My Retirement, Not at the Price of Human Dignity!

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 My Retirement, Not at the Price of Human Dignity!Credit: Inter Pares

Take action: Click here and contact the Quebec and B.C. pension funds today!

Pension funds are always looking for things to invest in. They need to generate profits in order to pay the pensions of people when they retire. So they take the contributions of the people who pay into the plan and invest them. In recent years there has been a lot of interest by pension funds in buying up farmland.  The profits seem good and while you speculate on the land increasing in value so you can sell it and make the profit, the asset pays rent in terms of lease payments by the farmers.

But buying land in many parts of the world is not a simple matter. Land ownership is complicated and many poor farming families who depend on the land for their survival don’t have secure title to the land. The rich and powerful in many countries have a history of taking land by unscrupulous and often violent means. Small farmers can wake up to find that the land they have been farming all of their lives now “legally” belongs to someone else. Or they can wake up to a demand from armed men telling them they should sell their land to the rich landgrabber with threats of what will happen if they do not. Is this what we want our pension funds to invest in? It is possible to generate good profits but at what cost?

In November of 2015 a coalition of groups from Canada, Sweden and the US in collaboration with a Brazilian human rights group (Rede) published a report called Foreign Pension Funds and Land Grabbing in Brazil.  It looked at how a major US pension fund (TIIA-CREF) had set up a fund called TCGA to buy up land around the world, including in Brazil. Based on the report they produced a short video explaining how two Canadian pension funds are invested in this landgrabbing. Take a couple of minutes to have a look.

The report identified four farms, known to have been purchased by TCGA, in a region of Brazil where land disputes are common. Some were owned by a Brazilian businessman who was the subject of several criminal investigations before they were sold to TCGA. He is accused of using armed thugs to evict people and of ordering the assassination of a farmer who would not sell lands to him. Other investigations have uncovered how he and other land grabbers routinely use falsified documents to grab lands in the area.

TCGA also uses a very complex corporate structure, allowing them to evade Brazilian legislation that was specifically designed to restrict foreign investment in agricultural land. TCGA's investments in Brazil contribute to a broader process of land speculation and the expansion of large mechanized plantations. Small farmers lose their land in a process that favours land concentration, labour exploitation and related environmental and health issues.

Two Canadian pension funds – Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ) and the British Columbia Investment Management Corporation (bcIMC) – have invested in TCGA. So here in Canada we have started a letter writing campaign aimed at the two Canadian pension funds. Similar campaigns are taking place in Sweden and the Unites States where other pension funds are invested in the same global land fund. Please write to the CDPQ and the bcIMC to express your concerns.

In Canada, we call on the CDPQ and the bcIMC to:

  • Refrain from further investment in TIAA-CREF’s global farmland funds and suspend other speculative farmland investments;
  • Demand that TIAA-CREF make public the nature, extent, and specific location of its investments, either direct or indirect, in agricultural land;
  • Publicize this letter to their members.

Comments (3)

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  • alexander daughtry
    WITHDRAW INVESTMENTS FROM TIAA-CREF
  • alexander daughtry
    WITHDRAW INVESTMENTS FROM TIAA-CREF
  • Ruth Perkins
    CPP can make a really big positive impact in building a better world. Please move investments to Ethical Funds as quickly as possible.
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