The pro-Palestinian encampment at Victoria Square targets the CDPQ

The pro-Palestinian encampment at Victoria Square targets the CDPQ
The pro-Palestinian encampment at Victoria Square targets the CDPQ

University campuses no longer have the exclusivity of pro-Palestinian camps. Since Saturday, around fifty people settled in Square Victoria, in Montreal. Among other demands, the Disinvest for Palestine collective demands that the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) renounce “its $14 billion investment in 87 companies identified as complicit in the genocide […] of the Palestinian people.”

To arrive at these figures, the collective, which was formed specifically to organize this encampment, is based on an analysis by the Movement for a Just Peace (MPJ), a pro-Palestinian organization. The latter examined the CDPQ’s end-of-year report as of December 31, 2023 and identified $1.5 billion invested in seven companies which are in the “database of companies involved in certain activities related to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” of the United Nations, including Alstom and Airbnb.

Added to this is $12 billion in companies identified as part of the “economic activism” project. Investigate from the American Friends Service Committee, a US group that has compiled a list of companies involved in military occupations, border surveillance and detention facilities. Among the 72 companies on this list, we find, among others, Meta and the Montreal-based WSP Global.

Finally, the MPJ points to some $700 million invested by the CDPQ in eight other companies identified by the organization World Beyond War, a group which produces a list of Canadian companies which “support the Israeli army”. In total, the Fund has invested $14.2 billion in 87 companies that the MPJ links to companies “complicit in war crimes”.

At the end of May, solidarity MP Haroun Bouazzi asked the CDPQ to reconsider certain investments in companies that have links with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, citing in passing the figures put forward by Movement for a Just Peace.

Based on this data, Divest for Palestine estimates that 3% of the Fund’s investments would be made in companies with links to companies “complicit in the genocide and colonization of Palestine”. As of December 31, the assets of Quebecers’ nest egg amounted to 434 billion.

The collective also calls for a “transparent control process” to ensure that the CDPQ no longer invests in companies “associated with violations of human rights and international law in the future”. Finally, he demands that the Quebec government close the Quebec Office in Israel, a project dear to the Coalition Avenir Québec, but which creates controversy due to the ongoing conflict in the region.

Take inspiration from student camps

Sunday afternoon, 24 hours after the installation of the “Al-Soumoud popular camp [pour “résilience”] “, there were around a hundred people on site, around fifty of whom constitute the core of the camp, according to Safa Chebbi, a spokesperson for the collective. Among these people, several allegedly participated in student camps at McGill University and the University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM).

The collective wishes to draw inspiration from the encampment at UQAM, which was dismantled at the beginning of June after an agreement between the demonstrators and the university. “It was time to challenge other public actors who are complicit in this genocide and to hold them accountable,” adds Chebbi.

A police presence was on site near the installations, but “there is no security problem at the moment,” says Véronique Dubuc, spokesperson for the Montreal City Police Service. There is also an ongoing assessment to determine whether the police force “should intervene, at what time [et] under what motive”.

Last week, McGill University ended negotiations with the organizers of the pro-Palestinian encampment, claiming that the negotiations were “at an impasse.”

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