Students dance for divestment at McGill

A dance party was held to celebrate recent divestment announcements at U of T, Harvard

A dance party held at McGill to celebrate recent divestment announcements at U of T and Harvard. Photo Kendra Sharp

McGill students gathered for an outdoor dance party in celebration of divestment action on Friday, Nov. 12.

The party was organized by Divest McGill, a student group calling on the university to withdraw investments from the fossil fuel industry.

“We’re calling on our institutions to divest from fossil fuels and to justly re-invest into things that actually help the community,” said Zahur Ashrafuzzaman of Divest McGill. “How we wanted to do [that] today was to celebrate a wave of recent wins.” 

Music could be heard from blocks away as students gathered for an evening of dancing. A tent and speakers were set up at McGill’s James Square near the Milton Gates, a busy entrance to the campus. Despite rain and cold, a group of up to 30 at a time enthusiastically danced and celebrated together. 

“It brings a completely different energy,” said Isabelle Prevost-Aubin, a mechanical engineering student in attendance. “It’s not just about rage and anger, it’s finally a bit hopeful.” 

The dance party comes after the University of Toronto announced a commitment to divesting from fossil fuel companies on Oct. 27. 

Despite pressure from student groups like Divest McGill for nearly a decade, McGill University has not announced similar fossil fuel divestment plans. Instead, the university has repeatedly rejected calls for divestment over the past few years. 

In January 2020, tenured McGill professor Gregory Mikkelson resigned due to the university’s refusal to divest. 

McGill University has an endowment fund of $1.9 billion. According to Divest McGill, about 7.6 per cent of this fund is invested in fossil fuels, representing nearly $50 million. Rather than divest fossil fuels from the fund entirely, McGill says it has committed to decarbonize its investment portfolio overall. 

Several other major universities in North America announced divestment plans in recent months. After years of public pressure, Harvard University announced on Sept. 9 that it would no longer be investing in the fossil fuel industry. However, Harvard said it had less than two per cent of its endowment indirectly invested in fossil fuels at the time of the announcement.

In 2019, Concordia University announced it would be completely divesting from oil, coal, and gas by 2025. This announcement came after years of campaigning by Divest Concordia, a student group that had the same divestment demands as Divest McGill does today. 

As for McGill, students at the dance party made their demands of the university clear. As organizers cited McGill’s refusal to divest fossil fuels from its endowment fund, the crowd booed in unison. 

“It’s important to try to keep the pressure going and try to get our institutions to do the right thing,” said Robin Moore, a second year mathematics student at McGill.  

When asked why he was lending his voice and dance moves to Divest McGill on Friday night, Moore said: “The impending doom of the climate change disaster.”