Recently members of Demilitarize McGill sat down together to write what we hope is a concise and accessible statement of what we’re about. Read it here!
Last week, Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) VP University Affairs Claire Stewart-Kanigan released a statement announcing that McGill’s Regulation on the Conduct of Research will undergo review in the 2014-15 academic year. This information was released alongside a callout for reactions to an open letter written by McGill Engineering student Ghalia Elkerdi to Hannah Michalska – a professor at the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering – alleging that military applications of Michalska’s research were contributing to the recent violence in Gaza.
Over the past few weeks, Israel has waged a brutal assault on the people of Gaza, leaving nearly 2,000 Palestinians dead and thousands more injured. The casualties are overwhelmingly civilians, and many are children. Although a ceasefire is presently in effect, it is far from permanent, and Israel’s devastating blockade on Gaza, and occupation and colonisation of Palestine, continue.
We continue to absolutely condemn Israel’s assault and occupation, and wish to reiterate our solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Canada is complicit in Israeli apartheid, and its elite research universities are no exception. Here in Montreal, McGill University collaborates with the army and with weapons manufacturers to develop some of the technologies essential to Israel’s murderous incursions in Gaza as well as to Israel’s capacity to defend its colonial borders and control every aspect of Palestinian daily life.
Today, Principal Suzanne Fortier laid out her plans for her tenure at McGill in a talk titled “Open, Connected, Purposeful: McGill and the Next Five Years.” Demilitarize McGill and supporters showed up to tell the principal that McGill’s future will not see military research go unchallenged.
Fortier recently told the McGill Daily, “I don’t think there’s any problem in doing research for the Department of National Defence”, adding that she thought McGill’s military research was being conducted in an open and above-board fashion, and dismissing concerns about the heavy redaction of documents obtained through Access to Information requests.
Throughout her career, Fortier has pushed for increasing collaborations between universities and industry, such as those that put McGill resources to work in service of defence contractors Bombardier and Lockheed Martin as well as American and Canadian militaries. In supporting these collaborations, Fortier has made clear that her vision for McGill includes an investment in the continuation of armed conflict — which serves as both market and testing ground for the weapons technology developed at McGill — and a commitment to protecting those relationships at the expense of transparency to students or members of the public requesting information.
Despite the rhetoric of transparency and accountability, Fortier’s neoliberal, profit-driven agenda is fundamentally no different than that of her predecessor, Heather Munroe-Blum. Let’s show her that our resistance is as strong as ever!
On March 14, Demilitarize McGill, a campus group that works to oppose military research at the university, led a blockade of the Aerospace Mechatronics Laboratory in the MacDonald Engineering building. Despite the blockade being peaceful, McGill called the police, invoking the controversial Operating Procedures Regarding Protests and Occupations on McGill University (the ‘protest protocol’), which states that any obstruction of work at the University is not allowed. The blockade was organized in response to access to information requests revealing that researchers at the Laboratory received over $500,000 in contracts from the Defence Research and Development Centre – an agency of the Department of National Defence – to develop research linked to drones. While researchers at the Laboratory argue that the research has potential applications outside of military use, the fact that some of these applications cause harm is enough to give cause for student opposition.
As part of its ongoing fight for access to information (ATI) requests from McGill concerning the University’s military research, Demilitarize McGill, a campus group that aims to end military research at McGill, has recently released selections from its ATI requests to the University. The group aims to make all such documents public in the upcoming weeks.
In a sign of growing opposition to military research on campus, over twenty people participated Friday morning in a blockade of the Aerospace Mechatronics Lab, the site of ongoing drone research funded by the Canadian military. The action lasted for close to four hours.
At approximately 11:00am, McGill Dean of Students André Costopoulos called the Service de Police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) onto campus to break up the demonstration. At about 11:30am, four officers entered the Macdonald Engineering Building and approached the blockade. They seized a banner reading “End Drone Research,” indicating they would use force to break up the blockade. All the blockaders were able to leave the building safely, and there were no arrests.
Research at McGill is helping the Canadian military develop drone software for use in combat operations, according to documents obtained through the Access to Information (ATI) Act. Since 2011, the University has received more than $1 million in defence contracts from the Department of National Defence.
A group of approximately 20 people blocked access this morning to the Shock Wave Physics Group (SWPG) laboratories, in the MacDonald Engineering building at McGill University. Banners reading ‘Demilitarize McGill’ were held at the doors and flyers are being distributed reading: “Stop the bombs. Stop the wars. Stop military research on campuses.”
The blockade was described as an act of opposition to military research at McGill and a condemnation of the SWPG ‘s contribution towards the development of thermobaric weapons.
Since 1967, the SWPG has researched thermobaric explosives, often in collaboration with Canadian and American military agencies. Thermobaric explosives have been used in combat by U.S. forces since the Vietnam war, and more recently during urban warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan.The Syrian regime has also used them to kill civilians in rebel-held areas.
Demilitarize McGill is an ongoing campaign organized by students and community members who intend to interrupt McGill University’s history of complicity in war and colonialist violence by ending military research at the institution.
Demilitarize McGill calls for an end to all forms of support for colonialist and imperialist wars, including but not limited to research done by the Shock Wave Physics Group and other labs and institutes on campus. This blockade is meant as an invitation for students to engage in direct action and disrupt the military research happening on their campus.
New research by Demilitarize McGill reveals that CFD Lab head Wagdi Habashi is pursuing an ongoing collaboration with a U.S. Air Force-funded researcher at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Florida, at the same time as Habashi’s company Newmerical Technologies seeks to expand military-related operations out of its Florida office. The research concerns the use of synthetic jet actuators in Micro Air Vehicles, small-sized drones conceived for both surveillance and attack, to protect them against gusts in ‘urban canyon’ environments. The Embry-Riddle researcher, Vladimir Golubev, receives funding from the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and Office of Scientific Research. Read more here.