Students gear up for battle after University of Winnipeg board rejects fossil fuel divestment

The University of Winnipeg Students’ Association is promising to continue its fight against fossil fuels after a decision by the university’s board fell short of complete divestment on Monday night.

School calls new green fund for investors a step in the right direction

University of Winnipeg Students' Association environmental ethics director Avery Letkemann says the fight for divestment will continue. (Travis Golby/CBC)

The University of Winnipeg Students' Association promises to continue its fight against fossil fuels after a decision by the university's board fell short of complete divestment on Monday night.

"They have been nothing but underhanded and they cannot stop us," students association environmental ethics director Avery Letkemann said.

Letkemann learned through the media on Monday evening that the University of Winnipeg's board of regents had received a new policy guiding investments for endowments to the University of Winnipeg Foundation.

Students stood outside the board's meeting Monday afternoon holding signs that said "DIVEST NOW!" and sang their opposition to fossil fuel investments held by the university's foundation.

The university said in a news release the new policy is similar to those of other universities across Canada. The policy is responsible and commits to establishing a renewable energy investment portfolio known as a green fund as an option for investors, the news release says.

But Letkemann said anything short of complete divestment of fossil fuel investments isn't good enough.

"I do not accept this as the final decision," she said.

University of Winnipeg student Sadie Lavoie has been fighting to get the university to stop investing in fossil fuels for three years and is angered by the university's decision.

Lavoie, an Indigenous student who sat on the board as a student representative one last time on Monday night, said she's not giving up the fight against the school.

'Not giving up'

"I've tried to educate this education institution, which is very ironic, and they've decided to be on the side of ignorance and colonialism," she said.

"We're not giving up. Divestment is never going to go away. The campaign will never go away."

The university said it's been part of a "comprehensive inquiry" regarding divestment and responsible investing that started in fall 2014.

The university said it will now start tracking the carbon footprint of the foundation's endowment investment portfolio with the goal of reducing the mark on the environment every year.

The U of W's foundation will include regular updates on the application of its responsible investing policy in its quarterly investment reports, the university said.

The foundation's website says its endowment fund has a market value of $56.7 million. Letkemann said it's believed about five per cent of that is invested in fossil fuels. 

Students with the environmental group Divest UWinnipeg camped on the university's front lawn Sunday night to draw attention to the issue of fossil fuel divestment.

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Austin Grabish


Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. Before joining CBC, he reported for several outlets with work running across the country. He studied human rights in university and holds a degree and diploma in communications. Connect with him here: