OSSTF, divestment and decolonization
By Andrea Loken, ECA co-founder
Thank you so much to AMPA 2017 for taking time to debate the divestment of OSSTF’s Internal Investment Fund. Despite debate being cut a little short [IMHO], many good points were made and some good questions asked. The motion to divest internal investments did not pass. Other motions regarding OTPP and OMERS divestment did not get to the floor. But this is only the beginning of the conversation.
While there is a global fossil-fuel divestment movement spear-headed by Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben in response to the climate crisis, my ninety second opening argument for divestment focused on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. The issues are deeply interconnected, of course, but OSSTF leaders speaking against divestment refused to comment on the human rights argument.
OSSTF now has an Indigenous land acknowledgement statement to open meetings. As Canadians discover the truth about the history of our country through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we are making these small gestures and beginning the conversation so desperately needed to move forward as a country. If we truly appreciate what this land acknowledgement means, we need to begin to think about what “sharing” the land really means and what Reconciliation really means.
Our economic system and education system are both examples of colonization. Both are imposed systems, assumed to be the only Way, that do not recognize Indigenous ways of being or land rights. In the view of capitalism, First Nations’ rights are just a hindrance to making profit – something to be ignored if one can get away with it. At the recent Ontario Ministry of Education consultation “Deeper Conversations” I recently attended, Ministry representatives framed the education system as one designed to feed our economic system; they repeated the mantra that it is our job as educators to prepare students to be “economically productive”. Residential schools were an extreme manifestation of this principle, since Indigenous Peoples needed to be indoctrinated into this system.
Our governments have failed miserably at keeping promises to First Nations, using the economy as an excuse. Russ Diabo, writer, political analyst and activist of the Kahnawake Mohawk, explains in this post “Justin Trudeau continuing proud Liberal tradition of betraying Indigenous peoples”. The Canadian Government, by continuing to approve dirty energy projects like the Kinder Morgan pipeline and the Liquified Natural Gas project on Lelu Island, is continuing the colonization of Indigenous Peoples. Will ignoring Treaty rights and human rights continue to part of Canada’s history?
I was moved by these words from a piece in the National Observer by Melina Laboucan-Massimo, a member of the Lubicon Cree First Nation in northern Alberta:
“Trump’s Dakota Access pipeline has already come at a terrible price. It’s up to us to hold Trudeau to his promise to honour the Treaties. The spirit of Standing Rock has not diminished; it’s tracking northward as people across Canada act in solidarity with Native Nations Rise, refusing to let attacks on Indigenous people for the sake of oil profits go unnoticed.
These winds of resistance in British Columbia and across Turtle Island should be a signal to our governments and to investors. When we rise, we rise as one. A light breeze becomes an unstoppable gale.”
As one speaker against the motion put it, investments in fossil fuels will eventually be unprofitable and we will no longer invest in them at that point. Does it matter that in the meanwhile we condone this kind of behaviour towards Indigenous Peoples? Do we agree that if there is money to be made, our Internal Investment Fund must make it? We will just wait until the market decides it’s unprofitable, then we will act? This is completely unacceptable to me and hope to many other OSSTF members and Canadians. Let’s get our money out of dirty energy by divesting from fossil fuels. OSSTF has signed the Leap Manifesto. To be sincere, let’s support an economy “based on caring for the Earth and for one other”, as put by the Leap Manifesto. This is only a tiny start to decolonization, but it will be on the right side of history going forward.