronto named RBC CEO Dave McKay “Canada’s Villain of the Year” for funding the climate emergency and the ongoing destruction of Indigenous lands.

The October 27 demonstration marked the one year anniversary following the University of Toronto’s (U of T) promise to divest from fossil fuels. A number of students and local groups gathered at Toronto’s Ritz Carlton Hotel where the bank executive was being honoured with “Business Leader of the Year Award” from Ivey Business School.

RBC holds the largest fossil fuel investments in Canada, and the fifth largest in the world. The company is currently under investigation by the Canadian Competition Bureau over accusations of greenwashing — making claims about taking action on climate change while funding projects such as the Coastal GasLink natural gas pipeline in British Columbia.

In addition to students, other speakers at the event included activists with Banking on a Better Future, Climate Justice TO, and Wet’suwet’en land defender Eve Saint.

The Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, title holders to 22,000 square kilometres of traditional unceded territory that the $6-billion, 670-kilometre pipeline route cuts straight through, have not consented to its construction.

At last year’s annual shareholders’ meeting — while Indigenous land defenders protested outside — McKay told shareholders that his bank faced a barrage of criticism from investors and Indigenous leaders over its financing of oil producers and a contentious pipeline project, the Globe and Mail reported in April.

“The meeting was dominated by debate over the bank’s actions on energy and climate. Climate advocates took aim at RBC as a major financer of oil and gas companies, in some cases urging it to stop lending to them altogether. And critics of the Coastal GasLink pipeline rebuked the bank for helping finance the project, which would cross the traditional, off-reserve territory of the Wet’suwet’en Nation.”

McKay reportedly told shareholders several times said the climate transition “has to be an orderly journey.”