HII, which holds stock in the Bank of Nova Scotia (Scotiabank)(BNS), was shocked to find a report on the Internet by Food and Water Watch identifying the bank as one of 38 large banks and financial institutions participating in a $2.5 billion dollar consortium loan to four corporate entities funding the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), which is an 1100 mile pipeline project which runs underneath the Missouri River, north of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, threatening contamination of the reservation’s water and which has already desecrated various ancestral sites, disregarding previous treaties.
Scotiabank’s participation was especially noteworthy since the Canadian government in 2016 officially adopted the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 11, asserts “the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present, and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historic sites. . .”
In mid-September, HII sent a letter of inquiry to BNS, specifically requesting clarification of the bank’s loan participation. We received no response from the BNS or the bank’s CEO, so on November 7, 2016, HII filed a resolution calling for the bank’s board of directors to create a separate Board Committee on Human Rights, to assess the company’s policies, and activities, and to make recommendations for improving the management of human rights concerns.
After an initial conversation with Julie Walsh, Vice President and Corporate Secretary of Scotiabank, and with Terri Williams, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, we accepted an apology on behalf of the bank’s CEO for failing to respond to our September 15, 2016 letter regarding DAPL and confirmed that the bank was not involved in financing the Dakota Access Pipeline Project (this was also confirmed on the Scotiabank website by a statement by Brian Porter, President and CEO of Scotiabank).
We also held subsequent conference calls with Ms. Walsh and Ms. Williams and were provided a comprehensive Scotiabank Statement on Human Rights which has been adopted by the bank, and signed by the President and CEO.
Based upon a subsequent dialogue with Ms. Walsh and Ms. Williams, we agreed to withdraw our resolution conditioned upon the bank’s commitment to:
• Recommend to the Corporate Governance Committee that its charter be amended to reference the Bank’s Human Rights Statement;
• Review the Human Rights Statement with a view to including references to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; and
• Review the bank’s CSR Report on an ongoing basis in light of our discussions to see where we may make continued enhancements.
Shareholder Resolution 2017
“Board Committee on Human Rights”
Whereas, our company has been identified as one of the banks financially supporting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), a controversial project which has received extensive media coverage and public condemnation because of its environmental destruction, pollution, and encroachment upon sacred land of the Sioux Nation – a blatant violation of indigenous peoples’ human rights;
Whereas, in accordance with the Canadian Constitution in 2016, Canada officially adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which in Article 11, asserts “the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites…” yet the DAPL construction has already desecrated various ancestral sites, disregarding previous treaties;
Whereas, Article 29 of the Declaration states “Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources,” yet the DAPL is projected to run underneath the Missouri River, just north of the Standing Rock reservation, threatening contamination of the reservation’s water in the event of a leak or spill;
Whereas, our company’s participation in and endorsement of the DAPL poses risks of considerable negative impacts on the company’s image and reputation;
Whereas, it is a fiduciary duty of the board and management to consider human rights when making all executive decisions (such as loan agreements and related business affairs) where there is significant potential impact or consequence of our company’s involvement;
Whereas, no Board Committee within the company exists that addresses or evaluates the issue of human rights when making executive decisions; the closest thing to human rights oversight is the Corporate Governance Committee’s meager requirement to only “review the Bank’s corporate social responsibility, strategy and reporting, including reports on the Bank’s environmental and social performance and benchmarking of the Bank’s social responsibility performance and practices” once per year at their meeting, one of 37 duties in the committee charter;
Resolved: Shareholders request the Board of Directors to create a separate Board Committee on Human Rights, to assess the company’s policies and activities on an ongoing basis and make recommendations for improving the management of human rights concerns.
By establishing a Board Committee on Human Rights, shareholders hope that priority will be given to reevaluating and reconsidering our bank’s financial involvement in the DAPL. The proponent also suggests that the board committee should issue public reports, when appropriate, discussing major human rights issues that the company has faced and how it has resolved them.