Principal meets with Divest McGill

Posted on Thursday, March 31, 2016

Update: The Divest McGill representatives ended their sit-in on Friday, April 4 at approximately 11:30 a.m.

Principal Suzanne Fortier, accompanied by Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi, met earlier today with representatives of the Divest McGill group, who have been holding a peaceful sit-in in the waiting area outside her office since Tuesday morning.

The discussion focused on a number of issues related to the recent Board of Governors decision to accept the recommendations of its Committee on Matters of Social Responsibility. The report proposed a number of steps McGill should take to have a greater impact on climate change and sustainability, but which did not recommend that the University divest from investments in fossil fuel companies.

During the meeting, which lasted more than an hour, Divest McGill reiterated its three demands.

In order to move the community’s discussions of this complex issue forward, Prof. Fortier committed to two specific actions that will be taken immediately.

They are:

  • To set up and run a process, in consultation with representatives of the community, of open forums on the CAMSR report’s recommendations to be held this fall.
  • Ask the individuals who contributed their expertise to CAMSR for its report if they will agree to be identified and have those contributions made public and shared with the community.

When it came to the group’s demands that the report be rewritten, Prof. Fortier said she stands by the CAMSR report. The world needs to move away from its use of fossil fuels, she said, but it must be an orderly transition.

The CAMSR report, which can be read online here, proposed the creation of a comprehensive climate action plan for McGill to expand and integrate its sustainability activities, including:

  • Research and education that promote new climate mitigation and adaptation solutions.
  • Continued implementation of McGill’s current Vision 2020 sustainability plan, as well as actions and strategies for 2017 to 2020.
  • Projects with measurable outcomes to reduce the University’s carbon footprint.

The University administration will report annually to the Board on these and other sustainability and climate mitigation initiatives. As a first step toward the comprehensive climate action plan, the administration will deliver at the May 2016 Board meeting an overview of all sustainability and climate-related activities currently taking place at the University.

The Board also tasked its Investment Committee with investigating measures such as:

  • A socially responsible investment fund option for donors
  • Opportunities to support sound investments in alternative energy and clean technologies
  • The development of Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) principles and guidelines for investment, and reporting back on the compliance of McGill investment with ESG and United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

The Divest representatives indicated they would continue their sit-in. The Principal told the students they are welcome to remain in the waiting area for as long as they would like, provided they respect the rules that have been established for the sit-in and they treat the area with respect.

Divest McGill will hold a ceremony on Friday, April 1, in front of the James Administration Building, where some alumni have said they will arrive to turn in their diplomas as a sign of protest.

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