30 Days for Climate Justice Day 14: A Letter Urging Canadian Universities to Protect Mauna Kea (Please Send!)

Mauna Kea is 14,000 mountain peak of an active volcano and sacred site of Indigenous Hawai’ians. There are plans to build a 30 meter telescope on the land, endangering the fragile eco-systems and further occupying culturally significant Hawai’ian sites without the consent of Indigenous nations. Indigenous communities are protesting the implementation of the telescope around the clock and larger communities need to join! 

The Association for Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA)
is pushing for the telescope and a number of Canadian universities are complicit in what amounts to an invasive colonial project. 
An excellent activist friend of mine, Danielle Gauld wrote this letter and I am sharing it here to encourage folks to copy and send it to the university presidents whose emails I’ve provided below. Two 67250761_10157542810048223_8733317990663061504_nuniversities that I’ve attended are on this list (UBC and York) so I am writing to those (as she did with UVic) as a concerned alumni. I particularly urge folks to write to universities they have attended but, of course, we can express concern and solidarity with Hawai’ians whether or not we have attended that or any other university. I’ve sent the letter to all 20 on the list. As always, if you’d like to use it as a template and make your own adaptations, feel free. 

Dear [University] President,

I am writing to you as to express my concern about [university’s] role in the Association for Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA). As you likely know, ACURA is pushing for the development of a large telescope on a sacred site at Mauna Kea in Hawaii, despite active protest by the Indigenous peoples of that land and their supporters. [Alternate: As an alumni, I am deeply saddened that this support is taking place at a university that claims to be invested in equity and sustainability.]

Watching Indigenous elders being arrested and violence escalate in this standoff between land protectors and the police has been extremely disturbing and a stark reminder of similar things that have and continue to happen here in Canada. I urge you to ask ACURA to divest from this project immediately.

I look forward to hearing your response to this very important issue.


[Your Name]

Complicit universities, their presidents, and contact emails are:

  1. Athabasca University: Dr. Neil Fascinna (president@athabascau.ca)
  2. Bishop’s University: Mr. Michael Goldbloom (principal@ubishops.ca)
  3. Brandon University: Dr. David Docherty (president@brandonu.ca)
  4. McGill University: Dr. Suzanne Fortier (suzanne.fortier@mcgill.ca)
  5. McMaster University: Dr. David Farrar (president@mcmaster.ca)
  6. Queen’s University: Dr. Partrick Dean (principal@queensu.ca)
  7. Saint Mary’s University: Dr. Summerby-Murray (president@smu.ca)
  8. Trent University: Dr. Leo Groarke (leogroarke@trentu.ca)
  9. University of Alberta: Dr. David Turpin (uofapres@ualberta.ca)
  10. University of British Columbia: Dr. Santa J. Ono (presidents.office@ubc.ca)
  11. University of Calgary: Dr. Ed McCauley (president@ucalgary.ca)
  12. Université Laval: Dr. Sophie D’amours (Damours@gmc.ulaval.ca)
  13. University of Lethbridge: Dr. Mike Mahon (mike.mahon@uleth.ca)
  14. University of Manitoba: Dr. David Barnard (president@umanitoba.ca)
  15. Université de Montréal: Dr. Louis Roquet (executiveeducation@hec.ca)
  16. University of Toronto: Dr. Meric Gertler (president@utoronto.ca)
  17. University of Victoria: Dr. Jamie Cassels (pres@uvic.ca)
  18. University of Waterloo: Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur (president@uwaterloo.ca)
  19. Western Ontario University: Dr. Alan Shepard (Alan.Shepard@uwo.ca)
  20. York University: Dr. Rhonda Lenton (president@yorku.ca)

2 thoughts on “30 Days for Climate Justice Day 14: A Letter Urging Canadian Universities to Protect Mauna Kea (Please Send!)

  1. I encourage folks to really lay pressure of University of Toronto. They have so far had the worst reply that stated that they wanted to set up the telescope with respect for local communities and would be good stewards. I responded with:

    “This is a troubling reply. The telescope is clearly not welcome in that location. To force the project on a people and then claim to be acting in collaboration with them is to continue to participate in colonial violence. As an intellectual community that claims a commitment to Indigenous sovereignty, it is hypocritical to state that the non-consensual implementation of the telescope can be done inclusively and as an exercise of good stewardship. The Indigenous nation has made it clear that it is not welcome on their sacred site. To act in accordance with the UofT statement on reconciliation, the scientific community would then need to seek an alternate location. Indigenous nations and their allies are calling on Western institutions to cease this double speak that claims to act with respect while ignoring the explicit statements given by Indigenous Hawai’ians. We can and must do better.”

    Anika Tilland-Stafford


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