February 23, 2023
WATCH: How the BC Teachers Federation can protect pensions and the planet
Indigenous territories of the Dakeł Keyoh (ᑕᗸᒡ ᗲᘏᑋ), Yekooche, Takla, and Dënéndeh Peoples (so-called British Columbia, Canada) – Dozens of teachers, students, community members, and climate and economic justice experts gathered to demand British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) executives to follow-through on the overwhelming vote of its members at last year’s shareholder meeting: develop a fossil fuel divestment plan, appoint someone to spearhead the process, and begin divestment.
The webinar featured speakers including: Kim Benson and Jillian Maguire, co-founders of BCTF Divest Now, Amy Gray of Stand.earth, Dan Cohn and Mark Kalegha of IEEFA, Patrick DeRochie of Shift Action and Climate Science Communicator Dr. Heather Short.
“Our BC pension is heavily invested not only in oil, gas, and coal extraction and infrastructure, but also in financial infrastructure such as fossil fuel financiers like the Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montreal, and Scotiabank,” said Kim Benson, teacher, parent and co-founder of BCTF Divest Now! “At the last AGM, teachers voted for divestment from fossil fuels from our pension funds, yet in 2022 alone our teachers pension had $584,389,190 worth of shares in fossil fuel companies. This makes teachers unwilling participants in the fossil fuel ‘death economy,’ ecological collapse, mass extinction, climate chaos, and ongoing global colonial oppression and violence against Indigenous people and theft of their lands.”
The BCTF represents 49,000 public school teachers. Today’s webinar comes ahead of BCTF’s annual general meeting (AGM) from March 18 – 21, 2023. BCTF Divest Now is partnering with Stand.earth, Shiftaction.ca, and the Climate Safe Pensions Network to demand the BCTF honour the vote of its members. BCTF executives and board already received over 1000 emails from members urging fossil fuel divestment since November 2022.
Teachers are increasingly concerned about the risk of the climate crisis for students, as well as financial risk to savings and puts hardworking educators’ retirement in serious danger. The BCTF Divest Now! campaign is increasing pressure on BCTF (British Columbia Teachers Federation) to follow through on the overwhelming vote at its March 2022 shareholder meeting to divest its over $37.8 billion pension fund from fossil fuels.
“BCTF calls itself a social justice union, yet our investments are shockingly dirty and getting dirtier,” said Jillian Maguire, educator and co-founder of BCTF Divest Now!. “The kids shouldn’t have to shoulder this. 11.5% of every paycheck of BC teachers’ is going into a fund that’s destroying our students’ futures. We resoundingly passed a resolution at last year’s BCTF shareholder meeting, so why haven’t we heard anything from current President Clint Johnston?”
BC Teachers’ pension savings are invested, through the Teachers’ Pension Plan (TPP), by the $211 billion British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (BCI). The TPP contains many of the dirtiest fossil fuel and pipeline companies in the world including Chevron, and TC Energy (the company behind Coastal GasLink), which is currently drilling on unceded Wet’suwet’en territory.
To date, over 1550 institutions representing more than $40 trillion in assets have committed to some level of fossil fuel divestment. Institutional investors around the world are moving quickly to protect portfolios from the financial risks of climate change and invest in a safe climate future. The Canadian pension sector is falling behind, and remains invested in the oil, gas, coal and pipeline companies whose business models are misaligned with the scale of action that is needed to combat the climate crisis.