Introducing the Divest for Human Rights Campaign at McGill
October 25, 2021
To the McGill Community,
On July 22 2021, the Students’ Society of McGill University formally adopted the Divest for Human Rights Policy, after a sustained campaign led by a coalition of McGill student groups. The Policy is grounded in the SSMU’s constitutional commitment to “demonstrating leadership in matters of human rights, social justice and environmental protection.”
This campaign calls on McGill University to cease its investments in several corporations complicit in settler-colonial land theft, environmental destruction, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide around the world.
As a prestigious North American university with an endowment worth $ 1.5 billion, McGill’s investments have always been a matter of critical importance to the student body and the wider public. Under the pressure of student activism and public scrutiny, McGill University has divested for moral and political reasons multiple times since the 1980s, including from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa, from corporations doing business in Myanmar under military rule, and from tobacco firms. In more recent years, students have been campaigning for McGill to divest from fossil fuel companies driving the climate catastrophe. The University has thus far refused to do so.
The investments concerned by the Divest for Human Rights (DHR) campaign are the following:
- McGill invests $4,770,450 in TC Energy Corporation, the owner of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, the construction of which has provoked the ongoing invasion, colonization and destruction of the lands of the Wet’suwet’en Nation, as well as the violent arrest of Wet’suwet’en land defenders. TC Energy has displayed similar behaviour towards Indigenous nations in Mexico;
- $224,019.33 of McGill’s endowment fund is generated by Lockheed Martin, the developer of weapons that have been used in violent conflicts around the world, including the Saudi bombing of Yemen which has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians;
- McGill invests $824,761 in Re/Max, which sells real estate in illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, thus exacerbating the systematic violence inflicted on indigenous Palestinians by Israeli settlers and soldiers;
- McGill invests $500,706 in Oshkosh Corporation, an industrial truck company which provided vehicles to the U.S. military for its invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as for the Saudi military’s war in Yemen. Oshkosh vehicles are also used by the Israeli military, whose atrocities include widespread torture of Palestinian prisoners, mass forced displacement of Palestinian communities, the deliberate targeting of civilians during the 2014 attack on the Gaza Strip, the massacre of over 200 unarmed civilians during the 2018 Gaza protests, and the enforcement of an apartheid regime throughout occupied Palestine.
- McGill invests over $665,281 in Puma, and also maintains investments of below $500,000 in Foot Locker, Nordstrom, and Kohl’s, all four of which use Uyghur forced labour in their supply chains. This forced labour exists in the context of a genocidal carceral regime in East Turkestan (Xinjiang), consisting of over 380 political indoctrination camps for Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities, as well as the suppression of birth rates, the forced assimilation of children, and the systematic destruction of Uyghur religious and cultural heritage throughout the region;
While this list of companies may not be exhaustive, divestment from these companies would set a strong precedent for more ethical investing by educational institutions throughout Turtle Island (North America).
The campaign is led by the Divest for Human Rights Coalition, made up of Climate Justice Action McGill (C-JAM), Divest McGill, Hong Kongers at McGill, the Indigenous Student Alliance (ISA), Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), Students for Peace and Disarmament (SPD), and Students in Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR).
Is it important to acknowledge that this campaign is driven by the members and supporters of these student groups, who have dedicated countless hours of unpaid, volunteer labour to its success. Furthermore, each of these organizations engages in important political work and community building at McGill.
We encourage all McGill community members to learn more about the campaign on the Divest for Human Rights McGill website, and to sign the petition calling for McGill’s divestment from the aforementioned corporations.
The Divest for Human Rights Coalition
The Students’ Society of McGill University