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SSMU Council calls for university divestment

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Councillors at the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Legislative Council passed a motion calling for McGill to take action in divesting from fossil fuel industries and mobilizing the McGill population—including students, faculty and staff in doing the same.

“The Society reaffirms, in accordance with the strong principles of justice and equity laid out in […] the Society’s Constitution, the commitment of [SSMU] to the implementation of socially responsible investment strategies by the SSMU and by McGill University, in particular its belief that both bodies should divest their holdings in companies involved in the Canadian Tar Sands, in fossil fuel extraction, production, or distribution,” the motion reads.

SSMU VP External Amina Moustaqim-Barrette, one of the sponsors of the motion, explained the importance for SSMU to increase pressure on McGill in affirming climate justice on campus.

“Just last week, we saw over 400,000 people in New York City and thousands of others across the world gather for the largest climate march in history,” Moustaqim-Barrette said. “The next day, the Rockefellers announced that they would be divesting from the fossil fuel industry. The momentum for this campaign is building all over the world, and it is important for SSMU to take an active role in pressuring McGill to uphold its commitments to sustainability and ethical practices and divest from the fossil fuel industry.”

Article 1 of the motion mandated that Moustaqim-Barrette work with other student unions across Quebec to create a coalition against pipeline projects in the province such as the Eastern Energy Pipeline, which is set to transport crude oil across Canada. However, it was met with concern from councillors regarding the external reach of the project.

Faculty of Law representative, Vincent-Pierre Fullerton, voiced his concerns that councillors would be exceeding their mandate in specifically condemning the construction of pipelines in Quebec, as it was an issue that was “specific, divisive, and external.”

“The Law Students’ Association (LSA) thought it best that the specific issue relating to the condemnation of pipeline projects in the province of Quebec be brought to the General Assembly, where each student will have the possibility to express their individual opinion,” Fullerton said. “Should such a motion then pass, it would be regarded as having much more legitimacy, coming directly from the student body and representing the majority’s opinion, as emanating from the wide diversity of opinions present in the McGill student body.”

Councillors ultimately voted to remove Article 1 from the motion and move it to the General Assembly on Oct. 22 for discussion. The rest of the motion was passed.

“The decision to separate Article 1 from the rest of the climate justice motion was extremely disappointing to me,” Moustaqim-Barrette said. “I would argue that approval of these pipelines will absolutely have a direct impact on our students, our community, and our collective future. Given the inextricable link between pipeline projects and the advancement of climate change, it is difficult for me to consolidate the fact that Council was willing to take a stance against the fossil fuel industry, but not against specific pipeline projects.”

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