Emily Carr students demand university to divest at Chan Centre graduation protest

Emily Carr University (ECU) students held a protest outside the Chan Centre, which is hosting the university’s graduation ceremony.

Chants of “People, people, don’t you see? Rafah has no place to flee,” “Viva, viva, Palestina” and “All the Zionists are racist” filled the Chan Centre’s courtyard.

At noon, approximately 40 protestors, including ECU and UBC students and other community members, stood adjacent to a line of people waiting to enter the ceremony to protest Israel’s invasion of Gaza and demand the disclosure of and divestment from companies protestors say are complicit in human rights abuses against Palestinian people.

UBC VP Students Ainsley Carry watched the protest for about 20 minutes, holding a copy of the pamphlet that was being distributed by protestors.

Protesters demanded ECU end its exchange program offered through the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design with Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, which is listed as a partner of the school on ECU’s website.

“We're specifically here to show solidarity with Gaza and to also expose ECU’s complicity in the genocide of Palestinians,” said Brows, an ECU student who chose to organize the protest instead of attending their graduation.

Protestors holding signs near the Chan Centre.
Protestors holding signs near the Chan Centre. Saumya Kamra / The Ubyssey

The protestors’ demands also include ECU establishing an anti-racist policy to protect BIPOC students and for the university to divest and boycott RBC, which has $75 million in shares in Palantir Technologies.

According to the Canadian BDS Coalition, “Palantir [Technologies] provides its AI predictive system to Israeli security forces, to identify people in occupied Palestine.”

While ECU has a harassment, bullying and discrimination policy, it doesn’t explicitly mention racism. In an October 26, 2023 statement from ECU, the university wrote that it denounces “all forms of discrimination, including Antisemitism, and Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab racism.”

Pickles, another ECU student who also organized the protest instead of attending their graduation, said ECU students are “being made benefactors of this genocide because our tuition dollars are going to … corporations that are funding and investing in this genocide.”

“It's just a point of not wanting a piece of paper to declare the fact that I've graduated, because the university I've graduated from is complicit in genocide,” said Brows.

Pickles also said students’ education at ECU and UBC could not occur “without the extraction of labour and capital from the Global South and the colonization of Palestine is no exception.”

“I think it's important that we make a fuss in a situation like this because the stakes are dire for the people of Palestine.”