News / Winnipeg

University of Winnipeg students protest 'green-washing', want school funds divested away from fossil fuels

About 25 students camped out on the U of W's grounds Sunday ahead of a Board of Regents decision on the school's financial involvement with oil companies.

Avery Letkemann, an environmental studies student at the University of Winnipeg, wants to see the school divest money away from the oil industry.

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski/Metro

Avery Letkemann, an environmental studies student at the University of Winnipeg, wants to see the school divest money away from the oil industry.

The University of Winnipeg’s Board of Regents re-evaluated its relationship with the oil industry Monday.

Rather than divest funding completely from fossil fuels as some students proposed, the board adopted a "responsible investing policy" commited to "establishing a renewable energy investment fund ie: a "green fund" as a new option for investors," the school said in an evening news release.

The school has about $2.5 million invested in the fossil fuel sector, which some students and faculty want to see divested to greener initiatives.

"I believe that this university does a lot of green-washing. So they make themselves seem like they’re a sustainable university in their policies, but when you really look into the substance, there is none," said second-year environmental studies student Avery Letkemann.

"What we’re looking for is a firm commitment that they will divest and that they will never re-invest that money into the oil sector," she said before the Board of Regents meeting.

In the three years since the student movement Divest UWinnipeg began, UW Faculty for Divestment also took up the cause. They outlined their commitment in an open letter to the University of Winnipeg Foundation and Board of Regents.

"Our recent commitments towards Indigenization – including the introduction of an Indigenous Course Requirement – strengthened UW’s international reputation as a trailblazing institution. Yet, this reputation is undermined by our continued investment in fossil fuels," the letter, undersigned by 52 faculty members, said.  

"Moreover, investments in fossil fuels disproportionately threaten the well being and survival of Indigenous communities living in closest proximity to extraction sites whose health, livelihood, and lands are immediate casualties of extractive industries."

About 25 students camped on the school's front lawn Sunday night to bring awareness to their cause ahead of the board meeting, Letkemann said.

"When I first heard about the (Divest UWinnipeg) campaign about a year and a half ago, I was shocked that the university had money in oil companies,” she said. "Having so much money put into oil companies is so hypocritical of them. I want to be proud of the university that I go to."

So far in Canada, Université Laval in Quebec City is the only post-secondary institution to divest completely from the fossil fuel industry, according to Letkemann.

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