Montreal, News

Students march for climate justice and urge McGill to divest

Divest McGill hosted a teach-in on Sept. 24 to encourage McGill students to participate in the annual climate march that occurred downtown later that afternoon. Students gathered at the Y-intersection on campus to listen to several speakers, and then walked to Jeanne-Mance Park with posters and signs in hand. 

The march was part of the larger Fridays for Future movement, and members of Divest McGill used the occasion as an opportunity to educate people about McGill’s investment in fossil fuel companies. Following the news of Harvard University’s divestment from fossil fuel companies on Sept. 9, many students, including Lily Cason, U1 Arts student and Divest McGill member, took to the streets to urge McGill to do the same.

“Our institution is invested in many of the main fossil fuel companies that […] are worsening the environment and the impending crisis that we are all going to have to face,” Cason said. “We think it’s irresponsible for McGill to stay invested in these companies knowing that it’s not the way of the future.”

In their speech, Lane McCrory, U2 Arts student and Divest McGill member, explained the depth of McGill’s fossil fuel investment portfolio. 

“Above all, who is contributing the most to greenhouse emissions? Who is burning fossil fuels and pumping 70 per cent of greenhouse gasses into the air?” McCrory started. “It is the top 100 fossil fuel companies that are producing 70 per cent of our total greenhouse gasses, [many] of which McGill University actively supports. McGill has tens of millions of dollars in the energy sector. This means that the institution is actively supporting fossil fuels, oil, and the coal industry.”

After listening to activists’ speeches at Jeanne-Mance Park, students joined thousands of other climate activists and organizations in marching down Parc Avenue and along Sherbrooke Street West. While official numbers have yet to be released, multiple sources estimate the number of participants to be in the tens of thousands. The Montreal climate strike was one of approximately 1,500 occurring on Sept. 24 across the globe.

Many people, like El Bush, U1 Arts, joined the march after hearing about it by word-of-mouth.

“My friend is a part of Divest McGill, and she has always prompted me to be aware of the political climate I am in,” Bush said. “I think it is very important, especially as a McGill student who comes from a place of privilege, to actively engage in activities and with communities that are helping to decolonize and create a sustainable campus.”

Prior to the march, Divest McGill held a meeting in Three Bares Park to discuss ideas and logistics.

“[Divest] is non-hierarchical. It is all incredibly collaborative, which is a really nice space to be in,” Cason said. “Everyone who has an idea is welcome to share their ideas. You get so much knowledge in one space when you have that kind of open-forum discussion.”

Divest members counted the meeting a success.

“Divest was thrilled by the number of McGill students who came out to strike for climate justice and to learn about how fighting the university’s steadfast refusal to take money out of the fossil fuel industry fits into a larger Just Transition Framework devised by Climate Justice Alliance.” said members of the club in a joint statement to the Tribune.

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