Canada pension fund quietly divests from US migrant detention firms

Via The Guardian | Tracey Lindeman

CoreCivic’s Eloy detention center in Arizona.
 CoreCivic’s Eloy detention center in Arizona. Photograph: Rory Carroll/The Guardian

One of Canada’s biggest pension funds has quietly divested from two private prison operators responsible for the detention of thousands of migrants along the US-Mexico border.

Late last year, the Guardian reported that the Canadian Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) held nearly US$8m in stock in Geo Group and CoreCivic, which between them hold the lion’s share of contracts to manage Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (Ice) detention facilities in the US.

The CPPIB, which manages C$392bn (US$299bn) in pension funds on behalf of 20 million Canadians, did not make a public statement when it dropped the two companies from its list of foreign public equity holdings, but the change was spotted this week by the federal MP Charlie Angus, a member of the opposition New Democratic party.

On Friday, he called on the CPPIB to publicly acknowledge the divestment and take a position on ethical investing.

“Ethical investments are essential to maintaining public confidence in what the Canadian Pension Plan does, and the investments in Geo Group and CoreCivic were deeply offensive to Canadian values,” he told the Guardian.

“It’s a crock to say the market should be blind and we’ll go where we can make the easiest money. I mean, there’s all kinds of places to make easy money.”

The NDP has tabled a bill, C-431, asking that the pension board abide by greater ethical standards.

Angus believes public pressure convinced the CPPIB to drop its holdings.

After the US migrant crisis began, advocacy groups SumOfUs and LeadNow collected more than 55,000 signatures on petitions calling for the CPPIB to drop Geo Group and CoreCivic from its investment portfolio. Activists also attended public CPPIB meetings to demand divestment.

“It’s an amazing testament to [our] members and the power of people to come together and make real change and say, ‘We don’t want our pensions funding Trump’s anti-immigration policies,’” said Amelia Meister, senior campaigner at SumOfUs.

The CPPIB declined to comment.

• This article was amended on 8 July 2019 because an earlier version wrongly converted C$392bn to US$299m. This has been corrected to US$299bn.

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