McGill Board of Governors rejects divestment

Petition asks university to pull money from fossil fuels

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(Climate Watch/Flickr)

A divestment protest (Climate Watch/Flickr)

McGill University’s Board of Governors has rejected a petition from the environmental activist group Divest McGill, which collected hundreds of signatures calling on the school to take money out of companies that develop, transport, refine or sell oilsands products, reports the McGill Daily.

The vote was likely a first in Canada and the rejection is a setback for a global movement.

Hundreds of campus groups across North America affiliated with have pressured schools to pull out of fossil fuels in an attempt to slow climate change by cutting off the cash.

So far, only five colleges, each with populations of less than 1,500, have committed to divestment. They are Unity College and College of the Atlantic in Maine, Sterling College and Green Mountain College in Vermont and Hampshire College in Massachusetts, reports The Associated Press.

However, at Harvard College, 72 per cent of undergraduates who voted in student council elections last fall supported divestment. Harvard has a population of 6,700 and a $30-billion of investments.

In January, On Campus published a commentary from a former student who supports divestment and another from a professor who does not because of unintended consequences.

McGill’s Board of Governors made their decision after a recommendation from its Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility, which found no “social injury” from the investments. When CAMSR found social injury from the tobacco industry in 2007, the board voted to divest.

Michael Boychuk, a board member opposed to divestment, told the Daily, “whether you like it or not, Canada is a resource-based company; that’s a fact. It’s not going to change anytime soon.”

Divest McGill’s Amina Moustaqim-Barrett said the campaign has wide support and will continue.