Dozens of students are braving the rain and chilly temperatures while camping outside for the night on the front lawn of the University of Winnipeg to draw more attention to fossil fuel divestment.
The event was organized by Divest UWinnipeg, an environmental group that’s part of a divestment movement across Canada, pushing universities to stop investing in the fossil fuel sector.
The campaign comes just as the University’s Board of Regents gets ready to vote Monday on a motion to implement a policy on fossil fuel divestment.
Avery Letkemann is a student and one of the organizers.
“We’re a little bit worried about rain but I’m excited,” she said.
“We’re pretty covered. We got gazebos, we have spaces for people to be inside and still be part of the activities,” Letkemann said.
The students say they have been fighting for the last three years calling on the university to stop investing in fossil fuels, which students say will only continue to destroy Indigenous lands and water.
She says it’s the first time the group has held a community camp-out like this.
“After three years of fighting and working really hard to get this university to divest from fossil fuels, they’re finally going to be voting on a motion,” Letkemann said.
“So we want to show them that we have a broad support system, students care about this issue, community members care about this issue, faculty cares about this issue.”
Letkemann said if the university considers itself a leader in sustainability it needs to do more to support the issue.
“I’m an environmental studies student and environmentalist and I just think that if we continue to lead a life that is so based on fossil fuels, we’re doomed,” she said.
“The university has this reputation of being sustainable and it’s on this path of reconciliation and Indigenization, however they have $2.58 million invested in fossil fuels right now.”
In a statement to CBC the University of Winnipeg Foundation says it has created a new “responsible investing policy” and is committed to establishing a renewable energy investment fund or “green fund” that will ensure environmental, social and governance factors are properly taken into account on investment decisions in the future.
A spokesperson for the University of Winnipeg said the new policy comes following months of internal and external consultations and open discussions sparked by the “divest from fossil fuels” student movement.
A vote on the new policy by the University’s Board of Regents is expected at 3 p.m on Monday.