Fossil Free Guelph
Report back by Elizabeth Cyr
After 7 years of Fossil Free Guelph’s (FFG) organizing for full divestment, the University of Guelph’s Board of Governors (BOG) passed a motion to divest from fossil fuels completely over a 5-year period in an online meeting held on April 22, 2020. This is an incredible accomplishment for the students of FFG and all the students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members who have supported this movement over the years. For the first time in our campaign for divestment, FFG saw our exact demand for full divestment on the table in front of the BOG. There was deliberation from the BOG before the vote to divest, where two Board members who later voted against the motion spoke against divestment, expressing views that were clearly anti-student activism and steeped in conflicts of interest and resistance to change. The three FFG members who were on the call responded to these comments in a calm and informed way, but did not have enough time to respond to comments targeting student activists on campus, which we found quite disrespectful toward members of FFG and student allies who care deeply about this cause.
The University would not have taken this action if not for FFG’s consistent campaigning over the last few years. A variety of tactics were used in these years of organizing, and an important turning point of the campaign was a sit-in in the UofG’s finance administrative offices, where the Vice President of finance committed to presenting a recommendation for full divestment to the BOG. This victory shows that students will always be the strongest voice for progress on university campuses.
Elizabeth Cyr is a recent university graduate, vegetable farmer and artist based out of Guelph, ON. In her time at the UoG she was involved in organizing around fossil fuel divestment with Fossil Free Guelph, as well as other campus and community social/ environmental organizing.