MCGILL PRINCIPAL REFUSES TO SUPPORT GLOBAL DIVESTMENT MOVEMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: MONTREAL, QUEBEC (May 23, 2014) – Today, three students and one faculty member, representing the climate justice campaign Divest McGill, met with Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill Suzanne Fortier to discuss fossil fuel divestment for the school’s endowment. The group requested the meeting in order to gain her support and a better understanding of the Principal’s stance on divestment.
Fortier did not agree that the fossil fuel industry directly causes societal harm. She was skeptical of the links between extensive lobbying by fossil fuel companies both domestically and internationally and their funding of biased science. She also promoted the ‘greening’ of extraction projects as an important climate strategy. This was surprising for the group to hear, explained member Kristen Perry, because there is overwhelming scientific evidence that a future involving extraction of more than 20% of our existing fossil fuel reserves is not compatible with a livable climate, and this idea has recently been well-publicized in the discussion surrounding the most recent IPCC report on mitigation.
Fortier also denied their two main requests: the first was for her to put forth a presentation by Divest McGill as a Board of Governors agenda item, while the second was to be put in contact with the Investment Committee*. Regardless, Divest McGill member Bronwen Tucker says she is “confident that we’ll be able to meet with the Committee and present to the Board of Governors by pursuing other channels, but disappointed that [the Principal] was unwilling to foster this communication herself”.
This disappointing development comes at the heels of a more positive step forward by the Board. The recent revision of the terms of reference of their Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) saw the inclusion of ‘grave environmental degradation’ as allowable criteria for divestment, as well as the transformation of the committee into a proactive, rather than reactive, body. However, these revisions were only two of many pushed forward by Divest McGill and other community members during public consultations, and there is still much progress to be made in McGill’s ethical investment policies.
Background: In light of undeniable scientific evidence that we must leave at least 80% of our current fossil fuel reserves unburned order to avoid catastrophic climate change, fossil fuel companies have continued with business as usual, even blocking climate policies and biasing the media. Divest McGill advocates for fossil fuel divestment as a way to undermine the social license of the fossil fuel industry in order to bring about action on climate change, and is joined by some five hundred other campaigns worldwide. Before Fortier began her role as Principal, CAMSR rejected the petition for fossil fuel divestment, denying that climate change causes sufficient social injury to merit divestment. However, the group has continued to build momentum on campus through open forums and creative actions, and has official support from all three major student unions at McGill University and many other on-campus groups, as well as over 1300 signatures from students, faculty, alumni and staff in the McGill community.
Divest McGill Organizer
*CORRECTION, May 27 2014: It was previously stated that Divest McGill’s second request was to meet with the Investment Committee instead of the Finance Committee. Divest McGill had originally misspoken and asked to be put in contact with the Finance Committee, at which point the Principal corrected them.