Canadian Students Take on Oil-Supporting Universities

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Students in Canada, a major oil producer, have lagged behind the US and UK in calling on their campuses to divest from the fossil fuel industry – but they are catching up.

Universities are viewed as leaders in thought, and student divestment campaigners hope that cutting financial ties between universities and the fossil fuel industry will mar the public perception of oil companies. The divestment movement began in the United States in 2011, and the United Kingdom followed suit, with more than 100 educational institutions between the two countries now committed to divestment.

In Canada, students at Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B. have been protesting university investments in fossil fuel industries and calling for greater divestment since February 2017.  After interrupting a university board meeting, they urged the school’s leaders to sever financial ties with oil companies and create a more sustainable investment policy. The board denied the demand. In March, the student protestors had a three-day camp-out on school grounds and, when Mount Allison President Robert Campbell took no notice of them, they marched to his office to demand a meeting. Campbell eventually granted a meeting, but said it was not his place to make a change. The Mount Allison University protest is still active as of February 2018, and the divestment campaign continues to grow across the country, with some 30 campaigns underway.

The Canadian divestment movement was picked up in an article by the HuffPost on May 5, 2017 and by the Financial Post on December 19, 2016, but both spoke broadly of the movement and of its history. An article in a nonprofit education-focused magazine, This Magazine, highlighted the university divestment movement and spoke specifically of student protests across the country. Universities that refuse the pressures of the divestment movement often cite financial reasons, saying that divestment would not be good for the institution’s financial well-being. As of February 14, 2018, there has been no other mainstream media coverage.

Source: Madi Haslam, “Students vs. Big Oil,” THIS, February 1, 2018, https://this.org/students-vs-big-oil/.

Student Researcher: Lynn Giesbrecht (University of Regina)

Faculty Evaluators:  Janelle Blakley and Patricia Elliott (University of Regina)