Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Canadian Students Leading the Call for Climate Action Including Fossil Fuel Divestment

Students and faculty are often the ones to lead the charge for societal betterment and environmental justice. Canadian students and faculty are no different and they are showing leadership on campuses all across the country.

In 2014 students at the University of British Columbia have voted to divest from fossil fuels and in February 2015, the UBC Faculty formally voted to divest. This move is significant given that the campus has a $1.1-billion endowment that contains the largest university holding of fossil fuel stocks in Canada. Professors at the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto and Mount Allison University have already voted to urge their university directors to divest.

There are more than 30 universities across Canada with active divest campaigns, including the University of Winnipeg, Sherbrooke University and the University of Calgary.

On July 3, 2015 university students in 6 Canadian cities confronted those vying to be prime minister as well as other leading MPs demanding that they take real action on climate change. These students are calling for a justice-based shift toward a clean, renewable economy.

in their offices to demand that our elected officials take real leadership on climate change and champion a justice-based shift toward a clean, renewable economy. Students went to the offices of PM Stephen Harper, Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau, among others to make their demands. Dozens of students from University of Toronto marched to Joe Oliver’s office.

The following day, July 4, students took part in an inclusive protest across Canada calling for a clean energy economy and telling political leaders that our communities are worth more than the tar sands. On Sunday July 5 students joined labor groups, migrants, environmentalists and social justice organizations in a march for jobs, justice and climate.

On September 21, one year after the People's Climate March, a large and diverse number of students at Montreal's McGill University pitched tents in front of the James Administration. These students are part of Divest McGill, and they protested as part of their Fossil Free Week.

Their action is meant to call attention to the serious threat posed by climate change, and of our collective responsibility to act. After years of campaigning for fossil fuel divestment from the schools students, faculty and alumni, this protest is demanding that McGill act boldly in the face of the climate crisis.

These students are hoping the McGill will join over 400 other institutions to divest from fossil fuel companies. Their goal is to stigmatize the industry’s immoral business plan and its corrupting influence on public policy. They also hope to call attention to the ways in which fossil fuel companies have violated indigenous rights for decades and the poor and marginalized who have done the least to cause the climate crisis but who will bear the brunt of climate impacts. Finally their protest point out that fossil fuel emissions not only damage our planet they directly undermine human health.

In February of this year, Divest McGill submitted a second petition and research brief to the Board of Governors, signed by more than 1,700 McGill community members and endorsed by an open letter from over 120 McGill faculty and librarians.

As explained in the McGill Daily:

"McGill might be ranked as the best university in Canada, but does that alone make it an educational institution that we should be proud of? By not divesting, McGill is ignoring its own scientists and researchers who have highlighted the dire nature of the climate crisis and the need to freeze tar sand expansion. It is clear that our university’s Board of Governors is not acting in line with the urgency that this crisis merits, nor the transparency that the community deserves. By acknowledging the climate science, but refusing to accept its clear implications, the Board is displaying a dangerous type of wilful ignorance that calls the efficacy of its governance seriously into question. The scientific analysis and the moral imperative are both resoundingly clear: full fossil fuel divestment is the bare minimum of what must be done."

The protestors say that it is time that the McGill administration stand, "with the community, instead of with fossil fuel corporations."

Concordia is the other major English language University in Montreal and they became the first campus in Canada to divest in December. The institution set aside $5 million from its investments to test the fossil-fuel-free waters.

10 campuses with successful student votes to divest

University of British Columbia
University of Victoria
Simon Fraser University
University of New Brunswick
Dalhousie University
University of Guelph
Trent University
McMaster University
McGill University
Concordia University

5 campuses where faculty voted to divest

University of British Columbia
University of Victoria
Simon Fraser University
University of Toronto
Mount Allison University

Image Credit: McGill Daily
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