On March 25, 2022, in line with the International Climate Strike Day, MacDivest and Fridays for Future Hamilton called on McMaster University students and staff to participate in a school-wide walk-out from classes, tutorials, and seminars. This walk-out aimed to pressure McMaster’s Board of Governors to commit to a formal plan for divesting their funds from fossil fuels and reinvesting funds into green technologies. Divesting from fossil fuels will hold those companies accountable for their contributions to climate change, land degradation, displacement of Indigenous peoples, pollution of water and air, human rights violations, and contributions to global inequity and poverty.
A growing petition (800+ signatures), followed by a successful walk-out, brought out many students and staff and featured many individuals that are constantly working to give more power to the people and ensure Hamilton, including McMaster University, is an equitable and sustainable community.
The walk-out, from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. welcomed numerous speakers from the greater Hamilton area and McMaster community. Starting off with the lead organizers, Mymoon Bhuiyan and Nena Tran from MacDivest and Felicia Mikrogianakis from Fridays For Future Hamilton (FFFHAM).
The speakers stressed the necessity of divestment and the need for a change in financial decisions on a large scale to prevent an irreversible rise in global temperatures. This shift will allow many other institutions to follow suit and will contribute to international policy changes, as mentioned by Koubra Haggar from Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN).
“[…] Advocacy, pressure, direct action is what forces policy change, is what forces policymakers to listen and actually pay attention because when we’re 1000 outside, they have no choice but to listen. This is how we achieve divestment at McMaster, and when it does happen because it will happen, it will not be credited to the board at Mac or the decision-makers at Mac, but credited to all of you, credited to community members in mobilizing action.”
— Koubra Haggar, HESN
Sierra from Socialist Fightback further talked about the Board of Governors’ greed to continue to grow their businesses, shining a spotlight on the rising tuition rates every year. This capitalist nature and the profit-motivated agenda are what fund McMaster’s fossil fuel investments.
“McMaster has not divested from fossil fuels because it is not in their financial interest to divest and they will continue to invest our money into their business interests until their power is threatened by the workers and students that fund them.”
— Sierra, Socialist Fightback
Evan Ubene went on to talk about the environmental movement and labour. He touched on McMaster’s growth in profits and how this growth is not being used for the betterment of the public.
“McMaster made $232 million in profits last year and saw its investment portfolio go ‘party mode’ and balloon by $742 million over what it had budgeted. This is unacceptable in a year when its workers saw wages decrease relative to inflation, thanks to Doug Ford’s anti-worker bill 124 and where students were charged the full rate of tuition for a severely diminished university experience.”
— Evan Ubene, CUPE 3906
Environment Hamilton’s Ian Borsuk also touched on this stating how McMaster University’s Board of Governors is turning a blind eye to holding more responsible investments.
“[…] is also completely unshocking to me that despite the fact the student body and faculty have been working in some cases for years to demand, ultimately, what is pennies compared to the ultimate assets they own, as Evan pointed out, that they won’t divest from fossil fuels, which is frankly absolutely shameful.”
— Ian Borsuk, Environment Hamilton
McMaster’s decision to install four natural gas-powered generators near Cootes Drive was also brought up. Looking back at McMaster’s president, David Farrar’s comment on recognizing McMaster’s role as a global university and how “we play through all our sustainability efforts, which include responsible investments.” Don McLean, of Environment Hamilton, a lifelong environmentalist and tireless advocate of Hamilton brought this up during his talk and stressed the contradiction in McMaster’s efforts to move away from fossil fuels, but also installing generators powered by fossil fuels.
“By 2050, the university can get off fossil fuels, that’s the general spar, that you’re hearing everywhere, that we should wait another 30 years before we stop doing more damage to the climate.”
— Don McLean, Environment Hamilton
Dr. James Quinn, a professor in the department of biology and member of the steering committee of Hamilton350 emphasizes that the underprivileged people in our community are most affected by and are the least culpable in the contribution to climate change.
“As a result of our use of fossil fuels, we are stripping the world of its biodiversity.”
— Dr. James Quinn, Professor and member of Hamilton350
All in all, McMaster University has not released a formal statement in response to the walk-out and our demands for full divestment from fossil fuels. “We are here together to make a statement, really to push home that change is possible”, says Mymoon Bhuiyan, to the hundreds of students and community members, gathered outside University Hall at McMaster University. We hope that McMaster recognizes the community’s concerns and will take action toward responsible investments and a brighter future.
“When the Board of Governors or administrators of this University tell you ‘radical climate change solutions are not possible,’ they’re talking down to you. […]”
— Mymoon Bhuiyan, MacDivest
See our Instagram @macdivest to see talks from organizers Mymoon Bhuiyan from MacDivest and Felicia Mikrogianakis from Fridays For Future Hamilton, as well as, Koubra Haggar from Hamilton Encampment Support Group (HESN), Dr. James Quinn from 350 Hamilton and Evan Ubene from CUPE, Ian Borusk and Don Mclean from Environment Hamilton and Sierra R. from Socialist Fightback.