Recent Action from the movement to kick Peter Munk out of U of T
On March 28th, activists from Mining Injustice Solidarity network and the Anti Corporatization coalition from University of Toronto did a banner drop and a flyering blitz in the midst of a guest- lecture by the U of T president, David Naylor in convocation hall. The banner, which said “Munk out of U of T”, was dropped during a lecture which the U of T president was teaching in a first year Political Science class about health policies.
Before the lecture began, activists from MISN and the Anti Corporatization coalition began handing out flyers to the first year students in the class of 1,400. The flyers included handouts which summarized the Peter Munk contract the Munk School of Global Affairs, as well as some information on the donor, Peter Munk.
During the talk by David Naylor, two activists tied a banner to a railing on the top balcony of Convocation Hall, and set the banner down. David Naylor seemed to ignore the banner at first, and kept on with his lecture, even with the confused looks on the faces of the students. Some students started whispering to their partners, a few began criticizing the banner, but a good number began flipping through the flyers, quite interested in the topic.
The action was done amidst a campaign to push the Munk contract out of U of T. The Munk school is seen to come with strings attached. The school programs will be under observation by the Peter Munk Foundation, which is related to Peter Munk and Barrick Gold, which has been known to lobby in favour of the mining industry. Not only this, but the 35 million being donated is given to the university through a prolonged period, giving Munk a certain advantage in dictating politics.
Activists argue that having Munk in U of T will prove to push a right wing neo liberal agenda which advocates for a regulation-free industry in which companies, such as Barrick Gold (owned by Peter Munk), can continue to abuse human rights with impunity. Already, the Munk contract includes stipulations about the Munk School sharing space and facilities with the Canadian International Council (C.I.C), a right-wing think tank with representatives of Barrick, Goldcorp, and Scotiabank, amongst others, constituting the C.I.C. Senate.
“It’s important do organizing here at U of T to build solidarity with affected communities – because students at the University of Toronto are being affected by the neoliberal agenda of these same companies, through raising tuition and through the corporatization of the university”, says Megan, an Activist with Mining Injustice Solidarity Network. “Here they bypass the authority of the board of Governors undemocratically. Meanwhile in Honduras, mining interests, through the Canadian government, legitimizes a coup against an elected government. We aren’t affected here in the same way, but the processes are similar, and we have the capacity to fight this.”
And while the Munk Foundation will be taking constant looks at the programs being provided by the department, Barrick Gold is also known for it’s record of human rights violations. Barrick Gold, which is the biggest gold mining corporation in the world, has been known for polluting the water supplies in Tanzania, taking the lives of people and livestock while creating longterm health risks in the community. In Papua New Guinea, Barrick Gold security forces have been known for gang raping several women. And within Canada, Barrick is silencing three academics with SLAPP suits, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, in Quebec for reporting on the company’s activities in Tanzania.
The banner drop comes a week before the next Governing Council meeting at the university on April 7. While U of T is not been known for it’s radical mobilizing capacity, some have a different view. While talking to students at U of T who have not been involved in any sort of community organizing, or have limited experience in working with communities, it seems as if there is a newly inspired awareness within some students. The author of this article met students who were sympathetic with the action in the political science class, while some even recommended having a rally.
With actions such as these, it will be interesting to see where the student politics will be going. The momentum feels pretty active for the anti-corporatization movement, and push for action seems like a direction for which the movement is headed.