On Tuesday, February 16, 90 per cent of students at the SSMU General Assembly voted in support of the historic “Divest for Human Rights Policy,” which mandates the Society to campaign for McGill University’s divestment from corporations complicit in colonial land theft, environmental destruction, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, both in Turtle Island (North America) and abroad. In the debate preceding the vote, a small minority attempted to demonize the motion by claiming it was “controversial,” “xenophobic,” or “antisemitic” for students to take a strong stance against the active role of private corporations in state-sanctioned violence. These arguments were resoundingly debunked and rejected by an overwhelming majority of attendees. Attempts were also made to “split” the Policy, in order to isolate and sabotage the clauses which mentioned the direct role of two corporations, Re/Max and OshKosh, in the systemic violation of Palestinian human rights. Students also defeated this cynical strategy, thus affirming the core principle of solidarity: justice for some is incomplete without justice for all!
This General Assembly was the first to reach quorum (350) since 2017, with a peak attendance of almost 390 students. Yet, once it became clear that a vast majority would vote in favour of the Policy, its opponents hurriedly left the Zoom meeting, in order to ensure that quorum would no longer be met when voting began. The deployment of such a blatantly anti-democratic tactic thus deprived the remaining attendees of their right to meaningfully vote on the Policy. Instead, the General Assembly was downgraded to a “Consultative Forum,” whose decision will now have to be ratified by the Legislative Council. The walk-out prompted many supporters to leave as well, due to their frustration or confusion about the loss of quorum. Regardless, the students who remained endorsed the Policy, with 190 in favour (90%), 19 opposed, and 3 abstentions. This result should send a clear message to the SSMU Legislative Council, who will vote on the final adoption of the Policy next Thursday, February 25.
To the Councillors voting on behalf of their student constituents next week: we ask that you remember and reflect on what all these students have expressed through their attendance, their words, and their votes on Tuesday. We call on you to adopt the Policy as it is, since any dilution or mutilation of its content would not reflect the expressed will of students at the General Assembly, and would betray its core spirit of solidarity and social justice. We also urge you to recognize the unjust way in which the General Assembly was undermined, thus depriving the student body of a rare opportunity to exercise its democratic rights. Next week, you will have a chance to redress this injustice.
To the brave and principled students who showed up to speak and vote in support of this struggle for universal human rights: we could not be more grateful for your courage, strength and solidarity. We now urge you to contact your Representatives at SSMU, and demand that they uphold the decision made by the vast majority of McGill students at the General Assembly.
Progress at this university only happens when students realize their power to hold institutions accountable, and when they choose to take a stand for what is right! Join us in this fight to hold McGill University accountable for its violent endowment and to uphold justice for all.
Climate Justice Action McGill
Indigenous Student Alliance
McGill Stands for Hong Kong
McGill Students for a Free Tibet
Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights McGill
Students for Peace and Disarmament – Peace Club