Fossil Freeze! Sep 5th CAMSR Letter

[UPDATE: McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment expressed their strong support to our request for a freeze on fossil fuel investments during CAMSR’s deliberations with this letter]


Mr. Strople, 

Thank you for forwarding our previous letter to CAMSR members, and conveying their thoughts back to us. Given the committee’s reiterated aversion to a deadline, we have a solution to propose, as is further elucidated in the attached letter. As you know, this proposal was discussed briefly in our meeting with VP Di Grappa, who confirmed its financial feasibility, on Aug 25th.

Please also note that for the sake of transparency and accountability to anyone who has an interest in our campaign, Divest McGill considers all of our correspondence with CAMSR to be public unless there is a special request for confidentiality.

Best regards,

Divest McGill



September 5th, 2015

TO: The McGill Board of Governors’ Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility
CC: Steering Committee of McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment

Divest McGill genuinely appreciates that a process exists to ensure that our endowment is being invested in an ethical manner, and would like to thank CAMSR for responding to our most recent letter from August 17th.

We do understand that a certain timeframe is needed to make these decisions, and that this timeframe may not be as rapid as everyone would like it to be. However, in the nearly three years since our campaign first brought this issue to the attention of the committee, there has been little evidence of tangible, positive progress by CAMSR (barring the changes to the committee’s Terms of Reference in 2014). In light of this, as well as the two procedural missteps by CAMSR outlined in the recent letters from professors Janda, Nystrom and Barney, the community at McGill and beyond needs a signal—one that goes beyond words—to show that CAMSR is considering the issue of fossil fuel divestment with the seriousness and urgency that it deserves.

Thus, we request that CAMSR recommend an immediate freeze on the purchase of fossil fuel investments for the duration of its deliberations. This would not only reassure the community that CAMSR is considering the issue in good faith, but would also signal the committee’s serious commitment to protecting donors and the university from additional risk (both reputational and financial) while the committee comes to a meaningful decision on this ethical question.

Recently, divestment commitments by several prominent Canadian institutions have demonstrated the feasibility of institutional leadership on divestment in Canada; over the past several weeks the United Church of Canada, the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union and the Canadian Medical Association have all committed to divestment. As home to the oldest fossil fuel divestment campaign in Canada and with the resources of a leading research institution at its disposal, McGill is uniquely positioned to make a timely decision on this issue.

We hope that you will commit to the very reasonable request of an immediate freeze on fossil fuel investments. Our intention is to communicate your decision to the hundreds of McGill and Montreal community members who will come out to support Divest McGill at our upcoming week for action on climate justice happening in late September. As we mentioned before, we hope that you will take this week as an opportunity to demonstrate your serious consideration of this issue, and we believe that committing to freezing fossil fuel investments while you come to a decision is a meaningful step in the right direction.

Finally, in order to facilitate transparency and accountability, we reiterate that we would appreciate an indication of how you plan to proceed with your consideration of our second submission. In order to expedite CAMSR’s process of making a determination on social injury and subsequently a recommendation for action to the Board, Divest McGill would like to offer ourselves as a resource. For example, we would be happy to answer your questions regarding social injury as you complete the first part of the process. We would also be happy to help answer further questions on divestment once a decision on social injury has been made, and could assist in any research projects that need to be undertaken, or refer you to experts on the pertinent questions.

We hope to hear from you soon,

Divest McGill


TO:         Divest McGill and Steering Committee, McGill Faculty & Librarians for Divestment

c.c.         Stuart ‘Kip’ Cobbett, Chair, Board of Governors and Interim Chair, CAMSR

I acknowledge receipt of the two recent letters:  September 5th from  Divest McGill; and September 9 from The Steering Committee, McGill Faculty and Librarians for Divestment. These letters will be forwarded to the members of the Committee to Advise on Social Responsibility (CAMSR).

The request in both letters for an immediate freeze on further fossil fuel investments during CAMSR’s deliberations on the current Divest McGill petition is a matter for discussion by CAMSR which will next meet in October.

In the meantime, a few clarifications may help to ensure we have a common and constructive  understanding of the present context.

Although it has been three years since Divest McGill began its campaign, it brought its first petition for divestment from fossil fuel companies to CAMSR in February 2013. A decision on that petition was provided in May 2013. A second petition was submitted in February 2015 and is now under consideration. During the intervening  period, in the absence of a petition, CAMSR focused on the revision of its terms of reference and expansion of its mandate, and on the general question of socially responsible investing.  Allusions such as “…in the nearly three years since our campaign brought this issue to the attention of the committee, there has been little evidence of tangible, positive progress by CAMSR….”, and, “It has been three years since Divest McGill first brought this matter to CAMSR’s attention,  a period that has been marked by what appears to be interminable delay ….”  do not resonate with committee members’ lived experience.

Similarly,  suggestions that the lack of a decision on the February 2015 petition “calls into question the effectiveness and legitimacy of university governance” appear willfully blind to the due diligence that you know has taken place and is continuing.  We have given repeated assurances of the Committee’s serious consideration of the submission. Since February,  the Committee has met on five occasions, most recently in August.  A sixth meeting is scheduled for October.

The current Divest McGill petition is well thought through, reflecting the research and analysis undertaken over almost two years.  Surely it deserves a correspondingly well-thought-through response.

Stephen Strople,

Secretary, CAMSR