Divest McGill presents progress on Metro Inc. boycott at SSMU Legislative Council

Three student groups presented the missions of their respective organizations at the Jan. 14 Students’ Society of McGill University’s (SSMU) Legislative Council meeting. Divest McGill shared their ongoing boycott campaign to pressure McGill’s Board of Governors (BoG) to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies, McGill Students for Peace and Disarmament (SPD) presented a new research policy, and McGill Student Transport (MUST) put forward an application to become an official Independent Student Group (ISG).   

Samuel Helguero, 2L Law and representative of Divest McGill, explained the organization’s boycott of Metro Inc. and its various affiliated chains in Montreal. He clarified the relationship between McGill University, Metro Inc., and divestment.

“Divest is engaging in a boycott of Metro over its dissatisfaction [with] the McGill Board of Governors’ inability to pass a motion to [divest from] the fossil fuel industry,” Helguero said. “On the Board of Governors sits Vice-Chair Maryse Bertrand, who also earns a retainer of $120,000 and $500,000 in shares on the corporate board of Metro Inc. We are attempting to target […] her financial and professional interests in order to pressure her into supporting divestment.” 

Helguero was optimistic about the boycott’s effectiveness.

“We have two possible [results in mind],” Helguero said. “[Bertrand] can either reconsider her stance on McGill’s investments, or she can step down from the Board of Governors. I think both would be very fruitful in terms of promoting divestment at the university, as both would show members of the BoG that there are consequences to [fossil fuel investments].”

Divest McGill will present a motion to the SSMU Legislative Council later in January to encourage the student body to participate in boycott efforts.

SPD then presented a policy proposal that would require professors and departments at McGill to declare the potential applications of research to military weapons technology. Lia Holla, U2 Arts and Science and SPD representative, explained the policy’s potential impact and its goals.

“The SPD is developing this policy so that the McGill community can continue to make strides towards ethical research, not away from it,” Holla said. “[It is our goal] to advocate for transparent and ethical research on campus, in addition to creating a space for educational discussion about peace and disarmament.”

Alexis Zhou, U3 Arts and Coordinator for MUST, shared the organization’s proposal and their application to become an official SSMU ISG. This status would grant them financial resources toward their mandate of providing regional student transport that is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

“After the pandemic, we hope to have direct bus routes to Toronto, New York, Boston, and [other areas of] Quebec,” Zhou said. “This service […] is a valuable tool for our students to be able to attend job interviews, search for job opportunities and internships, [and] empower our students to reach their potential.”

Zhou acknowledged that MUST would require student fees, and cited their plan’s 85.7 per cent approval rating in the Fall 2020 Referendum as evidence of student support.

“What we are proposing is a $3.50 student fee levy,” Zhou said. “That is the same amount as a single trip metro or bus pass with the STM [Société de transport de Montréal], and what we can get in exchange is unlimited weekend travel to surrounding regions for as little as $19 dollars each way for our students.”

Pending approval, MUST will become an official student body organization and provide regional transport services at low prices to the McGill student body.

Soundbite: “The [proposed] student fee levy will be opt-outable. We believe that every student at McGill should have the freedom to choose, and they should be able to decide whether to pay for this service or not. Everyone has the right to do so, and we respect the right of students to opt out.”—Alexis Zhou regarding MUST’s student fee, 

Moment of the Meeting: A motion for the renewal of the previous term’s Indigenous Solidarity Policy was unanimously approved by the Legislative Council.

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