DIVESTMENT AT MCGILL
It starts with an endowment...
McGill owns an endowment fund of 1.67 billion dollars (value reported on March 31st, 2019). This “pool of money” is primarily composed of donations, and is managed by the Office of Investments according to the Investment Policy. To learn more about McGill's investments, see below.
The Investment Policy states that the Committee to Advise on Matters of Social Responsibility (CAMSR) must recommend that McGill divest from fossil fuels in order for it to take effect in their investment policies.
It is this very committee, CAMSR, that has rejected divestment from fossil fuels twice.
SO, LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT CAMSR.
The current chair of CAMSR, Cynthia Price-Verrault, held several senior management positions during her twenty years in the petroleum industry.
CAMSR tried to change its Terms of Reference in December 2017 so that its mandate would include to “refrain from using the University’s resources to advance specific social or political causes.”
WHAT HAS CAMSR BEEN UP TO?
In February of 2015, Divest submitted to CAMSR its second petition calling for divestment from fossil fuels, along with a 150-page report outlining the long-term social and environmental harm caused by the fossil fuel industry.
The petition was rejected. CAMSR recommended McGill keep investing in fossil fuels for the second time and presented its report to the Board of Governors on March 17th, 2016.
WHAT WAS THEIR REASONING?
[CAMSR Report, 2016, pg. 10]
The Committee remains unconvinced that grave injurious impact resulting from the activities of the top 200 fossil fuel companies or a particular fossil fuel company has occurred at this time.
Continuing to explore or refusing to keep unburnable reserves underground does not directly have grave injurious impact on individuals or the natural environment.
[CAMSR Report, 2016, pg. 10]
CAMSR fails to see the logic or virtue in singling out the activities of fossil fuel companies for special attention, when concerted efforts are needed on a mass scale to change the behaviour of many companies and individuals.
[CAMSR Report, 2016, pg. 9]
A group of Professors from the MFL4D (McGill Faculty and Librarians For Divestment) graded the CAMSR’s infamous report as if it had been a student’s paper. They found multiple fallacious arguments, unsupported claims, and overall lack of academic rigour. Read the report version annotated by the profs here.
To get the numbers right, Divest members created mcgillinvests.in, a tool to explore McGill's investment data, obtained via Access to Information requests. The endowment was organized into several categories of interest, bringing into focus the investments deemed socially and environmentally irresponsible. Here is an overview of the findings:
It is to note that a Fossil Free Fund (FFF) was launched in 2017. However, as of today the FFF only represents... 0.38% of the total endowment! (FFF weight as of March 31st, 2019)