McGill Fossil Fuel Decisions Shift


The McGill University board of governors has included “grave environmental degradation” as allowable criteria for divestment.

Published on June 10, 2014 | The Gazette

by: Karen Seidman

Many students at McGill University are celebrating a fundamental shift in how the university will decide whether to stop investing in fossil fuel companies.

However, their victory in changing the ground rules for divestment came on the heels of what students from Divest McGill described as a very “discouraging” meeting with principal Suzanne Fortier on the subject.

“We were very taken aback that she didn’t seem to want to explore options or hear us out,” said Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, an organizer for Divest McGill as well as the new vice-president of external affairs for the Student Society of McGill University. “She kept referencing the complexity of the impact of fossil fuel companies so she clearly won’t be an ally moving forward.”

Furthermore, she said, Fortier rejected requests to allow a presentation by Divest McGill as a board of governors agenda item or to meet with the investment committee — both big disappointments to the group that is advocating for fossil fuel divestment in an attempt to stir up debate and bring about action on climate change.

Still, Moustaqim-Barrette said students are focusing on the positive development concerning the revised terms of reference for McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) rather than any “hurdles” that may exist among university leaders.

After presenting a petition of more than 700 signatures la

st year asking the university’s governing body to remove companies that develop, transport, refine or sell oil from the oilsands from the university’s financial holdings, CAMSR rejected the petition, denying that climate change causes sufficient “social injury” to merit divestment.

But that was based on the old standard. Now the board of governors has included “grave environmental degradation” as allowable criteria for divestment, as well as turning CAMSR into a proactive committee that will meet regularly, rather than just meeting to react to petitions.

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