Petition to the Board of Directors of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board

Petition to the Board of Directors of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board Background


The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan (OTPP) does not, as a matter of policy, consider investment on ethical or moral principles. There was one exception: in the 1990s the Plan, under public pressure, was allowed to divest from apartheid South Africa. For over 40 years Israel has imposed upon Palestinians another apartheid system, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, as well as Article 7 of the UN Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Many prominent public figures have drawn this parallel, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, UN Special Rapporteurs John Dugard and Richard Falk, and former Israeli Education Minister, Shulamit Aloni. In 2009 the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict in its final report accused the Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity and recommended that the allegations be brought to the International Criminal Court should both sides in the conflict fail to investigate them. The mission was headed by former South African judge and self-professed Zionist Richard Goldstone. The European Union endorsed the Goldstone Report and urged member states to publicly demand implementation of its recommendations and accountability for all violations of international law.

Human rights groups such as the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Canadian Jewish organizations such as Not In Our Name (NION) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have spoken out against Israel’s apartheid policies and human rights abuses. Over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the Palestinian trade union movement, have called on the world to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, similar to that used against South Africaunder apartheid. Both IJV and NION support the BDS campaign. In 2009 the OSSTF passed a motion demanding that the OTPP adopt the UN's “Principles for Responsible Investment”. This should require the Plan to consider divesting from companies that are in direct violation of UN and ICC resolutions condemning Israeli apartheid, and are complicit in the violation of the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

In this regard, the five worst offenders in the Plan’s portfolio, with a combined investment of over $582 million in 2009, are:

Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH): Irish building materials company with 25% share in the Israeli group Mashav Initiating and Development Ltd., a holding company for Nesher Cement, the sole producer of cement in Israel. CRH has admitted that “in all probability” Nesher cement has been used in the construction of the Separation Wall, which has been condemned by the international community as a method of annexation of occupied land and found to be illegal under international law.

Siemens AG: Develops water treatment technologies with Mekorot, Israel’s national water company, which since 1967 has supervised drilling of wells for Israeli settlers in the West Bank while denying permits to Palestinians. In summer months Mekorot closes valves supplying Palestinian towns and villages to maintain Israeli supplies.

Macdonald, Dettwiler and Associates: Canadian provider of electronic surveillance technology, has a joint project with Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) to build Unmanned Arial Vehicles in Canada. IAI produces aircraft capable of targeted assassinations and has developed with Caterpillar a robotic D9 bulldozer used in house demolitions.

Lockheed Martin: The world`s No.1 military contractor. On the verge of sealing a $20 billion deal with Israel for 25 F-35 fighter jets, approved in 2008 by the U.S. government. Awarded a $5.2 million U.S. Navy contract in 2006 to conduct combat ship feasibility studies for the Israeli Navy. In the same year it won an $18 million contract from the Israeli Ministry of Defense to provide a Flight and Systems Trainer for Israeli F-16I pilot training.

Finning International: Canadian company, the world’s largest distributor of Caterpillar products and support services. With the aid of Caterpillar`s D9 bulldozers the Israel Defense Forces destroyed 1404 Palestinian homes in 2004, 560 homes in the Jenin refugee camp in 2002, and 120 homes in a single day in a camp in Rafah. International peace activists have called for a boycott of Caterpillar, and in 2006 the Synod of the Church of England divested itself of Caterpillar shares. In October 2010 the Jerusalem Post reported that Caterpillar is temporarily suspending delivery of US$50 million worth of D9 bulldozers for the duration of a civil suit lodged against the Israeli government by the parents of Rachel Corrie.

In November 2010 the second largest pension fund in Holland, Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), announced that it had divested from nearly all of its portfolio’s Israeli companies, a process initiated in 2009 in response to activist and public pressure. The Dutch pension fund’s manager, PGGM Investments, has been involved in developing guidelines for businesses committed to sustainable and responsible business practices, a process initiated in 2000 by the United Nations Global Compact, which, together with the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative established the Principles of Responsible Investment Initiative(PRI). According to its website, the PRI “is a network of international investors working together to put the six Principles for Responsible Investment into practice. The Principles were devised by the investment community. They reflect the view that environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) issues can affect the performance of investment portfolios and therefore must be given appropriate consideration by investors if they are to fulfil their fiduciary (or equivalent) duty. The Principles provide a voluntary framework by which all investors can incorporate ESG issues into their decision-making and ownership practices and so better align their objectives with those of society at large.”

While we are aware of the fiduciary responsibility of the OTPP managers to minimize risk in making investment decisions, we are of the opinion that responsible investment is a part of teachers’ beliefs. But we also believe that responsible investment contributes to higher and more stable returns, because ESG factors impact on the risk and return of the Plan’s investments. As importantly, the reputation of the Plan and the confidence of its beneficiaries must be integrated into investment decisions.

Addendum, August 2, 2014:
The ongoing Israeli ethnic cleansing of Palestine has culminated since July 8, 2014 in the savage bombardment and ground assault of Gaza, resulting in over 1800 Palestinians killed, the vast majority civilians, and thousands wounded.Since 2008 and including the latest attack, Israeli Defence Forces have destroyed 650 schools and killed 691 students in Gaza.Meanwhile, Western governments again refuse to take action to effectively pressure Israel to halt its mad genocidal policies. The need for total military and economic sanctions against Israel has never been greater.

The original version of this petition contained the demand thatthe OTPP "Become a signatory to the Principles of Responsible Investment Initiative". In 2011, under pressure from OSSTF, the OTPP signed onto the PRII.As such, this demand has now been removed from the petition.


Petition In light of the above, we, members of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, ask the Board of Governors of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board to initiate the process that will make the necessary changes in legislation and investment policy which would enable the Plan to:

1. Immediately divest from the following five companies in its portfolio: Lockheed Martin, Finning International, Cement Roadstone Holdings, Siemens AG, and MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates; and

3. Divest from, as well as refrain from investing in, any company that contributes to violations of human rights or international law by:
- directly profiting from, or contributing to, the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
- providing products or services that contribute to the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements and/or the Separation Wall, both of which are illegal under international law;
- providing products or services that contribute to or enable violent acts that target civilians.

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Discussion

  • Phil Little As with the situation of Apartheid South Africa, Canadian pensioned teacher have an opportunity to continue to lead by their example in advocating for change and justice for the Palestinian people by divesting investments that support the Israeli occupation and economy.

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    Phil Little

    2 weeks ago Comments: As with the situation of Apartheid South Africa, Canadian pensioned teacher have an opportunity to continue to lead by their example in advocating for change and justice for the Palestinian people by divesting investments that support the Israeli occupation and economy.
    Are you a member of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan?: Yes
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    Erika Lindstrom

    3 months ago Comments: -
    Are you a member of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan?: Yes
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    John Turnbull, Canada

    7 months ago Comments: -
    Are you a member of the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan?: No
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