A group of 12 students representing Divest McGill – a student-led fossil fuel and tar sands divestment campaign – submitted two petitions to McGill University’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) last Friday and held a brief demonstration.
The demonstration began with a chant, followed by a speech by Divest McGill member Bronwen Tucker. The petitions were presented to McGill Secretary-General Stephen Strople by Divest McGill co-spokesperson Christopher Bangs.
Divest McGill began its campaign in October 2012, and has since collected over 750 signatures for two separate petitions – one asking McGill to withdraw its investments from the tar sands and fossil fuel industry, the other seeking the University’s divestment from companies associated with Plan Nord, the Quebec government plan to exploit natural resources north of the 49th parallel.
Many campus groups have endorsed the content put forth by the petitions, including SSMU and the Arts Undergraduate Society (AUS).
The divestment campaign is part of a North America-wide effort, run in Canada by the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition and in the United States by 350.org. In total, 200 campuses across North America are involved. Two of these universities, Unity College and Hampshire College, have succeeded in their divestment campaigns.
Divest McGill co-spokesperson Lily Schwarzbaum said, “the process doesn’t end with just submission. We plan to make a wider campaign that continues positive messaging, unites the McGill community, and raises awareness on issues surrounding fossil fuels and tar sands.”
Bangs said that the group is expecting a response on the status of the petitions from Strople in two weeks. Strople will be bringing the petitions to CAMSR, which is chaired by Governor Emerita Brenda Norris.
Bangs and Schwarzbaum are optimistic about working with CAMSR toward divestment.
“We hope to see this be a positive relationship and so far it has been,” Schwarzbaum said.
Jonathan Mooney, student member of CAMSR and Post-Graduate Students’ Society (PGSS) Secretary-General said his “understanding of the process would be that CAMSR would communicate with the investment committee after reviewing the brief and they would issue a recommendation.”
“The sense that I get is that it’s going to be taken very seriously, that there’s going to be a very measured, careful study by the members of the committee,” Mooney said.
“[The University] has a specific role in taking an ideological stand and determining the future, our future. […] We see our investments as a really key and important place for McGill to make an example,” Schwarzbaum said.
Non-student members of CAMSR and the administration were not available for comment by press time