Di­vest Mcgill “book block­ade” protest

For­mer Petro-canada ex­ec­u­tive ap­pointed to univer­sity po­si­tion

The McGill Daily - - News - Ana-paula Sánchez The Mcgill Daily

On Oc­to­ber 25, around 30 stu­dents gath­ered out­side the James Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing for a “book block­ade” or­ga­nized by Di­vest Mcgill. The group set up book stands in front of the en­trance to pro­mote aware­ness of fos­sil fuel’s role in cli­mate change. The demon­stra­tion was planned strate­gi­cally to pre­cede the Com­mit­tee to Ad­vise on Mat­ters of So­cial Re­spon­si­bil­ity’s (CAMSR) first meet­ing of the aca­demic year.

Di­vest Mcgill is a stu­dent run group on cam­pus that de­mands the univer­sity di­vest from fos­sil fuel com­pa­nies. The cam­paign at Mcgill has been run­ning for the past five years.

Mor­gen Bertheussen, a mem­ber of Di­vest Mcgill, told the Daily that “[we’re] here today, be­cause CASMR. [...] de­cided to re­ject our [last] de­mand [to di­vest] be­cause they had said the worst ef­fects aren’t be­ing felt today and there was no so­cial in­jury to Mcgill’s in­vest­ment into fos­sil fu­els.”

Ac­cord­ing to the terms of ref­er­ence for CAMSR by the Board of Gov­er­nors, “the term ‘so­cial in­jury’ means the grave in­ju­ri­ous im­pact which the ac­tiv­i­ties of a com­pany is found to have on con­sumers, em­ploy­ees, or other per­sons, or on the nat­u­ral environment. Such ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude those which vi­o­late, or frus­trate the en­force­ment of rules of do­mes­tic or in­ter­na­tional law in­tended to pro­tect in­di­vid­u­als against de­pri­va­tion of health, safety, or ba­sic free­doms, or to pro­tect the nat­u­ral environment.”

“There’s so much ev­i­dence that proves [...] that so­cial in­jury is hap­pen­ing. We’re meet­ing them today with books on the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try im­pact and [ on] cli­mate change.”said Bertheussen. “In a few steps, they have all this in­for­ma­tion to di­vest from the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try. The new chair worked for Petro- Canada for 18 years.”

The new chair is Cyn­thia Ver­reault, who will serve on the Board un­til June 30th, 2020. An alumni of Mcgill, Ver­rault also worked as the Direc­tor of Re­tail Ser­vices at Petro- Canada from 1982 till 2000.

An­other mem­ber of Di­vest Mcgill, Annabelle Cou­tureGuil­let ex­pressed that “We wanted some­thing ed­u­ca­tional, it doesn’t al­ways work to be con­fronta­tional. For me di­vest­ment is about talk­ing about cli­mate change, yes there’s the po­lit­i­cal side of it, but it’s re­ally just bring­ing at­ten­tion.” Couture- Guil­let ex­panded on this by say­ing “Our goal is to in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity at Mcgill. [ Cli­mate change] is what many of us study ev­ery day in class. That’s maybe the most ironic part of the whole thing.”

“The Mcgill ad­min­is­tra­tion is will­ing to set up meet­ings with us, whether these meet­ings are ef­fec­tive is an­other ques­tion. They rec­om­mended a test fund for fos­sil free in­vest­ment, and this fund has been im­ple­mented but it is very small, start­ing with five mil­lion,” noted Hala Fakhroo, a mem­ber of Di­vest Mcgill at the event. Com­pa­ra­bly, Mcgill’s en­dow­ment is $1.6 bil­lion.

“It’s nice to see faces of friends who sup­port this cause, and build­ing a com­mu­nity of car­ing of this re­ally rel­e­vant is­sue. We’re re­ally de­pen­dent on our peo­ple power, we try to have an event once a semester but we meet of­ten to en­gage. Small projects based on com­mit­tee work are usu­ally im­ple­mented,” Bertheussen later added.

As mem­bers en­tered into the James Ad­min­is­tra­tion Build­ing, many seemed sur­prised by the demon­stra­tion. Ram Panda, Chair of the Mcgill Board of Gov­er­nors, and the new chair of CAMSR shook hands, smiled, and made some sti­fled small talk with Di­vest Mcgill mem­bers. Couture- Guil­let com­mented, “it’s im­por­tant we es­tab­lish a re­la­tion­ship, rather than have a con­trar­ian dis­course. Ob­vi­ously, it’s still very frus­trat­ing, but more progress can be done if we’re on good terms with each other.”

“We wanted some­thing ed­u­ca­tional. It doesn’t al­ways work to be con­fronta­tional. For me di­vest­ment is about talk­ing about cli­mate change, yes there’s the po­lit­i­cal side of it, but it’s re­ally just bring­ing at­ten­tion.” –Annabelle Couture-gul­liet, Di­vest Mcgill mem­ber

“Our goal is to in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity at Mcgill. [Cli­mate change] is what many of us study ev­ery day in class. That’s maybe the most ironic part of the whole thing.” –Annabelle Couture-gul­liet, Di­vest Mcgill mem­ber

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