On July 17, 2019, the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) was scheduled to begin on the Northern region of the plateau of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i. This construction was immediately met by opposition from Hawai’in Indigenous land defenders, Elders, and academics. The construction site on Mauna Kea is sacred and holds a lot of cultural significance for the indigenous people of Hawaii.
The Canadian government, through the National Research Council (NRC), is part of the TMT international observatory. In 2015, the federal government pledged $243.5 million over 10 years towards the development of the telescope. The NRC has mentioned that the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy (ACURA) will play an advisory role to protect the interest of Canadian university scientists who have advocated for this project. This makes it complicit in the construction of the telescope. Of ACURA’s members, seven are home to member locals of the Canadian Federation of Students: Brandon University, Trent University, University of Calgary, University of Manitoba, University of Toronto, University of Western Ontario and York University.
This project violates articles 11, 19, 28 and 29 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), specifically by violating Indigenous nations’ right to free, prior, and informed consent. It therefore encourages the cycle of colonial violence against indigenous communities. The Canadian government’s involvement in this project also breaks our commitment to reconciliation and hinders further implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) Calls to Action.
The Federation condemns the TMT project and the involvement of the federal government, the NRC and ACURA. We strongly urge the 7 universities involved in this project to end their partnership with ACURA and recommit to honouring the TRC’s Calls to Action. The Federation supports Hawai’in Indigenous Land Defenders protecting Mauna Kea and will further support their efforts by sending letters to the Prime Minister, lobbying the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development as well as the Minister of Science and Sport and working with opposition critics to encourage the government to withdraw from this project.