Scotiabank under pressure from activists for investing in Israeli weapons systems manufacturer

Last fall, Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, was reported by Bloomberg to have become a major shareholder in Elbit Systems, Israel’s premier defense contractor. At a shareholders meeting in early April, a representative of the ethical investing activist group Eko delivered a petition on behalf of 12,000 signatories calling on Scotiabank to divest from the firm.

Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, is facing a growing shareholder revolt over the revelation that it has become a major shareholder in Elbit Systems, Israel’s premier defense contractor, according to an article published by the Intercept.

The revolt has caught the eye of serious business publications. “Bank of Nova Scotia is facing scrutiny for being the largest foreign shareholder in an Israeli defence contractor,” according to business magazine Bloomberg.  “A number of firms have already put Elbit on their list of banned investments. Australia’s A$242 billion (US$157.4 billion) Future Fund and Norway’s largest pension fund have excluded it from portfolios

Elbit develops and manufactures a wide range of military equipment for the Israeli Defense Forces and for export around the world. In 2017, activists accused Elbit of manufacturing cluster bombs which spread small bomblets over a wide area, posing an immediate, indiscriminate threat to civilians. They are subject to an international ban. Elbit claims that it has since stopped making cluster bombs. Israel regularly deploys Elbit’s drones and weapons systems against Palestinians and surrounding Arab nations.

“Scotiabank’s gigantic stake in Elbit Systems, estimated to be about $500 million, dwarfs that of its two larger domestic competitors, TD Bank and Royal Bank of Canada. The two other banks hold around $3 million in shares, combined, in the company”, according to Intercept journalist Murtaza Hussein.

The investment in Elbit comes through a Scotiabank subdivision known as Dynamic Funds. It is run by an executive whose social media postings consist heavily of links to pro-Israel influencers and websites. In an interview with CBC’s Brent Banbury on April 15, Hussein claimed that many of the Scotiabank executive’s social media posts use content from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and pro-Israel figures like Hananya Naftali, including posts characterizing Palestinians as supporters of terrorism and Nazism. Some observers have openly wondered whether the investments are motivated by an ideological agenda.

Scotiabank insists that it has a very strong ethic of social responsibility. How it squares that with investing in an Israeli arms manufacturer whose products are used, among other places, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories which the UN calls an illegal occupation, is difficult to understand. Perhaps this revelation will lead to closer scrutiny for similar investments, not only by Scotiabank, but also by the other Canadian banks.

What can I do?

Subscribers who are concerned about Scotiabank’s investment in Elbeit can write to Scotiabank’s General Inquiry officer

Subscribers who want to know more about the petition brought forward by EKO (formerly known as the Sum of Us) can contact them through their website.

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.

Want to learn more about us? Go to Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine


  1. About two weeks ago I wrote to Scotia Bank about this. I got a rubber stamp answer that they’ll look into it and reply. Nothing happened. I’ll take it up again.

  2. This trash of a response which I got after complaining about the investment in Elbit.

    Escalated Customer Concerns Office Scotiabank

    Thu, May 4 at 4:20 p.m.

    Dear Mr. Javanshir,

    Thank you for your message and for reaching out to us on this matter. We value the feedback we receive and take concerns seriously.

    Scotia Global Asset Management also takes very seriously its duty to act in the best interests of the investment funds we manage on behalf of our clients. We offer a wide variety of investment solutions, many of which exclude various geographies or sectors, and we set out each solution’s investment objectives, strategies and key holdings clearly and transparently in all necessary regulatory documents. Several funds have specific ESG-related priorities that are incorporated into the relevant funds’ investment objectives and strategies to address the preferences of investors who are seeking those ESG factors in their portfolios.

    Of Scotia Global Asset Management’s over 200 investment solutions, Elbit Systems is held in 14, representing less than 0.3% of total assets under management. It is held across passive and actively managed mandates as well as by internal and external investment teams, including several external money managers who do their own research and come to their own investment solutions. Elbit is traded on stock exchanges in both Israel and the United States, and is represented in various well known, global indices, including the MSCI World and MSCI EAFE Indexes.

    Our investment professionals are deeply experienced in the markets in which they invest and have a fiduciary duty, upheld by strict Canadian regulations, to the investment solutions they manage on behalf of our clients. They are subject to extensive firm oversight and risk management policies and procedures.

    Once again, we appreciate your message and hope that this provides you with information that is helpful to you.

    Escalated Customer Concerns Office
    Bureau de traitement des plaintes transférées

    1. Thanks for sharing… Good for you for following up.
      They seem to dismiss your concerns, but I am quite certain that if they get enough of this kind of feedback, they will think twice in the future….

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