MONTREAL — About two dozen students took control of a McGill University building Tuesday “in solidarity with Wet’suwet’en.”
They demanded the University divest its $6 million stake in TC Energy, the company they say is “responsible for the violent raids on Wet’suwet’en territory,” as owner of the planned Coastal GasLink pipeline, which they are trying to build through the First Nation’s unceded territory.
It’s the second protest in as many days. Monday afternoon, at least 100 protesters blocked traffic at the intersection of Sherbrooke West St. and McGill College Ave., in solidarity with the hereditary chiefs of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in British Columbia.
In January, Gregory Mikkelson, a tenured McGill professor also resigned after the university refused to stop investing in the fossil fuel industry.
During Monday’s protest, McGill student and member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, Catie Galbraith told HuffPost Québec that while climate issues and Indigenous rights are inseparable, “we should be talking about human rights and Indigenous rights,” instead of the climate crisis.
Activist group Divest McGill, which has been advocating for the University to end all fossil fuel investments for years, denies surfing the wave of the Indigenous protests to put forward its climate message.
See photos of the protest in our gallery below:
Laura Doyle Péan, spokesperson for the group, says it was given the go-ahead by two McGill-based Indigenous students associations to organize Tuesday’s action in the name of the Wet’suwet’en and other Indigenous Peoples.
“The demands we want to highlight today are that Indigenous sovereignty must be respected and that the University should not invest in projects that cause harm to Indigenous peoples,” she said.
The crisis that has been paralysing the country for almost two weeks was triggered by an RCMP intervention to dismantle barricades erected by Wet’suwet’en opponents of the Coastal GasLink pipeline. The RCMP was enforcing an injunction to allow work on the pipeline to continue unimpeded.
The Wet’suwet’en say that the pipeline, which crosses their ancestral unceded territory, has not received the approval of the Nation’s hereditary chiefs. The RCMP’s interventions to enforce the injunction have been described as “violent”.
No to Teck Frontier
Divest McGill also wants the University to divest from Teck Resources Limited, which is trying to build the enormous Frontier oilsands mine project near Fort MacKay, Alberta.
The project, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to approve or reject in the coming days, “would keep us dependent on fossil fuels until 2067,” lamented Doyle Péan.
Teck says it has signed agreements with 14 First Nations who stand to be impacted by the project. Divest McGill says it wants to highlight other Indigenous organizations who oppose the project, such as Indigenous Climate Action, the Tiny House Warriors and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.
Last summer, a joint report from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and Alberta Energy Regulator concluded that the project would have major impacts on the environment and on the traditional use of land by Indigenous Peoples.
Nevertheless, the agencies believed that the development was “in the public interest” because of its economic benefits.
McGill University did not answer HuffPost Québec’s request for comment.