Extinction Rebellion ends hunger strike at UBC after administration issues clear statement on divestment

    1 of 2 2 of 2

      After 100 hours, eight UBC students have called off their hunger strike.

      This came after Extinction Rebellion UBC received an assurance that the UBC board is committed to fully divesting from fossil-fuel companies in its $1.7-billion main endowment fund.

      Morgan Cox, 19, was one of the hunger strikers.

      "As of last month, UBC was only 'exploring' divestment for its main endowment pool," Cox said in a statement. "This change shows that direct action works. UBC has dragged its feet on this for over six years while pumping up its image as a leader. Finally, we're seeing a modest first step in the right direction."

      Another hunger striker, 20-year-old Emma Pham, declared that UBC's action is a "bare minimum".

      "UBC needs to use its endowment to actually invest in a sustainable economy, be completely carbon-neutral, and create a binding citizens' assembly on climate and ecological justice so that it's accountable to the community and the Musqueam nation on whose stolen land we sit," she said.

      In a letter to the UBC community, the president and vice chancellor, Santa Ono, stated that the board actually passed a motion for full divestment on December 5.

      "The board is clear," Ono wrote. "UBC is committed to full divestment as soon as possible, and we are taking the necessary steps to realize this commitment now."

      UBC president Santa Ono says the board has been clear: UBC is committed to full divestment as soon as possible.

      A different climate group, UBCc350, issued a statement last month declaring victory following the UBC board vote in December.

      Today, UBCc350 reiterated that the UBC board had already passed a motion unanimously at its December meeting supporting the principle of full divestment.

      Moreover, UBCc350 stated that the board is "currently taking the necessary steps to realize this commitment by conducting the necessary legal and financial analyses to support the transfer of these funds".

      UBCc350 was created in 2013 and has been pushing for divestment for several years.

      "The UBC administration will submit a new legal opinion on full divestment at the February 6th board meeting, and we are prepared to ensure that the board follows through with full divestment," UBCc350 stated. "We wanted to offer this clarification because this victory has already been won and it is important to now shift our battle against the fossil fuel industry from the bottom lines to the frontlines by calling on the UBC community to join us in standing with the Unist’ot’en Camp who have now issued an international call for solidarity.

      "Last year, a militarized police force descended on Wet’suwet’en territory, preparing to kill Indigenous land defenders in order to force through a pipeline," UBCc30 stated. "Now more than ever, it is imperative we shift our focus on standing in solidarity with the Unist’ot’en Camp and resist this colonial violence."

      In UBC's declaration last month of a climate emergency, the university recognized, among other things, that "Indigenous and marginalized communities bear the harmful impacts of fossil fuel extraction and climate destruction while being least responsible for the global acceleration of the climate crisis."

      "As an institution located within B.C. on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the xwməθkwəy̓ əm (Musqueam) and Syilx (Okanagan) Peoples, the University has a responsibility to align its policies, actions, and investments with UNDRIP and the B.C. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act," the university stated at the time.

      In 2014, students voted in a referendum in favour of UBC divesting from fossil fuels. The following year, the faculty endorsed this idea.

      The board, which had a majority of B.C. Liberal government appointees at that time, refused to do ths. Instead, it created a small fund to invest in sustainable initiatives, which was only valued at $16 million by last October, according to Extinction Rebellion UBC.

      "UBC is only starting to actually do the work to back up greenwashing rhetoric with material commitments," Extinction Rebellion UBC spokesperson Laura Sullivan said in today's statement. "They should have done this years ago."