Trent students rally to support fossil fuel divestment

divest rally

Article co-written with Jack Smye. Photos by Keila MacPherson.

Divestment Week, organized by OPRIG and Sustainable Trent, culminated with a rally during the Board of Governors meeting on Friday.

The fossil fuel divestment campaign has been active in pursing its objectives since 2013. In a global context characterized by the growing demand for a new societal vision, the first step is to move away from outdated practices. The divestment campaign is a manifestation of such growing demand.

There are many indicators that show both student and faculty involvement with the campaign. Calvin Beauchesne, a member of Sustainable Trent, stated that in the TCSA 2013 Spring Elections, 76% of students voted in favour of a referendum supporting fossil fuel divestment.

He furthermore contends that since 2013, 1000 people have signed their petition calling on Trent to divest from fossil fuels. Also, various groups have endorsed the proposal including the TCSA, TPSA, CUPE Local 3908, TUNA, and OPIRG, as well as over 34 faculty members who have signed for divestment in an open letter.

Beauchesne comments that, in January 2014, Sustainable Trent presented their proposal for fossil fuel divestment to the Board. A report titled “Trent University’s Investments in the Fossil Fuel Industry: An Analysis of the Legal and Policy Implications of Investment and Divestment” was also published and submitted to the Board as part of a TCCBE project.

Divestment week featured a series of events, including a student debate, a film screening, and a keynote speaker. The main objective was to increase awareness about the issue of fossil fuel investments and also to engage the student body with the fossil fuel divestment campaign.

The main demand of the rally was to encourage the Board to vote on whether or not to divest from fossil fuels.

Beauchesne argues that since the original presentation about a year ago, “there has been a lot of talk but no action. Our proposal is for full divestiture within five years, so to have a vote now is a completely reasonable demand for the Board. It’s about time we got a yes or no answer.”

The final rally made its way across campus with roughly 30 people marching.  Starting at Lady Eaton, marchers made their way to Gzowski, went through OC, and then back to Bata Library. The final rally culminated with actually entering the Board meeting occurring on the first floor of Bata.

Rally members in the Board meeting.
Rally members in the Board meeting.

In this meeting, pressure was put on the Board to have the vote. About 15 marchers entered the room and they were addressed by Board Member Robin Dines.

“We have seen that the whole investment requirement around responsible investing has progressed dramatically over the past couple of years. It bodes well for us to be doing something, but we have not made the decision yet over what that something is.”

Dines continued, “From the board, we’d like to sustain that we think it’s great that you’re bringing this issue up and we are doing something about it.  It’s good to see and hear that we are getting different views from the students.”

Following Dines’ address, Beauchesne told the Board that there still needs to be a vote and that students would continue to mobilize until a yes or no answer is given.
Another member suggested that it would continue until there was a yes.

The rally made its way back out to Bata Podium chanting “We are the student voice! Divest, it’s our choice!”  Plans were made to carry on with the momentum and how the movement will proceed in the near future.

According to Beauchesne, “We’re just getting started.”

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