Protesters disrupt uAlberta ceremony honouring Nestlé executive

March 2, 2012

More than a dozen demonstrators clapped and chanted as Nestlé CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe stood Thursday in the Timms Centre to receive an honorary degree from the University of Alberta. In a brief protest, critics of the award rose from their seats as Brabeck-Letmathe was being introduced and called out as he started to speak about the honour. uAlberta's chancellor told protesters to "please respect university traditions and respect the people on stage." Protesters then were told to leave the centre, filing out without incident as the chancellor apologized for the disruption, an event "which is not what the university is about." uAlberta president Indira Samarasekera says the protest was "unfortunate" but did not mar the "excellent" speeches by the honorary degree recipients, who spoke about water being a human right and water waste. "The university should be a place of tolerance, of difference of opinion and of respect," Samarasekera says. "I think when things like this happen, it reflects poorly on the demonstrators -- I hope they were not our students; I would be disappointed if they were." More than 100 people gathered outside the centre earlier to protest the award for Brabeck-Letmathe, whose company has come under fire for years for dubious marketing practices for its infant formula in the Third World and child labour issues. A political science professor told the crowd the award could be seen as a sign of increasing corporate influence at uAlberta. Edmonton Journal