After an 18-day student occupation of one of its buildings, the University of Toronto’s Victoria University approved a motion to divest “funds in its endowment portfolio that have exposure to direct fossil fuel producers.”
On March 27, a group of students moved into the “Old Vic” building on U of T’s downtown campus, demanding their school set a timeline for divesting from fossil fuels.
A statement from Victoria University shared online last Thursday says divestment from direct fossil fuel producers will be informed by U of T’s divestment timeline, with an end goal of 2030.
“I want to thank every member of the board of regents, including students who serve on the board, for the rigour, hard work and conviction that they brought to the process of divestment,” said Cynthia Crysler, chair of Victoria University’s board of regents. “From the beginning of our discussions four years ago, there was strong support for divestment, and I am proud of the duty of care and due process that was followed.”
In the statement, Rhonda N. McEwen, president and vice-chancellor of Victoria University, said she is encouraged by the board of regents’ progress and also proud of Vic students, who have been advocating for fossil fuel divestment for many years. “Together, we made a meaningful and impactful decision for our collective future,” she added.
Following the announcement, students ended their occupation but said they remain unsatisfied with the 2030 timeline. The protest group wants the school to achieve full divestment within two years and plans to continue pressuring Victoria University to meet their demands for full and transparent divestment by 2025.
In a statement to Canada’s National Observer, Climate Justice U of T, the student group that organized the protest, considered the divestment timeline “a win for students” but said it remains “disappointed with the college's failure to make clear commitments, the lack of transparency and the failure to meet student demands for full divestment within two years.”
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“The version of divestment that the board of regents voted for is a clear failure of the administration to properly acknowledge the weight of the climate crisis and to listen to the student body that it serves,” the group said.
Atlas Changulani, a first-year student at the school, echoed that sentiment. “I am really disappointed that this board, which is supposed to make decisions that prioritize students, fails to understand the urgency of the climate crisis.”
Fossil fuel divestment has become an issue on university campuses across Canada. Student groups have cropped up at McGill, McMaster, Carleton and other universities pressing their institutions to move quickly. Last month, students at U of T’s affiliate colleges, including Victoria University, and York University demanded their schools divest from fossil fuels and asked them to be transparent about their investments.
A growing number of schools have also pledged to divest either partly or fully from fossil fuels, including U of T, the University of Ottawa and the University of Victoria.
“While the financial effects on fossil fuel companies may be relatively small, divestment demonstrates an important principle: it is a powerful way for an institution to show that it refuses to profit from an industry driving the climate crisis,” said Carol Hunsberger, associate professor in the University of Western Ontario’s department of geography and environment.
“Universities pride themselves on preparing their students for the future. Taking that responsibility seriously means they need to do more than provide education and career training. Universities should do everything in their power to ensure a livable future for today's youth as well as generations to come.”
This story was produced in partnership with Journalists for Human Rights for the Afghan Journalists-in-Residence program funded by the Meta Journalism Project.
Félicitations pour avoir fait
Félicitations pour avoir fait quelque chose par manifester. Mais 2030 sera longtemps -- c'est pas assez vite d'aider notre planète je crois
Heartfelt thank you to the
Heartfelt thank you to the student activists who invested their time and energy into prodding U of T's Victoria University into promising to rework their portfolio away from fossil fuels. The 2030 promise however, certainly seem to be lacking in diligence and sincerity. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to move some money around by dumping fossil fuel stocks, and investing in a green future. One year seems like plenty of time to accomplish that. All that said, sadly without the efforts of the occupiers 2030 wouldn't even be on the table. So kudos to you all, but I sure hope the holders of the financial keys have a second awakening and pledge a much more realistic timeline for accomplishing what every single university in Canada and worldwide should already have placed in the rear view mirror years ago. Divestment from fossil fuel is crucial. And thanks to all those reminding the banks of same.
I won’t donate to my alma
I won’t donate to my alma mater until divestment from fossil fuels has occurred. Complete anathema to have schools of higher learning refusing to understand science or to respect the scientific community. So ignorant.