Concordia Student Union News

Concordia Student Union divests $10M from Scotiabank over defense ties

The motion was passed unanimously and will go in effect in late June.

In a significant pivot towards ethical banking, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) has decided to withdraw its investments from Scotiabank, citing the bank’s financial entanglement with Elbit Systems, a noted defense electronics company supplying the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

This decision aligns the CSU with the broader Boycott, Divest, Sanction (BDS) movement, aiming to pressure entities involved in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

At the heart of the divestment is Dave Plant, a CSU council member, who introduced the motion during a union meeting. “Our funds and where we place them can influence corporations […]. It’s about making a stand,” Plant said.

The CSU’s financial shift will move away from Scotiabank by the end of June, redirecting $10M to Desjardins, a banking institution noted for its adherence to ethical investment guidelines. This move was unanimously agreed upon by the council, consisting of elected representatives from all faculties. 

Plant’s motivation stemmed from Scotiabank’s investments in Elbit Systems, but also in Vanguard and Blackrock, both of which are heavily invested in arms manufacturing and the North American housing market crisis. 

Concordia University’s Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) Coordinator Zeyad Abisaab shed light on the organization’s strategic involvement in the BDS movement and its historical roots within the context of Palestinian advocacy in the West.

Abisaab is also a history student at Concordia. He emphasized the role of economic sanctions used to enact change. “Economic pressure has been the tactic used by every single country on earth,” Abisaab said.

Detailing the BDS movement’s objectives, this approach seeks to dismantle the economic structures supporting Israel’s military and colonial endeavors through targeted boycotts and divestments.

“BDS, just like the foundation of all of these human rights organizations, like SPHR for instance, aims to address [Israel’s actions] and combat them or fight them in a way that isn’t violent,” Abisaab explained. 

Highlighting the incremental impact of these actions, Abisaab drew parallels with the significant economic repercussions experienced by companies like Starbucks, which faced backlash for their ties to funding Israel’s military actions.

Abisaab hopes for increased student mobilization and engagement with BDS efforts, emphasizing the importance of collective action in achieving tangible results. Abisaab encouraged students who want to make a similar impact to join the student walkout and rally on April 11. The rally will have Concordia students as well as those from McGill and Dawson. 

“Considering moving billions of dollars from one bank to another, there’s a lot of intricacies to be expected,” explained Kareem Rahaman, the CSU’s finance coordinator.

Addressing the divestment’s rationale, Rahaman concurred with the sentiment that the move aligns with broader divestment principles, particularly in protest against investments that indirectly fund conflicts in the Middle East. 

He described the switch as “more of a moral and ethical switch,” emphasizing Desjardins’ cooperative nature and its closer alignment with CSU values than Scotiabank. Rahaman assured that future planning would ensure seamless operations.

“It’s $10M divested from Scotiabank, which will be probably put into Desjardins, a not-for-profit bank that focuses on the Quebec economy above all else, which is good,” Plant said.

Plant further highlighted the alignment with the BDS movement. “In our current capitalist system, I think we should be voting with our money as a means of enacting change we want to see,” he said. 
Plant believes the move by the CSU may inspire other students to scrutinize other institutions for their unethical investments.

“It sets a precedent,” Plant said.

Concordia launches its Sustainability Action Plan

Concordia plans to fully divest from greenhouse gasses and go 90 per cent waste free by 2040

On Nov. 3, Concordia held an online panel on the official launch of its Sustainability Action Plan. The plan is a five-year strategy that consists of five groups: food, waste, climate change, research, and curriculum.

“This plan is an ambitious living document with five streams that were developed in tandem, because we recognized that in order to be successful we cannot pursue this work in silos,” said Michael Di Grappa, the new vice president of services and sustainability, and a speaker at the panel.

For the five groups of the Sustainability Action Plan, the goal is to have aspects of them in action by 2025, with the end-goal of them being fully implemented by 2040.

Cassandra Lamontagne, the sustainability coordinator for the project, went into more detail about what the five groups meant during the panel.

She explained that the first group is food, with the goal of creating more sustainable, local food options on campus. Environmental and social sustainability will be considered in every agreement regarding food at Concordia. Another aspect of this group is to provide affordable and healthy food on both campuses.

The next group was the zero waste plan, with the goal of keeping 90 per cent of Concordia’s waste out of landfills by doing such things as recycling and composting. Another aspect of this is to reduce the waste generated by Concordia.

According to an article by the Montreal Gazette, Montreal is going through a recycling crisis, and it is unknown what percentage of waste is actually recycled.

Then, for the climate action plan, Concordia is to transition from gas to electric and stop all greenhouse gas emissions on campus, including transportation. This will be done by improving infrastructure for biking and electric cars. Concordia also promises to completely divest from the coal industry.

The plan for sustainability research aims to create more interdisciplinary research opportunities for students, as well as ensure Concordia is a leader in research on sustainability in Canada.

The final group is sustainability in the curriculum, which would work with faculty and professors on how they can integrate sustainability into their own curriculum, as well as give graduate students the skills and knowledge to implement sustainability in their fields of work after university.

According to the Concordia website, this plan was put into motion in 2017 when Concordia held a community consultation, which started the concept of the five groups. Then, in 2018, committees were created to represent each of the five groups. After another community consultation in 2019, a final draft of the Sustainability Action Plan was finalized.

“Last year the University foundation committed not only [to] divestment from coal in five years,” said Graham Carr, the university’s president and vice-chancellor, at the panel. “We are the first university foundation in the country to commit to a portfolio of 100 per cent sustainability by 2025.”

Carr also explained that Concordia was the first university to launch a sustainability investment practicum in 2020, which is a collaboration between the John Molson School of Business and Manulife Investment Management, a company that facilitates sustainable investment.

Paula Wood-Adams, the vice president of research and graduate studies, explained during the panel that in 2019 Concordia received $9.1 million from the The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The funds were for 49 research projects in natural science and engineering, including research on climate-resilient buildings and biodiverse ecosystems.

Wood-Adams also talked about how in the same year Concordia received $6.3 million in funding from The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for 88 projects, and 1.6 million in a grant from NSERC’s collaborative research and training experience program.

During the Q&A part of the panel, Wood-Adams stated that the best way to get involved with these newly funded projects is to reach out to faculty and professors at Concordia. “Contact them and say that you want to get involved,” she said.

“The Sustainability Action Plans have come from many years of tough conversations, and we’re glad that they are now available to the community,” said Emily Carson-Apstein, the external and campaigns coordinator at Sustainable Concordia. Carson-Apstein

She explained Sustainable Concordia is going to ensure the University keeps their promises and is transparent about the progress and decision making.

“Student leadership and activism have been a driving force behind every positive change at Concordia, and that’s what we want to highlight.”


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


Students from the geography department strike for more climate action

According to protesters, Concordia would be able to divest faster than their target five-year plan.

“What do we want? Divestment! When do we want it? Now!” chanted students from the Geography Undergrad Student Society (GUSS) on Friday during a strike.

The 25 students who gathered at the Henry F. Hall building’s ninth floor were urging the university to divest faster than their previously announced five-year plan.

The Concordia University Foundation sent a press release in November presenting its divestment plan in all of its investments from the coal, oil and gas sectors before 2025, reported The Concordian.

“We want to make sure that Concordia is held accountable in this divestment protest, so making it as fast as possible and have real binding agreements, because historically, they had been kind of lax,” said a student who wished to remain anonymous for privacy purposes with the university. Other striking students asked to remain anonymous and not have their faces shown on camera for the same reasons

In 2016, the university had already established a joint sustainable investment advisory committee to “make recommendations to their respective governing bodies on socially and environmentally responsible investment opportunities” reported Concordia News. The committee included representatives from the student body like the Concordia Student Union, the Graduate Student Association and Divest Concordia.

“The Concordia University Foundation publishes an annual report which includes audited financial statements,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson Vannina Maestracci in an email to The Concordian. “The Foundation will continue to provide these annual reports which serve to assess its investments.”

The students were handing out pamphlets with their demands that the university be held accountable for divestment at the fastest rate possible through a student-faculty body that oversees divestment, by implementing binding agreements and and that the measures taken would be communicated to students with full transparency.

The protesters claim that Concordia would be able to divest way faster than the planned rate and that a lot of information regarding the process is not publicly shared.

“We believe that five years is the time it will take to replace our remaining exposure to coal, oil and gas,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson. “If we can do it sooner, all the better. For us, it’s not simply about withdrawing investments from coal, oil and gas. It is also about finding the new investments that are sustainable and benefit our community in terms of research, teaching and charitable programs.”

Students are also demanding that Concordia declares climate emergency in which they would implement more binding language. However, Concordia has already done that last September.

“We signed a climate emergency declaration with nine other Quebec universities by which we committed to more sustainability education and research, and carbon neutrality by 2050 at the latest,” wrote Concordia’s spokesperson.

The strike had been previously voted upon unanimously by the GUSS during a general assembly.

“In geography, there’s a desire for climate action in our education and sort of what the professors are learning and researching on,” said the student.

Although no other events have been planned yet, the geography student body said it is not willing to back away until Concordia takes serious action.


Photo by Jad Abukasm


Concordia announces plan to divest

The Concordia University Foundation announced its intention to withdraw all of its investments from the coal, oil and gas sector before 2025.

The Concordia University Foundation plans to be the first Quebec university with 100 per cent sustainable investments within five years. Currently, $14 million of Concordia’s $243 million assets is going into the coal, gas and oil sectors.

“We believe that being socially and environmentally responsible in our investments is the surest way to be Concordia University’s best possible fund management partner,” said Howard Davidson, Chair of the Board of the Concordia University Foundation, in a press release Friday. “Investing in sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

While Concordia cancelled classes for the climate strike on Sept. 27, some questioned why the university still invested in fossil fuels, as pointed out by Jacob Robitaille, internal coordinator of Concordia’s La Planète s’invite à l’Université in a previous interview with The Concordian.

“It doesn’t send a straightforward message,” Robitaille said of Concordia’s environmental position.

But now, the university is aiming to double investments that generate social and environmental impact with a financial return. For instance, Concordia partnered earlier this year with Inerjys Ventures, a global investment fund promoting the adoption of clean tech.

“It’s a social movement as much as a financial one, and this announcement has a lot of power for the climate justice movement across the country,” said Divest Concordia representative Emily Carson-Apstein. “We’re looking forward to keeping the students updated as this process goes on.”

“Promoting sustainability and fighting climate change are priorities for the Concordia community,” said Concordia’s interim President Graham Carr in a press release. “Our researchers, students, faculty and staff are all engaged around this issue and want to be part of the solution. The Foundation’s commitments are crucial next steps in our sustainability journey.”

Student organizations, such as Divest Concordia have long advocated for the withdrawal of the university from those investments. In a previous article for The Concordian, Alex Hutchins reported that since its creation in 2013, Divest Concordia has been continually pressuring the foundation to freeze its assets.

In 2014, the student-run group joined forces with the CSU to create the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC). Now, they see their own $10 million investment in sustainable funds from 2017 as laying the groundwork for the university’s decision, Divest Concordia explained in a statement sent to The Concordian.

“This has always been an issue of priorities, and it’s great that the foundation agrees with what the students have been shouting about for years,” said Emily Carson-Apstein, the Divest Concordia representative on the committee. “It’s a social movement as much as a financial one, and this announcement has a lot of power for the climate justice movement across the country. We’re looking forward to keeping the students updated as this process goes on.”

Long-time member of Divest Concordia Nicolas Chevalier agrees. “Concordia has finally decided to listen to the voices of the student body and align their investment portfolio in a way that doesn’t fund our collective demise. Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time, and the institutions that produce research on this crisis should strive to align their operations with the science, fossil fuel divestment is no exception.”

Divest Concordia members work across multiple environmental advocacy organizations. Hania Peper, a representative of Divest Concordia and LPSU (La planète s’invite à l’Université), was hopeful in the wake of Concordia’s decision: “Last week, Concordia took its first true steps towards addressing climate injustice by divesting from an industry that has been funding both climate change and the degradation of human and environmental communities all over the globe. While the ripple effects of this decision have yet to be seen, I’m hopeful that this can serve as inspiration for other Canadian universities to follow-suit and begin divesting from fossil fuels and non-renewable resources.”

This article is an updated version from a previous article published on Nov. 8

Feature graphic by @sundaeghost


Concordia to be a leader in sustainable investments

The Concordia University Foundation just announced its intention to withdraw all of its investments from the coal, oil and gas sector before 2025.

The Concordia University Foundation plans to be the first Quebec university with 100 per cent sustainable investments within five years. Currently, $14 million of Concordia’s $243 million assets is going into the coal, gas and oil sectors.

“We believe that being socially and environmentally responsible in our investments is the surest way to be Concordia University’s best possible fund management partner,” said Howard Davidson, Chair of the Board of the Concordia University Foundation, in a press release Friday. “Investing in sustainability is not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.”

While Concordia cancelled classes for the climate strike on Sept. 27, some questioned why the university still invested in fossil fuels, as pointed out by Jacob Robitaille, internal coordinator of Concordia’s La Planète s’invite à l’Université in a previous interview with The Concordian.

“It doesn’t send a straightforward message,” Robitaille said of Concordia’s environmental position.

But now, the university is aiming to double investments that generate social and environmental impact with a financial return. For instance, Concordia partnered earlier this year with Inerjys Ventures, a global investment fund promoting the adoption of clean tech.

“Promoting sustainability and fighting climate change are priorities for the Concordia community,” said Concordia’s interim President Graham Carr in a press release. “Our researchers, students, faculty and staff are all engaged around this issue and want to be part of the solution. The Foundation’s commitments are crucial next steps in our sustainability journey.”

More details to come.

Feature graphic by Jad Abukasm

Student Life

Divest Concordia spreads its wings

A hilariously well-networked class reignites the fossil fuel divest movement

Since the formation of Divest Concordia in 2013, the student-run group has been continuously pressuring the Concordia University Foundation (CUF) to freeze current investments in the fossil fuel industry and withdraw all future investments from the top 200 fossil fuel companies. The CUF makes all decisions regarding the university’s $185.9 million endowment fund, which is invested in various stocks and bonds that generate funding for scholarships, bursaries and research coming out of Concordia. Approximately 10 per cent of the endowment fund “may have some connection with fossil fuels,” according to former University Spokesperson Mary-Jo Barr.

Research and mobilization around the divest movement has largely been undertaken by student-run groups like Divest Concordia, Sustainable Concordia, and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) in 2016, when the CSU adopted divestment as their annual campaign. However, in January 2019, a group of students enrolled in a 400-level interdisciplinary geography course began brainstorming ways to utilize the class’s resources and networks to reignite the divest movement at Concordia.

“It’s a methodology class where students learn about how to do research that supports, and is engaged with the work of a social justice institution,” said Kevin Gould, an associate professor in the geography, planning and environment department, who created the shell of the course. “The class has become a space where people that have this common interest [of divestment] have been able to engage with each other—to learn, to think, to plan,” said Gould. Students are currently in the early stages of developing scopes of research that examine potential avenues for furthering the divestment movement on campus.

Concordia University Foundation common shares investment breakdown 2010-11. Graph illustration by Loreanna Lastoria

Emily Carson-Apstein, who works closely with Divest Concordia and is the external campaigns coordinator for Sustainable Concordia, was a key member in helping Gould structure the class around divestment. Carson-Apstein said that having the CSU campaigns department working with Divest Concordia meant there was a lot of people-power behind the movement. “[The divest movement] is smaller than it was in 2016 […] but it’s definitely still present,” they said. “It’s more in a negotiation phase than a public education phase.”

Increasing student awareness of the urgent need for full fossil fuel divestment, community mobilization and conveying the message that Concordia is not an institution completely committed to a sustainable economic future are a few of the goals the geography class hopes to help Divest Concordia with.

In 2014, Concordia boasted the creation of a socially responsible investment (SRI) fund of $5 million, which would transfer funds from existing assets to be reinvested in “environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) factors,” according to the university’s website. Divest Concordia representatives at the time condemned the foundation’s decision, saying it was “a flat-out rejection of student calls for full divestment from fossil fuels,” according to Newswire. Noting the distinction between sustainable investment versus fossil fuel divestment is pertinent, as sustainable investment is used as a redirection tactic to avoid addressing the foundation’s continued investment in the fossil fuel industry.

Despite heavy criticism from Divest Concordia, Concordia was praised by some of the wider Montreal community for exhibiting sustainable leadership. The Montreal Gazette published an article on Dec. 2, 2014 claiming that Concordia was the first university in the country to begin taking steps towards divesting from fossil fuels. However, it is important to note the CUF is able to continue to invest in the fossil fuel industry while simultaneously contributing to the SRI fund, as well as other sustainable investment endeavours. In February 2016, the foundation created the Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC) in response to increased pressure from Divest Concordia, Sustainable Concordia, and the student body to fully divest. Divest Concordia and Sustainable Concordia each occupy a seat on JSIAC, and the committee is the only channel of communication either organization has to the foundation’s board of directors. JSIAC’s influence over the board and its investment decisions regarding the endowment fund ends at making recommendations to the foundation.

Concordia University Foundation common shares investment breakdown 2011-12. Graph illustration by Loreanna Lastoria.

In an interview with The Concordian, Carson-Apstein stated that the yet-to-be released 2018 annual report estimate of the endowment fund is approximately $218 million, from what the CUF has informed Divest Concordia. In terms of financial transparency, the foundation has continually failed to clearly state which sectors of the economy it’s invested in since 2011, particularly with regards to energy resources. According to the foundation’s 2010-11 financial report, Canadian common share investments in oil and gas were about $9.1 million, investments in pipelines were about $2.6 million, and investments in metals and minerals were about $2.2 million.

However, in the foundation’s 2011-12 annual report, categories such as ‘oil and gas,’ ‘pipelines,’ and ‘metals and minerals’ cannot be found in the common share investment breakdown. Instead, the report vaguely shows an $11.7 million investment in the relatively ambiguous category titled ‘energy.’ According to the foundation’s 2016-17 annual report, a total of about $10 million in both Canadian and U.S. common share investments fall under the categories ‘energy,’ ‘materials,’ and ‘industrials.’ On Feb. 11, 2019, Concordia announced it is the first Canadian university to issue a $25 million sustainable bond, due by 2039, which will allow the university to finance the new Science Hub at Loyola. However, there have been no discussions of the more than $10 million continued investment in what is arguably the fossil fuel industry.

Carson-Apstein explained that a major challenge faced by Divest Concordia over the years has been institutional memory; the passing down of information and strategies from graduating students to newly engaged students. “Most of the folks who were founders of Divest Concordia have moved on by now,” they said. “But I think Kevin’s class is amazing […] It’s super cool that the work that’s happening in the classroom is going to be directly relevant to stuff that’s happening in the world right now.” Drawing attention to the discrepancies and financial patterns of the foundation’s annual reports is one of many strategies the geography class will use to shed light on the realities of Concordia’s investment practices, and continue pushing for full fossil fuel divestment.

Divest Concordia meets every Monday at 4:30 p.m. to discuss news, ideas and strategies. Meetings are held at 2090 McKay St. in the Z Annex on the top floor for anyone who wants to join the fight.

Feature graphic by @sundaeghost


Keep Concordia in mind this summer

It’s the end of another great year at The Concordian. While we’re sad to say goodbye, we thought we could dedicate this final editorial to the important issues that have been discussed on campus throughout the year.

We know how easy (and satisfying) it is to finally leave exam halls, submit final assignments and close the doors on Concordia at the end of each semester. It’s an exhilarating feeling to embark on our summer vacations, whether they consist of binge-watching Netflix or travelling the world. But, we at The Concordian think it’s vital to keep some things in mind even while we step away from our university this summer.

This year was…eventful, to say the least. We’re proud to have covered and highlighted important issues in our newspaper, from the significance of sustainable foods, to Concordia’s ways of handling sexual misconduct allegations. We think it’s important to leave you with a few key issues to keep in mind while away from Concordia.

First, the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Violence will be taking place until May 2018. These allegations regarding Concordia’s creative writing department were significant in raising awareness about sexual misconduct at our university. It highlighted how power abuses can lead to dangerous environments for students. Ultimately, it opened our eyes to how Concordia can sometimes fail at addressing such allegations in the first place.

Although we won’t be surrounded by the news every day this summer, it’s still important to check up on the Task Force’s progress addressing sexual misconduct at our institution. It’s our responsibility, not only as students, but as citizens, to remain aware and engaged in these issues at our university. While we commend Concordia students for speaking out against sexual violence and shedding light on this issue throughout the year, we hope students can continue to talk about sexual assault every day—since, unfortunately, it happens quite frequently.

We also hope Concordia students remain interested in the Concordia Student Union’s (CSU) Daycare and Nursery Project. Although it was initially proposed in 2011, and has experienced many setbacks such as obtaining construction permits, we at The Concordian are still keeping an eye out for the project’s final establishment. According to a 2017 article by The Concordian, the daycare was supposed to open in March 2018. As we’re already into the month of April, it’s clear to see the project is still experiencing difficulties and obstacles.

The daycare would be an outstanding achievement by the CSU, and more importantly, it would help student-parents feel more supported by the school. According to a study commissioned by Concordia in 2011, student-parents comprise about 10 per cent of our university’s population. That 10 per cent of students are more likely to feel stressed by missing classes and exams and handing assignments in late because of their responsibilities as parents. This is all due to the university’s lack of safe and affordable childcare options, which is why CSU’s daycare project is so important.

We at The Concordian hope that this daycare can be established in the upcoming months. We hope students can continue to talk about this project, support it and help actualize it. It would be extremely beneficial for so many student-parents, and it will be a positive addition to our school.

There are many important discussions and projects happening at Concordia. Throughout the year, we saw students speaking out against unpaid internships, the importance of voting and environmental abuses. One such group highlighting environmental abuses is Divest Concordia, an initiative that calls on our university to end its investments in fossil fuels. The group has called on the university to make a decision on divestment and to announce whether or not they will be taking concrete steps towards more environmentally-friendly investing. Unfortunately, however, Concordia has been postponing the announcement—and still has yet to comment on its divestment. We believe that even though Concordia hasn’t made an announcement yet, we cannot forget about Divest Concordia and its important stance. We need to support such groups and initiatives in order to better our time at Concordia, and to contribute positively to our world.

So this summer, keep the conversation going. Keep speaking out against sexual assault; keep shedding light on racism and discrimination; keep supporting groups pushing for a better university; remind yourself to check up on Concordia’s steps in building a better environment for students. We know how easy it is to say goodbye, but we at The Concordian hope you choose to keep our university in mind this summer.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Resistance rises back up against DAPL

Activists marched along Ste-Catherine Street, delivering a petition for TD Bank to divest from DAPL

A crowd of approximately 40 people, small but united and loud in their fight against pipelines, gathered in Norman Bethune Square at noon on Feb. 1 to deliver a petition to TD Bank, urging the bank to remove its investments from the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). The petition had more than 143,000 signatures on it.

“We’re here to honour what’s going on over there in Standing Rock with the Sioux Nation,” said Dan Parker, a representative from Climate Justice Montréal, the group that organized the event.

Parker introduced the event’s first speaker, Sierra Segalowitz, a Native youth ambassador. “I’m Inuit, Dene and half French, and I’ve been involved with these types of things since I was a baby,” Segalowitz said.

Segalowitz recites a speech from Black Elk Speaks. Photo by Savanna Craig.

Segalowitz recited a speech from the book Black Elk Speaks, written in 1932 by John Neihardt, an American writer and poet who often wrote about European-American immigrants and the indigenous peoples they frequently displaced. The speech had been delivered by the Black Elk, an elder from the  Lakȟóta people, which is an indigenous tribe living in North and South Dakota

If the old camp circle, the sacred hoop of the Lakota, and the old days have been rudely shattered by the machines of a scientific era and if they can be no more in the traditional sense, the universality of the images and dreams must testify to the emergence of a new sacred hoop, a new circle of intense community among Indians far outdistancing the grandeur of former times,” she read.

“He’s not alive, but he predicted this hundreds of years ago,” said Segalowitz, referencing ongoing pipeline conflicts throughout North America, including the one at Standing Rock.

“This was meant to happen. It doesn’t mean it is right, [but] it is happening right now,” said Segalowitz. “In thousands of years, we are the people who are going to be in these history books.”

“We are standing strong and we are standing for our Mother,” said Segalowitz.

Video by Savanna Craig.

Kristian Gareau from Climate Justice Montréal reminded the crowd why they had gathered.

“We’re Climate Justice Montréal, we’re people who fight for the respect of the Earth. We see everything that’s going on around us—it’s very discouraging,” said Gareau.* He said what inspires him and other members of Climate Justice Montréal is seeing the protectors of water and people from First Nations communities all over the continent who are standing up against the constructors and powers behind these pipelines.

This is a solidarity action for indigenous people who are mistreated and have had and continue to have their treaties violated, said Gareau. “We want to make noise and we want to make sure these people are heard.”

Gareau said the demonstrators would march to two TD Bank branches in Montréal to deliver petitions insisting the bank remove its funding from the pipeline project.

Kristen Perry from Climate Justice Montréal told the crowd they were responding directly to a call from Standing Rock that urged activists across North America to petition the banks in their area that are funding the construction of the DAPL.

“We have TD Bank right here in Canada that is the largest funder in Canada of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” Perry told the crowd. “As we’re taking action today, it’s really important to think of the destructive nature of this pipeline and what we’re doing here today to say that we are not okay with that.”

Police gathered outside TD Bank location at Ste-Catherine and Guy. Photo by Savanna Craig.

“You can’t eat money, you can’t drink oil, give it up TD, leave it in the soil,” chanted Parker, along with the crowd.

Representatives from Kahnawake’s People’s Fire marched alongside activists down Guy Street towards their first stop at the TD Bank on the corner of Ste-Catherine West and Guy.

Gareau delivered the petition to representatives at TD, as demonstrators sang together outside the bank, which was heavily guarded by police officers. As Gareau exited the bank, he told the crowd he had informed the bank’s representatives that they do not want TD to fund public money into dangerous and toxic infrastructures that infringe treaty rights.

“City by city, block by block, we stand with Standing Rock,” chanted the crowd as they marched towards Place des Arts, to the TD Bank on Ste-Catherine West and de Bleury.

“They actually had heard about Standing Rock, which is good. I think it’s something that’s been in the media a lot,” Perry told the crowd after delivering the second petition.


“We talked about how, as we go into the future, pipelines are not going to be good investments,” Perry said after meeting with the TD representatives. “We’re seeing that the current administration in the U.S. is trying to push through pipelines, but there’s a growing resistance across the worldas you can see with all of the people here today.”

“We’re calling on TD again to take their money out of Dakota Access Pipelines,” said Perry, as she urged participants to close their TD Bank accounts.

Protesters gathered at the TD Bank location on Ste-Catherine West and de Bleury. Photo by Savanna Craig.

“I don’t think the pipelines are good for the Mother Earth,” Segalowitz told The Concordian.

“[Climate Justice Montréal has] three main motives: we do mobilization, like today, we do education—where we give workshops—and then we do direct action,” Parker said. He told The Concordian that, in the three years since he joined Climate Justice Montréal, they have not organized a lot of direct action. However, Parker said recently they have been organizing protests against Line 9, which has a refinery located in Sarnia, Ontario—close to a reserve home to members of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation—running all the way to Montréal. Parker said Climate Justice Montréal has been helping indigenous land defenders, such as Vanessa Gray, who shut off a Line 9 valve in December 2015.


A push for Concordia to divest

Divest Concordia gears up for their upcoming referendum campaign in November

Divest Concordia discussed plans for their upcoming referendum campaign starting Nov. 1, where students will vote if they want Concordia to divest from fossil fuels––a victory in the referendum will oblige the Concordia Student Union (CSU) to officially endorse the movement. The final decision, however, still rests with the school’s administration.

At a meeting on Oct. 27, Divest Concordia members brainstormed strategies to promote the “Yes” side of the referendum. Members proposed ideas such as classroom visits, open letters to the student press and information booths.

Divest Concordia will begin campaigning from Nov. 1 until Nov. 14, followed by polling taking place between Nov. 15-17.

“We do believe that support will lean significantly on the side of divestment,” said Eamon Toohey, a spokesperson for the campaign. He praised the global divestment movement as being “not just environmentally necessary but economically sound and feasible.”

The Concordia University Foundation has already diverted $5 million to a Sustainable Investment Fund as a pilot project. In an interview with Business News Network in March 2015, the foundation’s president, Bram Freedman, confirmed that this fund had outperformed the rest of the university’s funds since its creation in 2014. He cited the poor market performance of oil and gas as a possible cause. “Given the performance in the oil and gas industry in the last little while, our sustainable investment fund is outperforming our regular fund,” said Freedman in the interview.

Other issues related to the divestment movement were discussed at the meeting, including a discrepancy between investment figures given by Divest Concordia and those provided by the university. Divest, citing research by Concordia part-time sociology and anthropology professor Erik Chevrier, said the university currently has about $12 million invested in fossil fuels. However, the Concordia University Foundation’s annual report lists the university’s total energy investments as only $1.9 million in 2015.

According to Marcus Peters, a Divest Concordia spokesperson, this figure of $12 million is partially based on estimates of how much third-party firms invest in fossil fuels. “[Concordia] started to have other firms handle their investments, and those don’t actually have to disclose their investment portfolio,” he explained. “So there’s a huge transparency issue going on there because we don’t actually know what it’s invested in, and I don’t think [the administrators] do either.”

Photo by Ana Hernandez.

In September, The Concordian met with Concordia President Alan Shepard and discussed divestment within Concordia. “We’re the first Canadian university to set aside some funds that were not invested in the fossil fuels sector,” said Shepard. “Other institutions followed soon after we made that move.”

The first move of divestment was made in December 2014, university spokesperson Chris Mota said at the time. “In time we will add to it,” said Shepard.

The global divestment movement has diverted $3.4 trillion worth of investments from the fossil fuel industry to date, according to However, this gesture is largely symbolic because companies are not directly affected financially by the trading of their stock—a diversion of $3.4 trillion does not indicate a $3.4 trillion loss for the industry. However, as Peters explained, “The point isn’t to economically bankrupt them, it’s to politically and socially bankrupt them.”
Peters also noted that promoting competing industries can have financial consequences for fossil fuel companies. “Half of it is getting [institutions] to divest, but the other half is getting them to invest in [socially responsible companies], in the new social economy, in the renewable economy. So that’s one way you could see marginal gains being made financially against the industry, by helping to prop up the alternative.”

With files from Savanna Craig


Divest is back and looking for transparency

Mobilization continues for full divestment from fossil fuels in Concordia University

Divest Concordia welcomed new members at its first General Assembly this past Thursday. The group has three goals this semester: to freeze all of Concordia’s new investments in the fossil fuel industry, to divest from the top 200 fossil fuel companies by 2020, and to increase the transparency of the university’s investments.

Divest Concordia has been working with the university, urging them to divest from fossil fuels and reinvest in sustainable practices since 2013.

In 2011, Concordia had $11 million invested into the energy sector, particularly in oil, gas, and pipelines. Since 2014, there has been a shift in where the money has been invested. The Joint Sustainable Investment Advisory Committee (JSIAC), was created in 2014 to help reinvest $5 million into sustainable practices, and Divest Concordia was given a seat on the committee. JSIAC’s mandate is to make recommendations to respective governing bodies on environmentally and socially responsible investment opportunities, according to Concordia’s website.

By 2015, Concordia had lowered their investment in fossil fuels significantly, and now has just over $2 million invested in the energy sector, according to their 2015 Annual Report. The 2016 Annual Report numbers have yet to be released. While progress has been made, Divest Concordia wants to aim even higher.

“We want full divestment,” said Isabella Harned, the external coordinator and campaign coordinator at Sustainable Concordia and member of Divest Concordia. “We’re going for visibility on campus—that’s our main goal and intention for this semester.”

Divest Concordia also wants more transparency from the university, Harned said. Concordia may be investing far less in the energy sector as a whole, but it is no longer clear how much is exactly being invested into oil, gas or pipelines. Their 2009-10 annual report listed exactly how much was being put into each type of energy. That transparency no longer exists, said Harned, as now everything is lumped under the vague category “Energy” in the reports.

“[The investments] could be in oil and gas, or in green energy—we wouldn’t know”, said Jenna Cocullo, a Divest Concordia member.

“It’s hard to organize frequent meetings with administration,” added Harned.

This year, Divest Concordia organized an indigenous land defenders panel, a rap battle for climate justice at Reggies, a vegan lunch at orientation and made an appearance at Concordia’s annual shuffle between the Loyola and Sir George Williams campus to spread awareness about their goals.

Divest Concordia’s meetings are every Friday at 3 p.m., on the 7th floor of the Hall building next to People’s Potato.


Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions and Palestinian rights

Panelists from the Green Party, CJPME and Concordia students deliver panel on BDS

On Thursday, Concordia hosted the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions (BDS) Town Hall, which featured four panelists discussing the goals and achievements of the movement, as well as the misconceptions surrounding it.

The speakers included Grace Batchoun, the co-founder of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME); Dimitri Lascaris, a former member of the Green Party of Canada’s shadow cabinet; Alex Tyrrell, the leader of the Green Party of Quebec; and Rami Yahia, the Concordia Student Union (CSU) internal affairs coordinator.

Tyrrell said these discussions are leading up to the Green Party of Canada convention in December, intended to overturn the party’s current BDS position. The Green Party of Quebec is in support of the BDS movement, however, Tyrrell later said at the federal level, Elizabeth May refuses to support the policy.  “We really hope that as many Green Party members as possible show up to support BDS,” said Tyrrell.

BDS Town Hall panelists include Alex Tyrrell, Dimitri Lascaris, Grace Batchoun and Rami Yahia. (From left to right) Photo courtesy of Dimitri Lascaris.

According to the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the goal of the BDS movement is to promote Palestinian rights. The movement calls for the boycott of Israeli and international companies that infringe on Palestinian human rights and occupy Palestinian land. According to BNC, the movement also pressures other governments to end military and free-trade agreements with Israel, and remove the country from international associations such as the United Nations and International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

Lascaris discussed how a trip to Palestine gave him a first-hand look at the injustices the Palestinians face. One man he met, a 77-year-old citrus farmer, cried as he said, “They are breaking my connection to the land.” The Israeli state had extended the wall that separates the two nations—right down the middle of his lemon tree grove, Lascaris said.

“The companies that profit off of Palestinian suffering are profiting off of suffering all over the world,” said Yahia. He listed G4S, Caterpillar and Elbit Systems as examples of companies the BDS movement is boycotting. Yahia said that more and more companies are dropping their Israeli subsidiaries in response to BDS tactics.

Two years ago, Yahia was part of a campaign that succeeded in having the CSU officially endorse BDS. “That motion was to condemn the disproportionate use of force by the Israeli government after the massacre of 2014,” said Yahia.

Yahia said 2,500 students participated in the referendum, making it the “highest turnout in by-election history on campus.” This summer, Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir (SdBI) institute also gave their official endorsement. The panelists encouraged students to lobby their own faculties to do the same.

Yahia discussed the opposition he’s faced for his pro-BDS stance. Before the referendum, opposers of the BDS movement on campus labelled the campaign as antisemitic. Yahia even faced criticism from the CSU which he had believed to be progressive and supportive of this movement. “I was told I was too pro-Palestine to join an executive team at one point within the [CSU],” said Yahia.

Similarly, Lascaris lost his position within Parliament when he and other Green Party shadow cabinet members criticized the B.C. Green Party leader’s condemnation of the BDS movement.

Batchoun suggested that community members send letters to their MP requesting meetings to discuss the BDS movement. She also suggested signing up with CJPME as a media responder, which entails thanking publications who have covered the issue fairly and criticizing ones who, for example, say it is disputed territory when it is occupied territory.

Starting Oct. 3, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights is hosting “Decolonize Palestine,” a week filled with events in correlation to BDS and Palestinian culture. Additional information can be found on the SPHR Facebook page.

Graphic by Florence Yee


The industrious demise of the Canadian landscape

The tar sands are a toxic wasteland that shall poison our nation

“In short, it is an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the pyramids or China’s Great Wall. Only bigger,” said former prime minister Stephen Harper back in 2006, as he vividly discussed the development of the tar sands.

Photo by Kris Krug.

It’s now almost a decade later, and the surrounding forest is disappearing, as the process of industrialization has spread like a deadly virus. The animals are diseased and the river has been exposed to toxic pollutants. The air now carries a pungent odor, as noxious fumes fill the atmosphere and plumes of vapor block out the sun.

The thirst for oil has undoubtedly transformed the landscape of northern Alberta. As a Canadian, I strongly oppose the development of the tar sands and I’m quite frankly ashamed we have allowed these nefarious operations to continue onwards.

You may be wondering ‘What the hell are these so called tar sands?,’ sometimes referred to as ‘oil sands.’ According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Alberta has some of the largest deposits of bitumen, a type of crude oil that is trapped within the sandy soil. Bitumen is a gooey substance that shares a similar texture to molasses, and requires various chemical processes to separate the oil from the sand—hence the name tar sands.

Photo by Julia Kilpatrick.

According to an article published by The Globe and Mail in 2014, the size of the tar sands is 140,000 square kilometers, and only 4,750 square kilometers are mineable. The development can now be seen from space, as parts of the boreal forest have been decimated due to operations in the region, as mentioned in the same article. Most of the extracted oil is consumed domestically, with 1.5 million barrels consumed per day, while the rest of the oil heads mainly to the U.S., according to the same article.

This data highlights our grotesque addiction to oil.  

The development has heavily impacted the indigenous communities living around the Athabasca River. An article published by the Vancouver Observer revealed that Health Canada warned several communities living downstream of the tar sands that there were toxins present in the animals. Testing revealed that fish contained abnormally high levels of mercury, meanwhile wild game contained high levels of arsenic. This inevitably led several communities to stop eating wild game, forcibly altering their traditional way of life. The same article also mentioned how many community members have developed rare forms of cancer, leading many in the community to speculate there exists a link between the tar sands and these diseases.

Immediately after the article was released, the then Health Minister Rona Ambrose refused to comment on the matter. In my opinion, this demonstrates the level of devotion the Conservatives had towards the development of the tar sands. Throughout Harper’s dark reign over our country, he notoriously endorsed the Keystone pipeline proposal that would see millions of litres of crude oil transferred across the border.

We have yet to see the true consequences of the tar sands here in Canada, although for reference we can look towards the incident regarding the Kalamazoo River. In 2010, a Canadian pipeline carrying diluted bitumen spilled into the tributaries of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Over the course of 17 hours, roughly 3.3 million litres of crude spilled from the pipeline, before the company Enbridge shut off the flow, according to the CBC.

Photo by David Dodge.

The diluted bitumen behaves very differently from refined oil, and sinks in water, making cleanup efforts extremely difficult, according to the same report. The entire spill costs almost US$1.27 billion according to EcoWatch, meaning that it was the most expensive inland oil spill in U.S. history.

With the new Liberal government coming into power, it is unclear which path they shall take in addressing this very contentious issue. Catherine McKenna, the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, was in Paris for the climate talks, but hasn’t publicly addressed the government’s policy towards the tar sands.

Can we not learn from these horrible mistakes? Can we not see the tar sands spell disaster in capital letters written bold? The region has become a toxic blemish on our beautiful landscape, altering the ecosystem and indigenous communities’ way of life. Our nation may be filled with desirable resources, ready to be exploited, but at what cost?

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