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Foes of Northern Gateway Pipeline target potential financial backers

Bank of Montreal president and CEO Bill Downe prepares his notes before addressing shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Vancouver.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

First nations and environmental groups targeted potential financial backers in their latest attempt to stop the Northern Gateway Pipeline project that would deliver oil from Alberta to tankers on the B.C. coast.

A few dozen protesters waved placards, banged drums and chanted outside a Bank of Montreal shareholders' meeting at a Vancouver hotel on Tuesday.

Maxim Winther of the Rainforest Action Network said they're concerned about BMO's environmental policies and its relationship with Enbridge Inc., the company planning to build the pipeline through British Columbia.

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"We're looking to identify the sources of funding that Enbridge will be going to in the future when they seek funding for this project," Mr. Winther said.

They want banks to implement policies that recognize first nations' rights around development, Mr. Winther said.

"It is their land after all that this pipeline is going through," he said. "So if Enbridge had any respect for that, or if the Bank of Montreal had any respect, they would drop this project right away."

Geraldine Thomas-Flurer, of the five-nation Yinka Dene Alliance, said her group wants the bank to live up to the highest human-rights and environmental standards in making financial decisions.

Ms. Thomas-Flurer was allowed to make a presentation to shareholders during the Vancouver meeting and said the group was very receptive.

"Everyone who makes decisions was there to listen to us," she said. "We came away with [the belief]that they were going to look at their existing policies and they're going to take into consideration our concerns."

Ms. Thomas-Flurer said talking to the financiers is just one more step in the plan to prevent the pipeline development.

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"We're going to use any means possible to stop them."

BMO didn't respond to a request for an interview.

Enbridge spokesman Paul Stanway said it was within the protesters' rights to stage that kind of demonstration, but he also hoped they would talk to Enbridge about their concerns.

"We want aboriginal participation in the project … the most significant way they can benefit in the project is by owning a stake in it and sharing in the revenue it produces."

The twin pipelines would carry oil from the Alberta oil sands to Kitimat, on the B.C. coast, for shipping to international markets.

About 50 first nations communities have what Mr. Stanway called standing in the process, meaning they are within about 80 kilometres of the pipeline's right-of-way.

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"For us, it's all about dialogue. We want to keep talking," Mr. Stanway said.

There is a joint-panel review of the project by Canada's National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency under way, and Mr. Stanway said any groups with concerns should take part in that process.

Enbridge made a revenue-sharing offer to the Alliance in the past, but it was rejected.

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