News | Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline loses its approval

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Divest McGill speak out against McGill’s Enbridge investments

On June 30, the Federal Court of Appeal overturned Ottawa’s approval for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. A panel of three judges ruled that the previous Conservative government failed to adequately consult the would-be affected First Nations communities before approving the $7.9 billion pipeline.

McGill and Enbridge

The ruling was has been lauded by Divest McGill, a student group campaigning for McGill to divest from fossil fuel corporations like Enbridge. McGill had invested $3.4 million in Enbridge according to McGill’s latest investment portfolio published in March 2016.

Divest McGill submitted petitions in 2013 and 2015, urging McGill’s Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR), to recommend to the Board of Governors (BoG) that McGill divest from fossil fuel corporations.

“There is not the degree or extent of injurious impact at this time that results from the activities of fossil fuel companies that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact.”

Accompanying the 2015 petition was a 150 page document titled “Carbon at All Costs,” which outlined Divest McGill’s arguments and singled out Enbridge as a particularly harmful corporation, both environmentally and socially.

In response to that petition, CAMSR released a report to the BoG in March 2016, stating that divestment from fossil fuel companies “would not be an effective means of addressing climate change.”

“Arguably, cutting off access to fossil fuels would be more likely to result in grave injurious impact in the short-term than the continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

One reason the committee gave for this decision was that fossil fuel companies allegedly do not cause “social injury,” which CAMSR defines as a company’s “grave injurious impact” on “consumers, employees, other persons, or on the natural environment.”

“There is not the degree or extent of injurious impact at this time that results from the activities of fossil fuel companies that would warrant a finding of grave injurious impact,” the CAMSR report continued. “Arguably, cutting off access to fossil fuels would be more likely to result in grave injurious impact in the short-term than the continued reliance on fossil fuels.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip speaks out against CAMSR report

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, decried the CAMSR report. He states that McGill “should have been divesting [from fossil fuels] a decade ago.”

“Without question, we’re the canary in the mineshaft, because it’s impacting us the most since we’re more reliant on the land.”

He stressed that Indigenous people are the first to suffer the effects of climate change, adding that McGill’s refusal to divest is in a “contradiction” with the its launch of  an Indigenous Studies minor and its hosting of the Annual Indigenous Awareness Week.

“Our message has to be clear with respect to the urgency of climate change to Indigenous peoples,” he says. “Without question, we’re the canary in the mineshaft, because it’s impacting us the most since we’re more reliant on the land.”

“As an Indigenous leader, more importantly as a grandfather of 15 grandchildren, I applaud the efforts made to divest [McGill] from dirty oil money.”

The “inherent support [for fossil fuel companies] within major Canadian institutions, whether they be educational, economic, or media […is] disturbing,” Phillip says, and forms a network of support for neocolonialism.

Phillip made it clear that he doesn’t disapprove of everything happening at McGill however, commending Divest McGill’s actions after the publishing of CAMSR’s report. “As an Indigenous leader, more importantly as a grandfather of 15 grandchildren, I applaud the efforts made to divest [McGill] from dirty oil money.”

Looking ahead

Jed Lenetsky, a U2 Environmental Sciences student and Divest McGill organizer, echoed Grand Chief Stewart Phillip’s remarks, adding that, “It’s definitely very hypocritical and falls into the larger pattern of McGill professing concern for societal issues on campus while ignoring the impacts of their policies off campus.”

Lenetsky went on to note that “It’s indicative of McGill’s desire to address these issues in name only; if McGill truly and sincerely wants to do more to address these Indigenous and environmental crises, then more is required of them. Much more.”

“If McGill truly and sincerely wants to do more to address these Indigenous and environmental crises, then more is required of them.”

Although Jed admitted that he did not think that the Court of Appeal’s decision would significantly impact Divest McGill’s cause, he was optimistic, hoping that the decision might “create a domino effect for the denial of other fossil fuel projects in Canada” in the near future.

Grand Chief Phillip also spoke of a possible fossil-free future.

“As a grandfather, I want each and every one of them to think about their own children and grandchildren,” he stated. “We all have a duty and obligation to protect the interests of the future generations, and that work needs to start now. With respect to climate change, it should have started yesterday. And I want them to think very seriously about that.”

“With respect to climate change, it should have started yesterday. And I want them to think very seriously about that.”

A spokesperson from McGill could not be reached by the date of the article’s publication.


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