Students ended their occupation of a hall at the University of Montreal on Saturday by singing victory.
They claim to have won their case with the university authorities, who demanded the total withdrawal of their institution’s investments from the fossil fuel sector by 2025.
There were about thirty students who set up tents in the hall of honour of the Roger-Gaudry building while one of them started a hunger strike. A petition with some 4,400 signatures was also sent to the rector and five student associations went on strike to demand that their institution free itself of its holdings of shares invested in the fossil fuel industry.
A spokesperson for the student group L’Écothèque announced on Saturday that the university had taken a position in favour of divestment.
A plan will be proposed by rector Daniel Jutras by June 1 to divest the publicly traded shares of the fossil fuel industry that it holds directly or indirectly in its endowment fund by 2025, said spokesperson Vincent Blondeau.
The UdeM did not respond to questions from The Canadian Press on the subject.
UdeM’s endowment fund has $14 million invested in the oil, gas and fuels industry, public relations officer Geneviève Omeara said by email earlier in March.
There are no changes yet on the pension side, which is managed independently, Blondeau said. The UdeM pension fund invests nearly $78 million in the oil and gas sector, according to Omeara’s email.
“However, the fact that the endowment fund is going to move, we think it will have a ripple effect on the pension plan, and that it will make (it) look bad if it doesn’t follow the rest of the institutional policy,” said Vincent Blondeau.
The students also want more transparency and communication channels opened up following their protest.
“We had no idea what (the endowment fund that provides scholarships and other funding) was invested in,” said Blondeau. “The report was only two pages long. Now, we have managed to have carbon indicators that will be added to this report as well as the percentages of investments in the different sectors.”
In addition, he believes that a “direct line of communication” with the rector has been opened, whereas students were not previously able to dialogue with the senior administration of UdeM.
Meetings will be held regularly, including one on Monday, according to a publication of the Écothèque on social networks.
As students dismantled the tents at Roger-Gaudry Hall on Saturday, Blondeau said that the hunger strike of another student, Vincent Vaslin, has created a “sense of urgency in the negotiations.”
“There were occupations at McGill, at Concordia, but there was no time factor,” said Blondeau. “The university could tolerate the occupation… Whereas, we didn’t really have the choice to have a deadline. The negotiations had to succeed, because Vincent stopped eating.”
On Friday, Vincent Vaslin was taken to the hospital for tests, after 110 hours of hunger strike. He was finally able to start eating again in the evening, as UdeM began to accept some requests.
On Saturday, the striker was doing well.
— This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 3, 2022.
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