Why SFU should rename the Goldcorp building

The names we give to places hold significance

construction workers placing a giant sign on an SFU building that reads controversy ltd.
ILLUSTRATION: Jill Baccay / The Peak

By: Safiya Shah, SFU Student

In 2011, SFU students protested against the university accepting a $10-million donation from the mining company, Goldcorp. At the time, students and staff were concerned about accepting donations from a company that has had environmental and human rights controversies. The SFU Board of Governors ignored their concerns about the donation, resulting in letters and protests. However, these efforts were unsuccessful. The Board was not willing to discuss concerns surrounding the donation, and today there is still a building named the Goldcorp Centre for the Arts. It needs to be renamed.

Goldcorp is a Canadian mining company, which has since been renamed to Newmont in an attempted “rebrand.” There have been human rights violations carried out by Goldcorp, including circumstances where Indigenous consent was not given at certain mining sites. The OAS human rights commission has asked them to stop mining at their Marlin site in Guatemala, to no avail. They have also been involved in the forceful displacement of families so they could expand their mining projects. Others have accused them of not treating workers fairly, and using their desperation for money to take advantage of them. Goldcorp has employed locals who lack the proper training and experience with mining operations in order to work safely. Moreover, their sites have contaminated the environment around them, impacting surrounding Indigenous communities. Water contamination has caused health issues for those around the mining site. Goldcorp’s mining is not safe for Indigenous peoples surrounding their sites, nor the workers, nor the environment. 

What business does SFU have naming buildings after corporations like Goldcorp? Often, large companies focused on making a profit will take steps to look appealing to the public. However, many of these companies take advantage of extracting resources — in this case, mining in countries without strict regulations. This allows them to get away with not ensuring the safety of their workers, or accounting for the cost that the surrounding environment and communities pay. Hence, does SFU really want a building named after them? Twelve years later, this building still reflects SFU’s refusal to listen to those who voiced genuine concerns. It reflects poorly on the university.

Naming one of SFU’s buildings after the company not only helps them achieve positive public opinion, but it also contradicts what we stand for. As a university that works to be a safe space for all, SFU should not allow a building to be named after a company that does not cater to those same values. Goldcorp doesn’t seem to care about how their mining sites affect the safety of those around them. Is SFU a place that’s okay with ignoring their donor’s human rights violations, environmental harm, and the dismissal of Indigenous consent and well-being? Whether intentional or not, SFU has indirectly accepted what Goldcorp has done to the communities surrounding their mining sites, and this helps them cover that up. It’s past time we rename the building to something that genuinely reflects the principles SFU proclaims.